CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 11: Wide receiver A.J. Green #18 of the Cincinnati Bengals scores a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on September 11, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Oh boy. This is going to be a long season, many of us "sighed" at the time. Already losing 17-13 to the Cleveland Browns (the Browns!) with around four minutes remaining, let's quickly take stock. Before suffering a forearm injury that knocked him out of the game, rookie quarterback Andy Dalton completed 10 of 15 passes for 81 yards passing and a touchdown, generating a passer rating of 102.4 in the first half during the regular season opener. The first three possessions of Dalton's young career all ended with points, generating 13 points. Yet A.J. Green was only targeted twice in the first half and Bruce Gradkowski had managed only three first downs during his first four possessions during a slow second half start.
Now 4:31 remained in the game and the Bengals were losing by four points. Following an incomplete pass to Jerome Simpson on second down, the Bengals offense rushed to the line of scrimmage, got set and snapped the football. But the time Cleveland's defense realized what had just happened, A.J. Green was already beyond the secondary with Gradkowski floating the pass over the surprised defense, into the loving embrace of A.J. Green who walked unopposed into the endzone.
The touchdown was an eventual game-winner. It was A.J. Green's first NFL reception and first touchdown. And it was the hint of a trend we'd see throughout the rest of the season, quick starts in the first quarter, finishing the game with a chance to win and throwing blind deep passes within 50 yards of A.J. Green with a reasonable expectation that he'll complete the reception.