When A.J. Green was drafted by the Bengals in the 2011 NFL draft, it was during a time when the Ravens were frequently beating the Bengals with ease.
After all, Baltimore did win four straight vs Cincinnati and five of six overall between the end of the 2010 season and the middle of 2013. But in 2014, Green had had enough.
It began in Week 1 of 2014 with Green catching a 77-yard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton with 4:58 left to provide Cincinnati with a 23-16 win in Baltimore. This, after the Bengals had dominated throughout the game, but allowed the Ravens to rally and take the lead in the fourth quarter.
A little over a year later in Week 3 of the 2015 season, the same scenario was playing out. Cincinnati led by double digits for much of the game, only to watch Baltimore take a 17-14 lead after Dalton was stripped and C.J. Mosley returned the ball 41 yards to give the Ravens a 17-14 lead
At this point, Green was already having big game going into the fourth quarter with seven grabs for 124 yards. He was dominating Baltimore defensive backs for the majority of this game, but Green's performance would be remembered mostly for how he erupted in the final quarter for 101 yards and two scores.
His first touchdown was an 80-yard bomb after the Ravens had taken their first lead of the game. The play saw Green beat safety Kendrick Lewis deep and then break tackles by safety Will Hill and Smith on his way to the end zone.
It was a perfect throw by Dalton that absolutely came at the last possible second as the pocket collapsed around him, but he got it off and Green did the rest.
While Cincinnati took a temporary 21-17 lead, Baltimore would respond with their own touchdown drive as they took a 24-21 lead. The emotional roller coaster was just beginning as Dalton would then lead the offense right back down the field and in position for the game-winning score.
That's when Green did it again. This time, he beat Jimmy Smith on a corner route and got both feet down in the back of the end zone as he made a game-winning seven-yard score look effortless:
After a defensive stop, the Bengals would escape with a 28-24 win that was the most thrilling of a memorable 2015 season, at least in terms of the fourth quarter. While other Bengals played great, Green was the difference in this game, finishing with a career-high 227 receiving yards on 10 catches to go with two scores.
Even after dominating this game, Green was just happy to get the win and wasn't worried about the numbers.
"I am not concerned with my statistics," Green said. "We’re winning. That’s all I care about. But when my number is called, I want to respond and make plays."
As for the Ravens, it was the second year in a row John Harbaugh watched his team blow a late lead at home thanks to a big game by Green.
"It seems to be a regular occurrence with him," Harbaugh said. "One of these days, we'll figure out how to cover A.J. Green."
This was a game to remember for Green, and the Bengals needed every bit of it to come away with a thrilling win and a 3-0 start in what helped shape a memorable season.
Runner Up 1: AJ to A.J. for go-ahead score vs Steelers
Yes, the ending was painful, but that doesn't take away from the elation felt around Bengaldom when Green skied up for a bomb from AJ McCarron, then shed a tackle en route to the end zone for the go-ahead score against Pittsburgh.
But the ending is too painful for this to be the top moment of the Bengals' season or for me to talk about for too long. It is worth noting that this was the first time since the 1990 playoffs that the Bengals had a lead in the fourth quarter of a playoff game, so this could be considered a baby step toward getting over the postseason hump. It was also Green's first touchdown in the playoffs.
And, it reinforced the belief McCarron can be a serviceable backup, so there's that too.
Runner Up 2: Shawn Williams saves the day and Paul Guenther loses his mind
Another play that was in the running for play of the year and deserves an honorable mention is the play that paved the way for Cincinnati to win the AFC North.
With the Bengals trailing 10-6 late in the fourth quarter and the offense seemingly unable to find the end zone, backup safety Shawn Williams made the play of his young NFL career. After Ben Roethlisberger scrambled around for what felt like an eternity, he fired a deep strike along the sideline that, had it been completed, probably would have made it too much for the Bengals to overcome as bad as the offense had been.
But Williams stepped in and made an amazing interception while diving out of bounds and securing the ball in Pittsburgh territory.
And Paul Guenther just about lost his mind:
That set the offense up for the game-winning score, which they would get en route to getting the win and effectively taking control of the AFC North. It would also be the highlight of Williams' season and career to this point, and it helped him become a reliable player in what was one of the NFL's best defenses. Considering Reggie Nelson and George Iloka are both hitting free agency, it may have even helped propel Williams into a starting role this coming season.
Whatever happens, any win in Pittsburgh is going to be a memorable one, and this was certainly that. It's also the only win Cincinnati has over Pittsburgh in their last six meetings, so not having this win would really have made this feel more like a domination than a true NFL rivalry.
What was your favorite moment of the 2015 Bengals season? Let us know in the comments section.