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Quick Hits: Browning's Five-Year Bet Pays Off; Bengals Walk It Off Again With Money Mac; Hendrickson Is Chasing Himself 

QB Jake Browning calls a play during the Bengals-Jaguars game in Week 13 of the 2023 season.
QB Jake Browning calls a play during the Bengals-Jaguars game in Week 13 of the 2023 season.

Jordan Palmer, the old Bengals backup quarterback turned guru, has made a name for himself and his consulting firm QB Summit. He could be found Tuesday morning in front of the big screen in his Orange County, California office.

Palmer and his biomechanics expert Mike White (not the Bengals villain) had been reviewing Bengals quarterback Jake Browning's slice-and-dice 32 of 37 jobs from Monday night in Jacksonville. Palmer already knew where Browning was. He had been talking to Browning's agent Ryan Tollner and they agreed.

He's already looking at the Colts, they ventured. This Sunday's foe is another AFC Wild Wild Card Game (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) at Paycor Stadium.

"The best part about it is he's probably already on to next week," Palmer said. "By the time the plane landed in Cincy, he's already worried about next week. He's not going to sit around and bask in the success of last night."

Browning, the prince of perseverance, has a story well-chronicled.

How this year, in his fifth season in the league on his second team, he finally made the roster. Finally took a snap in a game. Finally started last week. Finally won this week. How he came a car drive away from going into coaching that weekend between the Vikings and Bengals. How he re-made something in his game each offseason.

That's how he met Palmer this past offseason. Browning knew of him because Joe Burrow had worked with Palmer on his lower body and Browning thought his mechanics could use a tweak. Browning also knows Sam Darnold and knew he had worked with Palmer and the match was made. Palmer is one of the guys who helped Browning along the long grind.

"It was a nice thing to add to his career, where he had to take a step. Chance to win the backup job or else who knew what situation he'd be in if they had gone the other way around," Palmer said.

(The man Browning beat out in camp a few months ago, Trevor Siemian, completed 38% of his 13 passes in his season debut off the bench for the Jets the day before Browning's 86% set the record for a player in his first or second start.)  

"(Browning) basically moved to L.A. and drove down here every day. An hour and a half each way," Palmer said. "He built a plan. Rehab. Weight training. Very calculated. Very disciplined. A lot like Joe."

Palmer checked in with White. Yes, they decided. Browning has the fewest distractions of any player they've taken in. If he's got a social media account, that would surprise Palmer.

"He's incredibly undistracted," Palmer said. "You don't fall into that. You build your life that way."

Palmer disdains the term "footwork," when he talks about what Browning studied with him. "Too vague." It's more about, "staying connected to the ground and create movement and maintain stability."

Before he worked with Browning, Palmer researched him and what stood out was his record of success and his feel in the pocket. Even before he had an NFL stat line, Palmer talked him up. His big screen is backing him up.

"He made a lot of different throws. Throwing from different launch points. Fantastic on the run," Palmer said.  "He's throwing timing routes with guys he doesn't have a lot practice with. The out route (in overtime) to Tee (Higgins) … Go back to his first play in Baltimore. Fake toss to the right, roll left, hit an over route. That's like trying to bend one around a tree from the thick stuff with water short and a sand trap behind on your first shot."

Now he's got a Burrowish stat line.

"I hear a lot of people comparing Joe and Jake," Palmer said of their approaches. "The thing I would say that is similar between the two is that Jake had a fantastic game and I'd say he's probably watching tape immediately after it was over to see what he can do better next week. That's very similar between those two guys."

MONEY MAC: It's been 29 games since he had another shot. Nearly two years since he last made one. But Evan McPherson is still "Money Mac," as he cashed Monday night's 48-yard walk-off field goal to give the Bengals a 34-31 win in Jacksonville.

His last chance to win one on the last snap came in overtime of the 2022 opener at Paycor Stadium, a 23-20 loss to the Steelers where the Bengals lost long-snapper Clark Harris for the season. Earlier in the day he had snapped for McPherson's Bengals' record 59-yard field goal. But with 3:33 left in OT, the new operation yielded a high snap and McPherson yanked a 29-yarder left, and the Steelers got one instead on the day's last play.

