Skip to main content

Furious Fourth Quarter Comeback And OT Lifts Bengals Over Vikings

HB Joe Mixon celebrates his touchdown during the Vikings-Bengals game in Week 15 of the 2023 season on December 16 at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.
HB Joe Mixon celebrates his touchdown during the Vikings-Bengals game in Week 15 of the 2023 season on December 16 at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.

In one of the most memorable games in Paycor Stadium history, the 8-6 Bengals erased a 14-point fourth-quarter lead Saturday and won with 3:11 left in overtime on Evan McPherson's 29-yard field goal, 27-24, as quarterback Jake Browning threw for 324 yards.

The Bengals won the toss in overtime and faced a third-and-18 after two sacks and Browning stepped out of what was nearly a third when he flung a 30-yard jump ball pass to wide receiver Tee Higgins on the sideline. It appeared Higgins got mauled on the play right in front of the Bengals bench, but there was no flag despite the vociferous pleas of head coach Zac Taylor.

But without great nose tackle DJ Reader, the Bengals defensive line surged to stop a fourth-and-inches at their own 42 and that set up Browning's great third-and-nine scramble against a hellacious blitz and slot receiver Tyler Boyd's even greater 44-yard catch and run that set up McPherson's second overtime winner in three games.

Higgins capped off one of the wildest fourth quarters ever at Paycor in the din of 66,376 when he made a leaping catch at the Vikings 1 and before he was pushed out of bounds by cornerback Akayleb Evans, made a reverse pivot and swiped his right hand over the right front pylon with 39 seconds left to tie the game at 24.

Browning generated three fourth-quarter touchdowns and finished regulation 28 of 39 for 280 yards and he gunned the last one off his back foot in the face of a blitz as Higgins made his unforgettable play. He finished 29 of 42, with two touchdowns and an interception, and passer rating of 97.7 to win a duel with Vikings quarterback Nick Mullens in his first start in two years. Mullens went for 99.9 on 26 of 33 for 303 yards that included two interceptions,

The tying touchdown came without Pro Bowl wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase after he hurt his shoulder earlier in the fourth quarter as the Bengals erased a 17-3 lead in that rambunctious fourth. When running back Joe Mixon converted a hellacious fourth-and-one from the Vikings 1 with one of the more clutch and resourceful goal-line runs in recent Paycor memory, the game was tied at 17 with 7:46 left.

Mixon was stoned in the backfield by Vikings linebacker Ivan Pace Jr., but his second effort tied the game. The play was set up by Browning shaking off an intentional grounding call and hitting Chase for 24 yards over the middle on third-and-21 on the play he appeared to hurt his shoulder. Chase left with a team-leading 64 yards on four catches while his LSU counterpart Justin Jefferson led Minnesota with 84 yards on seven catches.

The Bengals cut the lead to 17-10 on the first snap of the fourth quarter when Browning ignored the pressure in his face and lofted a 13-yard touchdown pass over Higgins' shoulder in the left corner of the end zone on his way to 61 yards.

Payor was awash in noise. And it looked like the Bengals took the lead a minute after Mixon's touchdown when linebacker Germaine Pratt jumped in front of wide receiver Justin Jefferson for a 44-yard pick six. But it came off the board when right end Trey Hendrickson was called for offsides.

The Vikings countered just five plays later to take a 24-17 edge with 3:48 left.

The Bengals lost their defensive anchor on their second snap of the game when their dominant nose tackle, Reader, was carted off the field with a knee injury.

The Vikings did in the third quarter what the Bengals couldn't do in the first half and took advantage of a turnover. Browning tried to hit tight end Irv Smith Jr., at the Vikings 43 on the sideline. But with safety Harrison Smith looming behind Smith, Browning tried to drop it in front, but Akayleb Evans leaned back for the pick to set up Greg Joseph's 39-yard field goal with 4:32 left in the third to give the Vikes a 17-3 lead.

