Career game from Bengals' Brandon Allen shows why he could back up Joe Burrow in 2021

When rookie quarterback Joe Burrow suffered a season-ending injury in November, the Cincinnati Bengals were about to find out if they had a quality backup option on the roster.

Sunday’s 37-31 win against the Houston Texans showed that Brandon Allen could be the answer in that role when Burrow returns in 2021. The veteran had the best game in his career and helped the Bengals go on their first winning streak in two seasons.

Allen was 29-of-37 passing for 371 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Allen showed why he regained the starting job after missing the team’s Week 15 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers with a knee injury.

But more importantly, Allen made the case to be No. 2 on the depth chart next season. With each passing week, Allen has looked more comfortable under center. The former Broncos quarterback was able to stretch the defense vertically, which is something the Bengals struggled to do even when Burrow was on the field.

When the game was on the line in the fourth quarter, Allen led the Bengals on a comeback drive that culminated with a 3-yard touchdown run by Samaje Perine with 1:57 left in the game.

The Bengals picked up their first win since Week 4 of the 2018 season, which was also the last time Cincinnati had back-to-back wins.

Cincinnati has a little momentum to close a rough season. And it might also have a back-up quarterback for 2021.

Pivotal play: The Bengals failed to stop the Texans for nearly the entire second half. Cincinnati saved its only stop for when it mattered most. Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard came off the edge and knocked the ball out of Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson’s hand. The ball fluttered into defensive tackle Margus Hunt’s hands to force a big turnover. Cincinnati capitalized with a field goal that all but sealed the victory.

Buy a breakout performance: Bengals rookie wide receiver Tee Higgins continues to show why Cincinnati opted to keep their draft slot back in April to draft the former Clemson standout. Higgins had six catches for 99 yards and one touchdown. Higgins’ ability to haul in a 20-yard scoring pass in the third quarter while also keeping his feet in bounds was another flash of a strong rookie year. If Higgins has a strong game in the season finale against the Ravens, he could join A.J. Green and Cris Collinsworth as Bengals with 1,000 or more receiving yards during their rookie season.

Biggest hole in the game plan: The Bengals’ run defense had played well in the weeks leading up to Sunday’s game against the Texans. But in the third quarter, Cincinnati had no answer for Houston running back David Johnson. Johnson rushed for 99 yards in the quarter, including two carries of more than 35 yards.

In the first half, Cincinnati gave up a few big plays through the air. After halftime, Houston did a lot of its damage on the ground and was able to use the ground game to counter each of the Bengals’ touchdowns in the third quarter.