Bengals Pro Bowl left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., fresh off his offensive line's 385-yard-no-sack clinic against the Colts, glimpsed what his team is all about when AJ McCarron fired what looked to be his first NFL touchdown pass in eight years in his first game back in the league in three years.
It was negated on wide receiver Tee Higgins' offensive pass interference penalty, a footnote in Sunday's 34-14 power grab at Paycor Stadium. But a headline to Brown, sniffing the playoffs for the seventh time in his seven NFL seasons.
"I know AJ was able to come and do what he does best. He threw it right up there for Tee," Brown said. "That's the character of this organization and this team. Resiliency."
Playing their third game since losing Pro Bowl quarterback and resident miracle man Joe Burrow, the Bengals secured their biggest win yet because it puts them at 7-6 and in the heart of the playoff race as they rode another deadly accurate outing from backup quarterback Jake Browning.
For the second time in six days they survived a microwave momentum shift. Monday night in Jacksonville it was giving up a 21-14 lead and falling behind 28-21 because of a 17-second sequence late in the third quarter. On Sunday at the tail end of the first half, a 14-0 lead turned into a 14-14 halftime tie in 25 seconds.
They do what playoff teams do and survive to tell about both.
"That goes to our coaches," Brown said. "They stayed the course the way they called the game and put us in a great situation."
Not only did they survive Sunday's mishap, they rolled the Colts in the second half with 20 answered points.
"We've had a lot of adversity as a team. We've faced both sides of it. Both sides of momentum swings. It's nothing to us," said right tackle Jonah Williams. "We know how to handle it. It's one of the qualities of this team. Yeah, we're not undefeated right now, but we know how to handle some uphill battles and how to overcome them and that's what we were able to do today."
Browning, who threw 18 more darts to give him the accuracy record (75.4% completion rate) for a player in his first three starts since 1950, said he still felt confident going into halftime despite throwing a game-tying pick-six trying to hit tight end Tanner Hudson over the middle.
My thought process was, 'The only time that they haven't stopped us is when I threw it to the other team. So, just don't do that, and we'll move the ball well,'" Browning said.
CRAMPS ALERT: Even an injury can't cramp Browning's style. A scant 24 days after Burrow fell on his wrist to end his season, Browning ran off the field on a second-down scramble and kept running into the Bengals locker room holding his right thumb in the first minute of the fourth quarter.
His right forearm had cramped and after an IV he was back in four plays. He never had to throw another pass, but he could have.
"I heard it was a cramp, so I didn't think anything too bad," Jonah Williams said. "I had a little PTSD with the quarterback grabbing their wrist area. I didn't love that that."
It turns out while Browning was keeping the Bengals' playoff hopes afloat, he wasn't hydrating.
"It's pretty dumb, but I just have to drink more water and electrolytes, I guess," Browning said. "I think sometimes when it's cold, you just aren't thirsty. So, yeah, that's probably the main take away from the game. Hydrate better."
SCREEN DOOR: For the first time this season the Bengals rushed for more than 100 yards in back-to-back games and for the first time in more than a year they had more than 30 rushes for the second straight game.
But it was what running backs Joe Mixon and Chase Brown did in the screen game that carried the day. Brown, the rookie, broke a 54-yarder for the game's first touchdown at a whirring 22.05 miles per hour on the GPS, the second fastest in the NFL this season, faster even than "The Cheetah," Tyreek Hill. (22.01) and behind only DK Metcalf's 22.23.
Plus, Brown added a 25-yarder. Mixon had a 45-yard ramble for his longest play in two years. Brown's long run was the longest play from a Bengals back since running back Giovani Bernard's 61-yard run-and-catch in 2017.
After his break-out game in Jacksonville Monday night with 61 yards on nine carries, Brown followed it up with his first 100-yard day from scrimmage, 80 through the air and 25 rushing. Mixon, who had 117 from scrimmage Monday, had 123 after barreling for 79 yards on the ground.
"I can tell that boy's been taking notes," Mixon said. "I like to see that. It's a great thing to see. He's doing the little things right and that's what we teach in our running back room."
Mixon said with the Colts linebackers coming downhill on the run, the Bengals worked off Brown's 31-yard run Monday night. In a double tight end set, Mitchell Wilcox was kind of a wing back who pulled across the line. Cornerback Kenny Moore blitzed, Browning went play-action to Brown and in a nod to Bill Walsh, flipped it to the guy he faked it to, and Brown was gone down the right sideline.
"Chase had a big run last week. We basically complemented that run," Mixon said. "It looked like they played the run and the pass was wide open. He made a hell of a run and catch."
So did Mixon on the big play in the next touchdown drive, the 45-yarder where he followed guards Alex Cappa and Cordell Volson pulling ahead of him in space.
"I would argue it's more about timing and spatial awareness, with not always the element of being athletic sometimes," Cappa said of a guard's work on the screen. "If the running back is not setting you up, you've got no chance … The running backs did a great job being in phase with us. They run really hard. Both guys get down hill. I love blocking for those guys."
Another good day for the scouts. The fifth-rounder Brown got a game ball. So did the seventh-rounder D.J. Ivey, the cornerback/gunner who recovered a muffed punt.
"For real? That's pretty cool," said Brown, when told about the MPH as he gave a shoutout to running back coach Justn Hill.
"Once I got to the NFL and working with Coach Hill, the main thing is using that speed as an advantage. That's something we were talking about all week. When the opportunity was there and I saw tons of space, I thought I'm going to turn on the jets. Especially after that big run against Jacksonville, I thought if I could turn on the jets, I could make a big play."