By Ben Morse, CNN
(CNN) — The Cincinnati Bengals stunned the Jacksonville Jaguars in an overtime thriller, 34-31, on Monday, while Jags star quarterback Trevor Lawrence limped off with an ankle injury.
The Bengals – led by backup quarterback Jake Browning after Joe Burrow suffered a season-ending wrist injury in Week 11 – conjured up a 12-play, 42-yard drive which culminated in a 48-yard Evan McPherson field goal to claim the win in overtime.
Browning impressed in his second career start, going 32-of-37 on his passing attempts for 354 yards and a touchdown – a 76-yard connection to Ja’Marr Chase in the third quarter – and a rushing score.
The former undrafted quarterback from the University of Washington was able to move the ball against a Jacksonville team who has high hopes this season after a deep postseason run last year.
But expectations might have been dealt a serious blow after Lawrence had to be helped off the field after appearing to suffer a painful ankle injury late in the fourth quarter of Monday’s game.
Lawrence, who had thrown for 258 yards and two touchdowns before the injury, was stepped on by Jacksonville offensive lineman Walker Little as he dropped back to make a pass with the scores tied at 28-28 and the Jaguars driving for what would have been a go-ahead touchdown. The 24-year-old then bent backward awkwardly while on the ground and could be seen in pain afterwards.
He attempted to make his way off the field under his own power but stumbled to the turf before slamming his fists and helmet into the ground in apparent frustration. He was helped towards the sideline by two athletic trainers.
In the aftermath of Monday’s defeat, NFL Network’s Cameron Wolfe reported that Lawrence seemed able to stand on his ankle in the locker room “but was careful not to put pressure or walk on it.” Lawrence was later seen departing the locker room in a walking boot.
According to NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero, Lawrence suffered what was initially diagnosed as an ankle sprain and will undergo an MRI on Tuesday.
Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson put the emphasis of the loss though on his team’s inability to stop the Bengals running game.
“That’s the strength of our defense, is stopping the run. We just didn’t do that. We failed there,” he told reporters. “We got too many explosive plays we gave up.
“Obviously, offensively when you can’t run the ball, then when the running game for them is going, you see what happens, right? That’s where the explosiveness comes from. We had moments on offense where we got some explosives. Their’s all stem from being able to run the ball successfully.”
The defeat and Lawrence’s injury could deal a damaging blow to Jacksonville’s playoff hopes this season.
The Jags remain atop the AFC South with their 8-4 record, but if Lawrence misses a prolonged amount of time and with the Indianapolis Colts breathing down their neck at 7-5, it could be a season-defining few weeks for the Florida team.
For the Bengals on the other hand, it was an evening of hope following a dark few weeks following Burrow’s injury.
Browning’s excellent performance, with Burrow watching on from the sideline with his arm in a sling, gives the fans something to root for with a playoff push unlikely with the team sitting at 6-6 and last in the AFC North.
Afterwards, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor described Browning’s display as “awesome” and “outstanding.”
“He had a great week of practice. I thought Thursday was outstanding and that’s really our big day, third-down day. I felt really good coming out this week, getting ready for this game. He just lit the world on fire,” Taylor told reporters.
“Halftime, I wasn’t sure if we had an incompletion, if the ball hit the ground yet. Thought he managed the game well. He was aggressive with some of his throws. Did a great job making plays with his feet.”
Taylor added: “So just really proud of Jake and the job he did, and the guys rallying around him making plays for him, protecting him, run game getting going. It all helped Jake. Really proud of the team win, but really proud of Jake. In his second career start to come out here on Monday Night Football to do what he did is pretty cool.”
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