Joe Burrow spoiled Urban Meyer’s return to Ohio and kept his former college coach winless on an NFL sideline.
Burrow engineered four second-half scoring drives while passing for 348 yards and two touchdowns and the Bengals overcame a 14-0 halftime deficit to beat Meyer and the Jacksonville Jaguars 24-21 on Thursday night.
Evan McPherson won it with a 35-yard field goal as time ran out, culminating a 10-play, 73-yard drive that consumed the last five and a half minutes.
Burrow, the top overall draft pick in 2020 out of LSU after transferring from Ohio State, outdueled the 2021 top pick, Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who looked at halftime as if he might direct his first NFL win and create a happy homecoming for his coach. Meyer grew up in northeastern Ohio, played safety at the University of Cincinnati and won the 2014 national championship coaching at Ohio State.
The Bengals (3-1) were shut out in the first half and couldn’t get running back Joe Mixon loose. McPherson missed a 43-yard field-goal attempt, and Cincinnati punted on the next three possessions.
“We did not play great football, they generally beat us in all three phases” in the first half, Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor said. “But we get a whole second half to play, so there was no reason to panic. Nobody did. Everyone was calm, cool and collected. They knew we were going to get the ball to start the half where we are usually pretty efficient.”
Cincinnati had two quick scoring drives to open the second. James Robinson’s second rushing touchdown put Jacksonville up again early in the fourth quarter. Burrow answered with a 31-yard touchdown pass to tight end CJ Uzomah to tie it again.
After the Jaguars punted, Burrow set up McPherson, who has the winning kick in two of Cincinnati’s three victories.
“I’m really happy with my performance tonight,” Burrow said. “I’m going to keep building on this and getting better and better.”
The Jaguars scored in the first half on a six-yard plunge by Robinson and a seven-yard keeper by Lawrence.
It could have been worse for Cincinnati at the break. Lawrence was stopped by linebacker Logan Wilson on fourth-and-goal at the one with under a minute left in the half.
“When you control the game like we did in the first – and it should’ve been 21-0,” Lawrence said. “The second half, we didn’t do a good job of holding on to the ball. They scored the quick touchdown and then we went three-and-out.”
Lawrence was 17 for 24 for 204 yards.
“Trevor took care of the ball,” Meyer said. “Trevor played his best game. He’s coming alive.”
Tyler Boyd had nine receptions for 118 yards for the Bengals. Uzomah had five catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns.
Robinson rushed for a season-high 78 yards.
“We have to regroup a little,” Lawrence said. “This one hurts.”
Both team will have 10 days to ruminate on Thursday night’s game. Meyer said that will be especially tough for the winless Jags.
“That’s a heartbroken locker room,” he said. “We’ve got to get them back.”
The Bengals have extra time to prepare for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers after winning twice in five days. Cincinnati beat Pittsburgh 24-10 last Sunday.
“It is critical to get this momentum going into a 10-day work week against an opponent who’s been in the last two AFC championship games,” Taylor said.