LANDOVER, Md. _ The numbers said Bengals rookie running back Chase Brown rushed for 39 yards on 11 carries in Saturday night's 21-19 loss to the Commanders here at FedEx Field in the preseason finale. It may sound pedestrian, but it wasn't. Not when runs like this on the game's first drive caught the attention of head coach Zac Taylor.
Third-and-two from the Commanders 6. The 5-10, 205-pound Brown, known as one of the nation's most elusive backs in the college game last season with 4.4 speed, slammed behind left guard Trey Hill to muscle for three yards and a first down to set up a touchdown.
"He got his hands on the ball in the run game. I thought he provided value there," Taylor said. "He did a good job with yards after contact. He gave us some ugly yards today. I liked what I saw from Chase."
Chase also flashed some of that Pro Football Focus elusiveness when he escaped from the line of scrimmage for a five-yard gain on a cut forcing a missed tackle.
"He did a really good job of putting his foot in the ground, getting downfield," quarterback Jake Browning said. "I know the O-linemen really appreciate it when that happens, and (offensive line coach) Frank (Pollack) does, too. He looked good. He looked comfortable, patient runner, and always moving forward."
If Brown looked as comfortable as he's been (and he came into the game with 17 carries for 30 yards), he agrees, too.
"The feel of the run game. The protection. Just the flow of our offense," Brown said. "My tempo. Playing faster mentally. In college, you can get away with playing off ability. At this level, you have to be ready mentally. Pre-snap identifications of where the runs should go or who I'm looking for in pass protection."
Brown, the fifth-round pick out of Illinois, is the guy who flies to a game making notes on his iPad and flies back looking at the tape of the game just played and never looks up. Pass protection? "Steps," he said, since week one.
"When I get my pads down, I'm hard to tackle," Brown said. "There's a lot more to chase for, to strive for. This is not the highlight."
BROWNING WAITS: The postgame media gathered around Browning as if he won the backup quarterback derby and the numbers suggested that he did. But Zac Taylor wouldn't say after the game and said his staff would talk about it Sunday. But they probably already know. The coaches have been upfront with Browning and Trevor Siemian all the way and sat down with them after last week's game to tell them where each stood.
Browning, in his fifth season after a record-breaking career at the University of Washington, is looking to bust through the 53-man roster for his first Opening Day. So he's been here before and his cool showed it.
"That's not my job," Browning said of the cut. "I feel good about how I played, and we will see how it shakes out."
Among Browning's strengths is that cool and savvy despite never playing in a regular-season game. That was on display when he threw a Washington Monument ball to wide-open rookie wide receiver Andre Iosivas for a seven-yard touchdown pass to end the Bengals' first drive. It looked like he had overthrown him, but he knew who he was throwing to ("wasn't he a decathlete, a heptathlete?") and what he was looking at as two defensive backs jumped wide receiver Trent Taylor's out route.
"When you whip back, and he's wide open, you're almost like, 'Am I not seeing the guy that's going to make the play?'" Browning said. "Especially in the back of the end zone, you kind of put it high where only he can get it, and he went up and got it. He looked pretty good."
In his third season with the Bengals and second preseason that starter Joe Burrow has missed, the man has taken more snaps in this offense than anybody here but Burrow himself.
"I think it helps it being my third year in this offense," Browning said. "Watching Joe operate a lot and be really engaged throughout the last couple of years on (the practice squad) and see how he operates and try to mimic it because it obviously works for him."
AWESOME ANDREI: After ending one of the best rookie preseasons by a Bengals wide receiver in recent memory (12 catches for 133 yards and a touchdown), Iosivas knows he's going to the back-burner as Burrow's Big Three of Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd take center stage for the Sept. 10 opener in Cleveland. He's made the club and he'll probably be active, but he kept it close to the vest.
"We've got a lot of great receivers. I'm not really sure how the numbers work," Iosivas said. "I'm just hoping for the best and that I'm going to be a Bengal."
Here's how the numbers work. He's 6-3, 205 pounds, has pole vaulted 16 feet, and has run a 4.4-second 40-yard dash. He seems to gain the trust of quarterbacks faster than that. Note Saturday night's 25-yard back-shoulder throw to Iosivas that highlighted Browning's touchdown drive. It was a replica of last week's 18-yarder in Atlanta that ignited a go-ahead touchdown drive in the last minute.
Here's another number. He eats up one-on-one coverage knowing how to use his height a' la another big Bengals receiver in 6-4 Tee Higgins.
"He's the guy I watch the most in practice. Him and Ja'Marr," Iosivas said. "I see what I can replicate and try to put it in my game."
More numbers? Whatever his Princeton IQ is. He scored his first NFL touchdown leaping for Browning's well-placed seven-yard moon ball and he's already thinking about the next situation.
"It's kind of a blown coverage. It's supposed to be man. They switched off," Iosivas said. "I was just at the back of the end line wide open. You practice those end lines so you're the only person that can get it just in case there's a defender walling you off. It was good practice just in case there would be a defender there in the future."
SLANTS AND SCREENS: After missing last week in Atlanta with an illness, first-round pick Myles Murphy took 39 percent of the snaps on the edge in 24 plays. That was after playing 53 percent (34 snaps) two weeks ago in the opener against Green Bay. The stats didn't have him getting to the quarterback, but he wasn't looking for numbers.
"I missed last week, so I wanted to put something this week on film for me to watch," Murphy said. "Something where I can say, 'OK, I did well on this one, I can improve on this one.' That's what I really wanted to do tonight. I'm still growing into that player, into that pass rusher." …
This year's seventh-round pick, cornerback DJ Ivey, had a big night playing all 61 snaps and making four tackles while defending two passes. Last year's seventh-round pick, edge Jeff Gunter, always seems to surface. He had a sack Saturday to go with two quarterback hits and finished with 1.5 sacks and a tipped pass for the preseason. He had one sack and two passes defensed last preseason when he won a roster spot and played in ten games …