"Like you said, it's been a while," McPherson told Bengals radio voice Dan Hoard after the game. "Just been itching to get one since week one against Pittsburgh last year. That one kind of stung. It had been lingering."

So has McPherson's rookie success of 2021 when he had five walk-offs, the last one from 31 yards in OT of the AFC title game to silence unsilenceable Arrowhead Stadium and put the Bengals in the Super Bowl. The week before his 52-yarder in Tennessee walked off the AFC Divisional.

"I feel like every kick is a game-winning kick. We showed that today," McPherson said. "If we had made that first one, the last one wouldn't have mattered."

McPherson was talking about his 57-yarder that hit the crossbar to end their second series.

"I just don't think I pulled up my pants high enough. I get a little extra power whenever I pull up my pants. They weren't pulled up far enough," said McPherson, who may or may not have kept a straight face. "I mis-hit it. I thought I got away with it, but it's just best to go to the next one."

No one goes to the next one better than McPherson, who must have found the right height. The next one turned out to be an ice-cold 54-yard drill shot with 2:28 left to give them a 31-28 lead. It also gave him seven from 50 this year on 12 tries, tied for the most in the NFL with three others.

The winner also marked the first walk-off for second-year snapper Cal Adomitis and rookie holder/punter Brad Robbins. It was the first walk-off winner held by somebody other than Kevin Huber since Nick Harris took a snap from Randy Chevrier for Neil Rackers' 31-yarder that beat the Steelers in OT at Paycor Stadium on Dec. 30, 2001.

"A lot of people didn't think we'd win this week," McPherson said. "We've had our struggles. The word that describes (the group) is resilient. We rallied around Jake and he had a fantastic game. We're on an upward trend. We trust each other. We're having a lot of fun playing and we don't want to be done the first week in January."

That's when Mac is Money.

SLANTS AND SCREENS: Talk about resilience. If McPherson hadn't drilled that 54-yarder late in regulation, center Ted Karras said he would have been on a watch list. At the end of that drive, there were two false starts on three plays.

"I think we just had some issues on the snap, you know, procedure and all that," Browning said. "I don't know. Glad he made the kick though." …

Pro Football Focus had Karras as their best pass protector with no pressures on 43 passes. Right guard Alex Cappa was second with just one hurry on a great night for an offensive line that allowed just two sacks and three hits of Browning while churning five yards per carry …

More resilience. Pro Bowl sacker Trey Hendrickson was in the neutral zone on third-and-six and five plays later the Jags scored a touchdown to go up 14-7.  But Hendrickson came back to make one of the biggest plays of the year with 5:25 left in a 28-28 game when he sacked Trevor Lawrence on a third-and-10 from the Bengals 23. Instead of celebrating with his signature index finger to the sky, he tried to help up Lawrence but Lawrence fell back to the turf with a high ankle sprain that drove him from the game. Hendrickson beat converted guard Walker Little badly enough that Little stepped on Lawrence and the game stayed at 28-all when the Jags missed

 the field goal …

With five games left, Hendrickson has 11.5 sacks and a shot to break the Bengals record of 14 he set in 2021 …

He had five pressures, PFF said, on a night nose tackle DJ Reader was immense. He had six hurries while leading the charge to hold the Jags to 2.8 yards per rush on 25 carries …

Vet cornerback Chidobe Awuzie has responded the last two games with No. 1 cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt shelved with an ankle injury. And Monday night had to be sweet. For the first time since Oct. 16, 2022, he played every snap. It was two weeks later on a Monday night he tore his ACL. On this Monday night, PFF rated him the Bengals' second-best cover player. Plus, he had eight tackles …

Slot cornerback Mike Hilton, who also had two tackles for loss, was graded No. 1 cover after he held Jags leading receiver Evan Engram to no yards on two catches and blanked dangerous Calvin Ridley on one rep …  

With Bengals head coach Zac Taylor going to more six- and seven-man protections, blocking tight end Drew Sample played his most snaps in three years with 45. With 23 snaps, receiving tight end Irv Smith played his lowest percentage of the season with 32 …

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