For the second time in six days the Bengals not only won a game without their leading passer and rusher in a game their leading receiver didn't have a catch, but in Sunday's 37-31 victory in Houston the offense also put up numbers worthy of the starters with its best day in four seasons.
The 540 yards of total offense was their most since an October, 2016 victory over Cleveland. Their 371 yards passing as a team with quarterback Brandon Allen at the controls was the sixth-most in the last 11 seasons. It marked the seventh game this century they scored at least 27 points in the second half after scoring a total of 20 second-half points in the previous seven games.
After Allen outdueled three-time Pro Bowler Deshaun Watson with those career-high 371 yards in his seventh NFL start while not getting sacked and running back Samaje Perine had a combined 146 yards on his most touches (17) in three years, Taylor saluted his depth.
"Football is important to them. Helping their teammates in any way is important to them. We have a huge collection of guys like that, and you can count on them to do their job and do it effectively and carry us through games like this," Taylor said.
"And that was Brandon. Brandon was throwing with a ton of anticipation. He was doing a great job seeing the coverages, taking his check-downs when he had to. Really impressed by how he played. Really impressed with the guys around him too, the linemen. I can't remember, other than the last play of the game, him taking a hit, when he kept that ball on the keeper. I just thought a really nice job by those guys up front keeping him clean. The run game wasn't always pretty, but those guys did a good job finding some holes and getting the game going for us."
TRIFECTA: It was the first time since 1984 the Bengals won a game with three different starting quarterbacks when Ken Anderson, Boomer Esiason and Turk Schonert did it. Allen joined Joe Burrow and Ryan Finley by hitting 78.3 percent of his passes for the Bengals' best completion percentage since Andy Dalton hit 83.3 in 2017 against the Browns.
"I think I always kind of feel that way going into a game, that I'm going to make all the throws that I need to," Allen said. "Obviously, it's never going to happen, and you need to hit as many as you can. I always wake up on game day with the confidence that we're going to make all the plays we need to win the game."
Allen immediately carved up the Texans' zones early in the game. But the play that really seemed to open it up was his throw down the seam to slot receiver Alex Erickson. The 42-yarder was his longest of the day and set up the 20-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Tee Higgins that briefly gave them a 24-17 lead in the third quarter.
"I think early on they wanted to play a little bit of soft cover three. Obviously in that area, you want to throw it outside," said Allen who did exactly that completing all five of his passes in the first drive for 65 yards and a touchdown. "Then they started mixing in some (zone), and that's when we were able to hit Alex Erickson down the middle. I think kind of the rest of the game they started mixing in between cover three, man, and cover two. So, really we had just some good progression plays where you can decipher what they're going to be in and you know exactly where you need to go with the football."
The Bengals were the third team to have three quarterbacks this season win a game and joined San Francisco and Washington.
GAME BALLS: Allen obviously got a game ball and so did left end Sam Hubbard after his strip of Watson with 1:28 left in the game turned into lineman Margus Hunt's fumble recovery that extinguished Houston's last best hope.
It brought back another fourth-quarter memory for Hubbard. It was from his rookie year when Carlos Dunlap stripped Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Hubbard sealed the win with a 19-yard fumble return for a touchdown. Another reason it may have looked so familiar is because that's one of the last times they scored at least 27 points in the second half. It was also their last fourth-quarter comeback until Sunday.
Watson was a load in that second half. He killed the Bengals with his scrambles and he ran out of two sacks on the same play to scramble for a first down. He broke their back on a third-and-13 scramble in the red zone on the way to that 31-27 lead.
Hubbard went for the strip and ended up with Watson's hand in his grill.
"I was just going for the ball and it kind of went between my arms and he ended up hitting me in the facemask. I saw it land in Margus' arms," Hubbard said. "It's kind of one of the first game-sealing strip sacks I've had in my career. Definitely something to build off of. It reminded me of that Miami game where Carlos did the same to me back my rookie year. But it was a special play."
"He's just really strong. Give him a lot of credit. When you try and get your hands on him, he's out there really fast. Just his strength and awareness is special. To go for the ball and to get it out after he's been getting the better of us, it felt awesome."
Since they closed out Miami like that in 2018, the defense has struggled in those stop-and-win scenarios. The next week in '18 they couldn't hold a lead against the Steelers and gave up the lead with 10 seconds left. This season they gave up winning or tying scores in the last 21 seconds twice.
But not Sunday.
"We bring it up as a defense before we take the field every series. The message is always the same," Hubbard said. "Defensively we weren't playing well throughout the game. There was no finger pointing and no negativity. No one was attacking each other. We just kind of stayed the course, kept grinding and brought each other up. It was on the defense. One stop and we win the game. That was the message and that's what we did."
SLANTS AND SCREENS: With Tyler Boyd inactive, Tee Higgins took over the team receiving lead with his 99 yards giving him 908 yards. His six catches have also tied him with Cris Collinsworth for the 39-year-old rookie club record of 67 catches …
It's the first time the Bengals allowed no sacks since Nov. 1. Which means J.J. Watt had 0.0 for the Texans. Which means right tackle Bobby Hart, along the occasional chipping tight end or running back, should take a bow. And left tackle Fred Johnson.
"He's a great player. I just wanted to take the fight to him a little bit," Hart said. "Not really just sit back and just let him use his power that he has and I just want to keep ascending as a player. Last week against T.J., (Watt) this week against the big bro—those are the challenges you look forward to in this league. To assert yourself in this league you've to play good against the good players. I definitely was looking forward to the challenge."