If Bengals quarterback Jake Browning hangs close to the 79.3 completion percentage of his first three starts in Saturday's game against the Vikings at Paycor Stadium, he'll break Chad Pennington's NFL record of the 76.9% he put up in his four starts in 2002.
Browning eclipsed Pennington's three-game record last week and his passer rating is among the best of all-time. At 113.4 in his first three starts, Browning is zeroing in on the top marks in a player's first four starts: Kurt Warner (136), Patrick Mahomes (125.8), and Frank Reich (114.9). Mahomes did it five years ago, but Warner's record has stood for 24 years and Reich put up his numbers ten years before Warner.
While the Vikings defense gives up passing stats (next-to-last in allowing nearly 70% passing and in the middle of the pack with a 90 passer rating), they don't give up points. A mere 15 per game the last eight weeks and their different blitz looks cause turnovers.
"They do a great job of dialing up a lot of stuff. It creates a lot of issues for quarterbacks and just game planning in general," Browning said this week. "They're very unique. They blitz a lot and so I think it's kind of the main thing. Like you said, they blitz, then they drop eight and there's a lot of variety and got a lot of really smart players on their side of the ball that do a good job handling that volume of different stuff."
TIP OF THE CINCY HAT: About 30 of Ted Karras' biggest fans bussed down Saturday from Indianapolis to watch their man ply his trade as he centers the Bengals offense against the Vikings. They're residents of the Village of Merici, the organization that provides homes for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and where Karras has sent the proceeds of the wildly popular Cincy Hat project.
Matt Renie, Karras' high school buddy from Indy's Cathedral High School who birthed and developed the online explosion at thecincyhat.com, is leading the way with folks like Marty and Mary and Steve and Angie when the Bengals host them in the Kettering Health Suite.
"Marty's been a Ted fan since we were in high school and Mary has known Ted for nine years," Renie said this week. "There have been a lot of conversations about when to wake up, what to wear. For a lot of the people coming, it's their first Bengals game and first NFL game. It's going to be one of those moments they remember for the rest of their lives. Marty? He's been fired up for three weeks."
Since last week's announcement, Karras as the Bengals' nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, an avalanche of $120,000 in orders put The Cincy Hat over $1 million.
It's a good thing Renie took a hiatus from his 9-to-5 job to navigate The Hat through the holidays. Plus, 2024 looks like there'll be a little bit of a different style as Rene looks to go into local high schools as well as doing some stuff with the Reds.
"The support has been unbelievable," Renie said. "When we first did it about a year ago, we sold $50,000 the first day and I called Ted four or five times that night. 'What just happened?'''
On Saturday, Renie knows what's going to happen. The suite is going to be Ted-mad.
"I think there are going to be four or five signs," he said. "Looking for some (scoreboard) time."
SLANTS AND SCREENS: In his matchup with LSU mate Justin Jefferson Saturday, if Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase scores a touchdown, he'll become the fourth player with 3,500 receiving yards and 30 touchdowns in his first three seasons. Something Jefferson didn't do, but Pro Football Hall-of-Famers Jerry Rice and Randy Moss did, as did another LSU great, Odell Beckham, Jr. …
With his 13th career 100-yard game Saturday to go with a TD, Chase would tie Jefferson on a list with Beckham, three games behind Moss, the all-time leader …
Tight end Drew Sample, a key blocker against the Vikings blitz, surfaced as questionable Friday with an illness, but he was active Saturday. Backup tackle Jackson Carman was also questionable with an illness and he was not active …
Also inactive were special teams backer Joe Bachie (oblique) and running back Chris Evans, offensive lineman Trey Hill and defensive lineman Jay Tufele …