Before Sunday, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson had 4,134 passing yards, and Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Brandon Allen had 506. Watson had won 28 games in his NFL career; Allen had won one.
Allen didn’t just outperform Watson on Sunday in Houston. He led the Bengals to their first road win since 2018, a 37-31 Bengals victory over the Texans.
Watson had 324 passing yards and three touchdowns that kept the score close. But Allen finished with 371 passing yards, and he said he played the best game of his career.
“That (Week 15) win against the Steelers really gave guys such a boost of confidence,” Allen said. “This week, there was such a high level of confidence that we could beat any team we go play.”
Allen had never led a game-winning drive in his NFL career, but against the Texans he capped off the win with a touchdown drive. Playing without nine starters, the Bengals had their first comeback win of head coach Zac Taylor’s tenure in Cincinnati.
“Winning two games in a row is really insignificant in this NFL,” Taylor said. “But it is significant for us right now. Everybody has seen what we’ve been through, and it means a lot to these guys and is something to build off of.”
Entering Sunday’s game, Allen had been active in only three games this season. He had only been on the Bengals’ 53-man roster for a month, and he had never had more than 217 passing yards in a game.
But against the Texans, he led the first comeback win of his NFL career.
“He didn’t surprise me one bit,” Bengals running back Samaje Perine said. “He’s just a hard working dude, and what he did today is the fruit of that labor.”
With 5:43 left in the game, Allen made an 11-yard first down throw to wide receiver Tee Higgins. Later on the drive, Allen found wide receiver Alex Erickson in the middle of the field for a 20-yard gain that brought Cincinnati down to the Texans’ 19-yard line.
Perine finished the series with a four-yard touchdown run that gave Cincinnati a 34-31 lead with 1:57 left.
Cincinnati defensive end Sam Hubbard clinched the win for the Bengals by stripping Watson as he threw the ball. Defensive lineman Margus Hunt recovered the fumble with 1:35 remaining.
“It wasn’t our best game defensively, but that’s how it is in the NFL when you play a great player like (Watson),” Hubbard said. “Just to come away with that first road win is an amazing feeling.”
Taylor said it would have been easy for players to check out at this point of the season, but the Bengals had one of their best fourth quarters of the year on Sunday.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the work they put in here at Week 16,” Taylor said. “We’re out of the playoff hunt, it’s easy for guys to check out right now. And we haven’t had a single player do it.”
The Texans scored on their first three possessions of the second half, and a 22-yard pass from Watson to Houston tight end Darren Fells gave the Texans a 31-27 lead with 6:15 left.
But Allen was back in command when he went back onto the field. The Bengals 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter served as Cincinnati’s first game winning drive of the season.
Even with their starting quarterback, running back, top wide receiver and left tackle missing, the Bengals recorded a season-high 540 yards and a season-high 37 points.
“That tells you everything you got to know about the character and resolve of this football team,” Taylor said. “We practiced in 10 degree weather on Christmas Day to come down and play a game in Houston. I didn’t hear one guy complain about it.”