Minnesota came out of the locker room in the third quarter and delivered a gut-punch 92-yard touchdown drive to go up, 14-3. Running back Ty Chandler, on his way to a career-high 132 yards on 5.7 per carry, broke off a 27-yard run to the right perimeter on the first play of the half and then on third-and-nine from the Vikings 37,  Bengals defensive tackle Cam Sample had Mullens by the ankle and as he fell backward he flipped it to wide receiver Jordan Addison over the middle. Cornerback DJ Turner made a diving attempt to knock it down in front, but Addison went down to pluck it inches off the turf and when he turned to the end zone there was nobody in front of him.

The Bengals couldn't convert on Mullens' two first-half interceptions, but the defense kept the Bengals within 7-3 of the Vikings at halftime.

Mullens drove into the Mike Hilton Show late in the first half. He clicked off four of his first five third downs and had just converted one over the middle at the Bengals 15 to tight end T.J. Hockenson.

Hilton then blitzed on a first-down run and upended Chandler in the backfield for a one-yard loss. Then on third-and-10, Mullens tried to hit Jefferson in the middle of the end zone, but he was doubled-covered and Hilton cradled a low pass in front of him at the goal-line for a huge red-zone pick with 4:06 left in the half. It marked an NFL-best 11th time this season the Bengals had allowed no points inside the 20.

But the Bengals couldn't take advantage. Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores unleashed one of his blitz looks on second-and-10 that caused Browning to hold the ball and when he didn't get rid of it, Pro Bowl sacker Danielle Hunter dropped him for a 14-yard loss.

Then, more red-zone magic with the Vikings looking like they were going to take at least a 10-3 lead. But rookie edge Myles Murphy sacked Mullens out of the red zone at the 22 and on the next snap, tackle B.J. Hill grabbed Mullens and was throwing him to the ground for another sack. But when Mullens tried to throw it away, he threw it right off Hill's helmet and while lying on his back, Hill made a juggling catch for his second interception in three quarters.

So 12 times in the red zone with no points.

But the Bengals couldn't cash Mullens' two picks in a half Minnesota out-yarded the Bengals, 188-101 in the half, 424-378. Browning finished the half nine of 15 for 81 yards, but he deserved better. After Hill's play, Browning hit Higgins on a 40-yard jump ball with six seconds left at the Vikes 30 and Higgins barely missed bringing it in.

The Bengals ran it seven times for 28 yards before the last play of the half. Chase had two catches for 24 yards while Jefferson went three for 32 in a half Higgins and Boyd had no catches.

This week, Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said Reader had been his most consistent player this season. When the massive and gifted nose tackle was carted off the field on the second play of the game with a knee injury, the Vikings took dead aim at the Bengals run defense.

Then, moments after Reader went down, emerging rookie cornerback D.J. Ivey, a special teams staple at gunner, hurt his knee covering a punt. As he was carted off the field, Ivey pulled up his jersey to cover his tears.

Minnesota scored a touchdown on its first opening drive this season and its second in the last eight quarters by running the ball nine times for 33 yards even without injured No. 1 running back Alexander Mattison missing on the NFL's 27th-ranked run game. Chandler took it eight times for 33 yards and scored from one yard out to give the Vikes a 7-3 lead.

Browning took a monstrous shot from linebacker Troy Dye as he threw a beauty to Chase over his shoulder down the right sideline for 25 yards. That set up a third-and-one from the Vikings 12 when they tried some razzle-dazzle. Tight end Tanner Hudson, a high school and college quarterback, took a handoff going in motion and instead of throwing it back to Browning, he couldn't find anyone rolling right and ended up taking a four-yard loss to set up McPherson's 34-yard field goal to give the Bengals a 3-0 lead midway through the first quarter, taking one drive to do what the Raiders couldn't do all last week against Minnesota.


Browning hit five of his six passes for 56 yards and he should have been six-for-six because Higgins dropped the first play of the game on a 15-yarder down the right sideline.

Then on the third series of the game, Browning looked like he could have had a 56-yard touchdown pass on third-and-15. He whipped it high and deep down the middle and rookie wide receiver Charlie Jones was wide open at the 12, but it barely missed his fingertips.