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Jake Browning's magical ride continues as Bengals get an OT comeback win over Vikings ‣

Jake Browning's magical ride continues as Bengals get an OT comeback win over Vikings

Jake Browning of the Cincinnati Bengals started Saturday's game slow but heated up in the second half. (Photo by Jeff Dean/Getty Images)

It looked like Jake Browning’s dream ride had hit its expiration date. The Cincinnati Bengals quarterback, filling in for superstar Joe Burrow, had played very well for a couple weeks. Then for the first three quarters on Saturday, he looked like a player who didn’t take an NFL snap until his fifth season out of college.

Browning was struggling, the Bengals were down 17-3 to the Minnesota Vikings and their playoff hopes were about to take a big hit. Then Browning, fresh off a terrible interception, suddenly found the magic again.

Browning led three fourth-quarter touchdown drives, including an acrobatic game-tying score by Tee Higgins with 39 seconds left in regulation, to help get the game to overtime. The Bengals got two straight stops on third and fourth down on Minnesota’s off-brand attempts at a tush push quarterback sneak, and then Browning hit an enormous third-down pass to Tyler Boyd for 44 yards to set up a field goal and a 27-24 Bengals win. Cincinnati is 8-6 and very much alive in the AFC wild-card race.

When Browning had to take over for Burrow, the Bengals’ season looked like it was done. Nobody knew what the Bengals had in their backup quarterback, but he’s writing a pretty cool story.

Bengals fall behind early

The NFL gave us a flexed Saturday matchup of two teams with winning records fighting for playoff spots. The only thing missing was the starting quarterbacks.

The Bengals and Vikings have been without their quarterbacks for a while. Burrow and Kirk Cousins suffered season-ending injuries. That sums up this NFL season: Even a good game has no healthy star quarterbacks. And it showed early on.

Nick Mullens, the Vikings’ fourth starting quarterback this season, made some mistakes in the first half that kept Minnesota from extending its lead. The worst mistake happened late in the first half, when he made a bad decision to try to unload a pass as he was being sacked, and Bengals defensive tackle BJ Hill caught it on his back.

Browning made his mistakes too. He had been very good for two weeks but struggled against the pressure-based defense of Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores. He threw a bad interception in the third quarter, the Vikings turned that into a field goal and they led 17-3. Given how Browning had been playing, the game seemed over.

Then Browning and the Bengals got hot.

Bengals tie it late in 4th

The interception seemed to calm Browning down, strangely enough. He started hitting passes. The Bengals got a touchdown from Browning to Higgins, then another on a fourth-and-goal run by Joe Mixon. The game was tied 17-17.

The Bengals got another gift from Mullens, a pick 6, but it was nullified because the Bengals were offsides. That allowed the Vikings to keep the drive going and they took the lead. Mullens made another reckless decision to throw into the end zone in traffic, but Jordan Addison came up with the pass for a go-ahead touchdown. It was Addison’s second touchdown of the game, and the first one was a tight throw that Addison happened to catch and then he turned upfield for the score.

The Bengals had a shot to answer, though they saw star receiver Ja’Marr Chase go back to the locker room during the drive with a shoulder injury. He was ruled out shortly after. With less than a minute left Browning threw one up to Higgins, who came back to the ball, caught it and twisted into the end zone to tie the game with 39 seconds left. The game went to overtime.

The Bengals got the ball first in overtime, but the Vikings defense made plays. On second down, Minnesota got a huge sack, and then on third down officials didn’t throw a penalty flag for what looked like pass interference. The Bengals punted.

Minnesota needed a field goal to win it. They had fourth-and-inches just outside of field-goal range and tried a tush push quarterback sneak and Mullens didn’t go anywhere. That set up the Bengals to win it, and Browning’s big pass to Boyd led to the win.

The Bengals looked done several times on Saturday. But Browning still had something up his sleeve.