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Browning Delivers TD Drive As Commanders Beat Bengals

QB Jake Browning during the Bengals-Commanders preseason game on Saturday, August 26, 2023.
QB Jake Browning during the Bengals-Commanders preseason game on Saturday, August 26, 2023.

LANDOVER, Md. _ Jake Browning staked his claim to the Bengals backup quarterback job in Saturday night's preseason finale with an opening drive touchdown while Trevor Siemian generated two field goals in five drives during the Commanders' 21-19 victory here at Fed Ex Field.

But it was quarterback Reid Sinnett making his Bengals debut in the fourth quarter who pulled off their longest play of the night when he fired a 34-yard touchdown pass to all-alone rookie wide receiver Shedrick Jackson with 6:29 left in the game. Sinnett's two-point pass for the tie targeted tight end Tanner Hudson, but it was knocked down in traffic just over the goal line.

Sinnett and the Cincinnati offense had a chance to take the lead late, getting the ball back down two with 3:22 left. A third-down conversion to Tanner Hudson set up the Bengals at their own 40 at the two-minute warning, but a sack on the very next play put Sinnett behind the sticks and a fourth-and-15 desperation throw to Jackson fell incomplete, all but sealing the game.

The Bengals lost a regular during the game when one of their first pass rushers off the bench, Joseph Ossai, went out with an ankle injury. Backup tackle D'Ante Smith, working on the left side, left with a shoulder injury.

Browning started the game in the decisive battle, but the first drive belonged as much to rookie running back Chase Brown. He rushed for 22 yards on his first five carries while Browning hit his first four passes for 42 more. Illinois' Brown, one of the top backs in the nation in forcing missed tackles, bolted for nine yards up the middle on one carry, made a man miss at the line of scrimmage for four yards, and bounded up inside for a first down in the red zone for three yards on third-and-two.

Browning picked up where he left off last week, when he generated their only touchdown in the last minutes of last week's tie in Atlanta. Like that drive, the key play was a back-shoulder throw to ubiquitous rookie wide receiver Andrei Iosivas. This one went 25 yards on third-and-three as Iosivas posted up cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields down the sideline. Then he found the 6-3, 205-pound Iosivas for a seven-yard touchdown pass on a play he proved he can't be overthrown. He was wide open running across the backline and climbed the ladder before his homage to teammate Ja'Marr Chase's "The Griddy."

The next drive wasn't as fruitful, but not because of Browning. On third-and-three he got rid of it as hung in the pocket and tight end Tanner Hudson took it over the middle for 19 yards. But the play was wiped out by left guard Trey Hill's facemask penalty. That was it for the efficient, economical Browning, hitting all six passes for 42 yards in his best outing of the year. Going back to the final drive in Atlanta last week, Browning finished his preseason 10 of his last 10 for 84 yards.

Siemian then got the nod after Browning posted a 134.4 passer rating and offered a 58.8 on 14 of 23 for 133 yards that included an end-zone interception.

On Siemian's first drive he threw a 20-yard pass to Hudson down the right sideline, but his bomb down the left sideline to Iosivas was knocked away and they settled for an Evan McPherson bomb from 58 yards as he remained preseason-perfect in a big way with his third 50-plus yarder of August as rookie Brad Robbins held.

Then the Bengals got the ball back with 3:06 left in the half and Siemian was trying to at least replicate what he did in Atlanta last week when he microwaved them to a McPherson field goal to end the first half.

And he had a good drive going Saturday night, igniting it with his own scramble for a first down. But a holding call on center Max Scharping on rookie running back Jacob Saylors' 27-yard run was a shot, yet Siemian got 20 yards back hitting rookie wide receiver Charlie Jones over the middle.

He came up empty on the last two snaps from the Washington 26 going to his favorite receivers. Hudson was well covered at the goal line and safety Terrell Burgess got a hand in to knock it away. On the next snap, Iosivas drew a crowd at the goal line and Siemian tried to jam it through. But safety Kendall Smith tipped it and cornerback Jace Whittaker picked it in the end zone with 16 seconds left in the half.

Siemian came back out to start the second half and got a first down on three runs from Saylors in his NFL debut carrying the ball (nine carries for 27 yards) before they faced a third-and-four from the Bengals 43. He tried to hit Iosivas on a slant and it was another well-covered play batted down by Whittaker. Siemian's next series was a three-and-out when his check-down pass to Saylors on third-and-eight got seven yards.

In between, the Bengals punters got off some good ones. Robbins, the apparent favorite, drilled a 51-yarder with great hang time that buried Washington at the 6. Drue Chrisman hit a 57-yarder that got fumbled but recovered inside the 10. Punt returner Trent Taylor, in a roster fight with Charlie Jones for the spot, put a 15-yarder on tape.

Taylor got Siemian's last drive going with a 14-yarder over the middle as the Bengals drove to the Washington 17, but the ball slipped out of Siemian's hand on third down and McPherson cut the Washington lead to 14-13 on a 35-yard field goal.

Washington tied the game at seven early in the second quarter on a blown coverage and missed tackle. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett had no trouble finding wide receiver Mitchell Tinsley all alone at the five-yard-line and rookie safety Jordan Battle slid off him to complete a 39-yard touchdown pass.

Another long pass set up a Washington score for a go-ahead 14 -13 lead. Only this time it was thrown by Jake Fromm early in the second half. It was Tinsley again, racing past cornerback Allan George for 38 yards to put the ball on the 1.

The Commanders went up, 20-13, with 10:16 left in the game, and again Fromm and Tinsley did the damage. Working against a Bengals secondary down six cornerbacks, Tinsley (89 yards on three catches) converted a third-and-nine on a 14-yarder against a zone and Fromm, 13 of 18 for 144 yards, hit tight end Brandon Dillon for a seven-yard touchdown.