- READ: Jaguars' Lawrence suffers sprained ankle in loss; MRI set for Tuesday
- READ: QB Browning 'lit the world on fire' in OT win vs. Jags
- READ: Who rose up to AFC's top seed after Jacksonville loss?
- Jake Browning becomes a hero. The former University of Washington standout was forced into action two weeks ago when Joe Burrow suffered a season-ending wrist injury. Browning didn't look great, but showed signs of progress in a loss to Pittsburgh last week. On Monday night, Browning blossomed. He completed 32 of 37 passes for 354 yards and one touchdown -- a 76-yard strike to Ja'Marr Chase to give the Bengals a 21-14 lead early in the third quarter -- and performed as if he'd been a 10-year starter. Browning operated Zac Taylor's offense remarkably efficiently, avoiding risk and delivering on-target passes to eight different receivers on the night. He didn't trip and fall into 354 passing yards. Browning earned every one of his completions, and the Bengals' upset win -- Browning's first as a starter since his days as a Husky. If anyone deserves a game ball, it's the quarterback most counted out prior to Monday night.
- Jaguars suffer loss, perhaps more. Jacksonville found itself in an unexpected dog fight Monday night, struggling to stop the run and failing to unsettle Browning. Instead of cruising to a win over a Burrow-less Bengals team, the Jaguars had to scratch and claw just to stay in the game. Amid this battle, the worst happened: Trevor Lawrence exited with an ankle injury that was severe enough for the star quarterback to require assistance to slowly make his way to the locker room. C.J. Beathard played well enough to move the Jaguars into field goal range, but as soon as Lawrence went down, the air was sucked out of EverBank Stadium. Now, as they process the sting of a prime-time loss, Jags fans will be forced to wait to see how serious Lawrence's ankle sprain is, and whether they'll be dropped into a nightmare of finishing the season without their franchise quarterback.
- Zac Taylor schemes up a masterpiece. Taylor entered Week 13 knowing he wouldn't be able to ask Browning to trot onto the field and morph into Burrow, and he coached like it. Taylor did a fantastic job of scheming to his quarterback's strengths, emphasizing the run early to soften Jacksonville's pass rush and buy Browning time to operate. And as the run was working, the play-action pass became a viable path to success, fitting Browning's skills perfectly. Taylor frequently called for Browning to roll out of run fakes and find open targets flowing to the right, opening up a Bengals offense that most expected to trudge through the night. This balance helped build Browning's confidence and allow him to settle in, giving the Bengals opportunities to target their cast of talented receivers downfield while mixing in some punishing Joe Mixon carries. When Browning dropped to pass and lofted a strike to Chase early in the third quarter for a touchdown, it was as if Taylor inserted a skeleton key into a lock, turned it and revealed the full capability of his offense. Jacksonville was forced to frantically search for answers, and even when the Jaguars made Taylor pay for getting too cute with his play-calling by intercepting a pass thrown by Tyler Boyd, the Bengals didn't fold. If anyone needs proof of Taylor's coaching ability, Monday night's tape will end the argument.
- Jacksonville opens door for AFC South chaos. The Jaguars had a prime opportunity to maintain their lead in the surprisingly competitive division by taking down a Bengals team playing without its franchise quarterback Monday night. Instead, they left open a path for the Texans and Colts to reinsert themselves into the race for the AFC South crown. With their Week 13 loss, Jacksonville watched its lead in the division shrink to one game with five games left to play. Suddenly, the AFC South is a fascinating division featuring a group of scrappy teams that could produce a number of different results, especially if Lawrence is out for an extended period. Plenty is left to sort out, but Jacksonville could end up lamenting this loss by the end of the season.
- Bengals find hope. Cincinnati's dreams of a surge to the postseason effectively evaporated when Burrow suffered his season-ending injury and the Ravens ran away with a two-touchdown win two weeks ago. Bengals fans didn't have much more reason to believe they might be able to salvage the 2023 campaign when they lost to the Steelers at home last week. But Browning's stellar night has suddenly given them reason to believe they can compete in every remaining game, and maybe even sneak into an AFC race that is suddenly tight in the wild-card standings. There's no guarantee Browning replicates this type of performance on a weekly basis, but all the Bengals needed was proof he could do it once. Now, they'll enter Week 14 brimming with confidence, which could be a dangerous reality for whoever runs into them -- including a fellow wild-card contender in Indianapolis next week.
Next Gen stat of the game: Jake Browning completed every one of his seven pass attempts over 10 air yards on Monday night (7 of 7 for 170 yards and one touchdown), the most downfield completions without an incompletion over the last two seasons.
NFL Research: Jake Browning became the 10th player in the Super Bowl era to throw for 350-plus yards and a completion percentage of at least 85% in a regular season game.