A.J. Green was the Bengals' leading receiver on Sunday against the Broncos. That should come as no surprise. But, he was held to 77 yards on 8 receptions. That's a surprise. And the biggest surprise of all, when it comes to Green's performance on Sunday, was his fourth quarter drop on a third-and-three.
“It’s going to bother me all year,” Green said of the dropped ball after the game. “I pride myself on not dropping balls. I know it’s going to happen, but I can’t drop a ball like that in a crucial moment.”
Green had only two dropped passes in 2015, so he rightfully should pride himself on not dropping balls. It’s a rarity with the Bengals’ star wide receiver who’s Andy Dalton’s go-to target in tough situations. And it was a tough situation that the Bengals were in while trailing 22-17 with just more than 6 minutes remaining in the game at the time of the drop. Green's drop led to a Kevin Huber punt and just a few plays later Trevor Siemian's final score of the day, a 55-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas. That kind of big play to Thomas is what the Bengals had to be hoping to get from Green on Sunday. But, his biggest play of the day was a 20-yard catch right before the two minute warning that meant little in the grand scheme of the game.
“This offense starts with me. When I’m making plays, this offense — everything falls into place,” Green said. “Today I didn’t do that. I let my team down on that missed call that I thought was a run, and the next play I turn around and drop it. So that’s two mental errors on me that I have got to clean up.”
Green wasn’t the only person on the Bengals making mental errors on Sunday. There were many fundamental issues and two dropped interceptions, and that was a big reason why the team lost on Sunday. But, in an important week where the team will need to realize their errors and try to fix them, there are only four days until the next game.
But, Green thinks the quick turnaround is a good thing to help the Bengals get the loss out of their system and hopefully improve to 2-2 by next Friday.
“It’s good that we can get back and play on Thursday — try and get this feeling out of us,” he said. “I’m ready to get back to practice after my performance today — it definitely was not the best, and I need to clean up some stuff. This offense runs through me, and I’ve got to do better.”
The Bengals’ offense was more efficient against the Broncos than it was against the Steelers, so hopefully they can continue to clean things up, even with a quick turnaround. After needing to settle for field goals on three red zone drives in Week 2 and netting a zero percent red zone efficiency rating in Week 2, the Bengals were able to score touchdowns on two of four red zone opportunities in Week 3, good for 50 percent. And, after third down conversions were hard to come by in Week 2, as the Bengals were just 4/16 on third down (25%), in Week 3 they went 5/12, good for a 42% efficiency rating. On top of that, the run game was considerably more efficient in Week 3, netting 143 yards (including 40 from Dalton) after totaling 103 rushing yards through two weeks. Jeremy Hill’s early 50 yard touchdown had a lot to do with that, and on the day, Hill averaged 5.7 yards per rush. If you take away that 50 yard play, Hill averaged 2.9 yards per rushing attempt against the Broncos.
“We still have a lot of stuff to clean up,” Green said. “We’re still trying to find ourselves. On the first drive, we had everything going. We’ve got to get more consistent. It’s not about chemistry. We just have to get more consistent, and it starts with me.”