Bengals receiver A.J. Green is having one of the best seasons of his career and Sunday afternoon against the Browns proved it. Aside from making a handful of chain-moving plays, two ridiculous catches are sparking a debate on his status as the NFL's best pass-catcher.
Hail Mary's have become yet another facet to Green's repertoire. Back in 2014, Green came down with an improbable catch as the game against the Ravens was winding down in Baltimore. It sent that contest into overtime, during which the Bengals eventually lost, but it made everyone aware that no play was ever truly out of Green's grasp.
Cincinnati was nursing a 14-10 lead with a minute left in the first half this Sunday, and while Marvin Lewis had a familiar struggle with play calls and the game clock before the midway mark, desperation started to mount. With seven seconds left and the Bengals hovering around midfield, quarterback Andy Dalton heaved up a prayer that changed the game. Green inexplicably came down with the football and the Bengals went into halftime with a 21-10 lead.
But, was this truly the play of the game for the Bengals? Dalton believes it wasn't only the play of the game, but the play of the year.
"If it’s not play of the year this year, then there has to be one that is really, really good," Dalton said. "For how he tipped it, and then it went off someone else, and then he goes and gets it with one hand. It just goes to show how good his hands are."
Obviously, both luck and skill played a role in Green's improbable catch, but the Bengals made a number of other big plays that could be deemed the biggest of the week.
Green had another ridiculous catch in the third quarter which led to a Mike Nugent field goal. On a first down midway through the third quarter, Dalton sailed a pretty pass to Green who must have been using "stick 'em" on the day. The pass was perfect, the coverage from Boddy Calhoun was tight, yet Green made a circus one-handed catch to add to his already-impressive day.
Green didn't carry the Bengals to a win by himself though. Before he made the touchdown catch on the Hail Mary, the man tasked with taking coverage heat off of Green, Brandon LaFell, had a big play of his own. The Bengals were actually trailing Cleveland at home in the second quarter, fueling more fan ire, but the veteran receiver made his team-leading fourth touchdown reception to put Cincinnati up 14-10 and they never looked back. As you watch the video, you'll note LaFell completely juking the cornerback on the route, while also exercising great footwork along the sideline.
However, at least in terms of overall yardage gained, running back Jeremy Hill had the biggest play of the game. After fifth-string quarterback Kevin Hogan scampered for a 28-yard touchdown run to pull the Browns within four points in the third quarter, Cincinnati wanted to impose its will.
Hill had a rough sophomore campaign for the Bengals in 2015, marred with fumbles and a lack of big plays, but the Browns gave up the second-longest run of Hill's career in Week 7 of 2016, and allowed the third year back to have the game we've all been waiting for. Andrew Whitworth and Clint Boling pulled from the left side and a counter move by Hill totally took the Browns' defense by surprise. Hill gashed Cleveland for 74 yards on the play and it gave the Bengals a 28-17 lead from which they never looked back from. By the way, have a look at Whitworth, who seems to be giving the business to the Browns sideline.
What gets your vote for the Bengals' play of the week against the Browns?