The Bengals’ first game of the 2016 NFL season is in the books as a win! Granted, it was a sloppy win rife with atrocious play by the offensive line, some sloppy play on defense, and some really questionable clock management. But, in the end, the Bengals pulled everything together for a clutch 23-22 road win over a potential AFC playoff competitor, despite missing key players like Tyler Eifert and Vontaze Burfict.
There’s no such thing as an ugly win in the NFL, especially when that win comes on the road against a team that had 10 wins the year prior. But, certain aspects of the Bengals’ performance did little to inspire much confidence. Still, as ESPN’s Dan Graziano explained, they made the best of the situation that they set up for themselves and announced themselves as a team to watch in 2016.
The game itself started and the Jets punched them right in the face. Five sacks in the first half by a swarming New York defensive front. The Jets took a 7-0 lead, intercepted a pass in Cincinnati territory and moved the ball to the point of first-and-goal on the 4. It was fixin' to get ugly in a hurry.
But the Bengals’ own defense held, and blocked the field goal, and one of the grittiest games of the day was on. Five lead changes, including a go-ahead Jets field goal with 3:23 left in the game. Seven sacks total of quarterback Andy Dalton. This was a game the Bengals could have lost any number of ways, for any number of reasons, and it would have felt very Bengals if they had.
Many expected the Bengals to struggle against the Jets due to missing so many of their key offensive weapons. In fact, due to an injury to Tyler Eifert, the offseason departures of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, and the sheer fact that Jeremy Hill didn’t look effective at all last year, the only two proven pass-catching weapons on the team were seen to be A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard. All the Jets had to do, as Josh Breech of CBS Sports explains, was contain those two players. But, Green still managed to put together a remarkable afternoon, questioning the stability on Revis Island.
Going into Week 1, the scouting report on the Bengals offense was pretty simple: They only have one proven receiver on the roster, so don't let that guy beat you.
Apparently, the Jets ignored that key part of the scouting report because A.J. Green torched the Jets defense for a 54-yard touchdown on Sunday. Green didn't just torch anyone, either, he visited Revis Island and left the place in shambles.
For the most part, it was the A.J. Green show on Sunday. Not many wide receivers escape Revis Island, but Green is not like many wide receivers. In fact, as Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk explains, he absolutely torched one of the league’s best cornerbacks in spectacular fashion, but still showed respect when he was finished.
If Bengals receiver A.J. Green ever wanted to engage in trash talk, he’d never have a better opportunity than now, after he torched Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis on Sunday.ll show
Instead, after the game Green showed nothing but respect for Revis, saying he was honored to match up with an all-time great.
“That guy has nothing else to prove,” Green said of Revis. “He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer for sure. I’m trying to get where he is.”
Revis was once the best cornerback in football, but at age 31 he’s no longer able to shut down a great receiver like Green. That was very clear on Sunday, when Green caught all 10 of the passes thrown to him when Revis was covering him, gaining 152 yards and a touchdown.
Green’s day was so good that he made everyone else around him look good as well. Many Bengals fans were disappointed by the way the preseason went for guys like C.J. Uzomah, due to low production, and Brandon LaFell, due to injury. However, as Bleacher Report’s Mike Trainer points out, they both looked good in Green’s shadow on Sunday.
Green not only generated big plays, but he also created opportunities for others. Brandon LaFell caught four passes for 91 yards, and reserve tight end C.J. Uzomah slipped up the seam for a 54-yard catch.
The Bengals don't have as many weapons for Dalton as they had in the past. But if Green requires the attention of a top cornerback and a safety, Dalton and the Bengals will be just fine. And if Green can light up Revis for 12 catches, it means he requires the attention of a top cornerback and a safety.
Perhaps lost in the buzz around Green’s day was the fact that players like Andy Dalton, Margus Hunt, Jeremy Hill, Geno Atkins, and Karlos Dansby all put together some impressive performances. But, Green’s 12 catches on 13 receptions (hauling in every single one against Revis) for 180 yards and a touchdown is just impossible to ignore. In fact, according to Peter King of Monday Morning Quarterback, Dalton was in the running for offensive player of the week.
With apologies to Jameis Winston (four TDs in a road win at Atlanta) and Andy Dalton (fourth-quarter-comeback win at the Jets despite missing 150 catches from departed/injured 2015 Bengals), and Victor Cruz (winning touchdown catch in his first game back after missing the last 26 for New York), I have two.
King actually nominated three offensive players of the week in his article, Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz, Denver’s Trevor Siemien, and New England’s Jimmy Garoppolo. But, the fact that Dalton was in the running for offensive player of the week at all is impressive, given how bad his protection was throughout the entire game. Much was made about the Bengals’ offseason and preseason losses in the receiving game but, it seems that as long as they have Dalton and Green, they will be fine.
Here are some other fun Tweets in reaction to the game:
Teams were 6-126-1 since 1970 when rushing for less than 60 yards and allowing 7 sacks. So the Bengals win was a bit odds defying.— Katherine Terrell (@Kat_Terrell) September 12, 2016
.@Hasselbeck: 2016 is the year the Bengals will win a playoff game.— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) September 11, 2016
Andy Dalton really impressed me yesterday. Took a beating and hung in, made enough big plays to win tough game on the road. #Bengals— Mike Greenberg (@Espngreeny) September 12, 2016
Just what the league loves: this was the first time in NFL history that 4 games in Week 1 were decided by exactly 1 point, per Elias.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 12, 2016