The Bengals’ defense scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns during Cincinnati’s thrilling 27-17 win over Miami, concluding an epic comeback that began with a 17-point deficit and ended with a run of 27 unanswered points. When you build a highlight reel, or write an epic narrative, Michael Johnson’s pick-six and Sam Hubbard’s fumble return for a touchdown (lest we not forget Carlos Dunlap) take the prize. Obviously.
In the meantime, A.J. Green had a peaceful afternoon in the sense that his production, while great, wasn’t Sunday’s prominent storyline. It might seem strange to us, blue-collar mortals who extract joy from a violent game. With attention focused on the excitement of Cincinnati’s defense, Green was able to enjoy being the background vocals at a heavy metal concert.
Don’t get me wrong.
If not for Green, the Bengals don’t win. He stretched the field, curled around intermediary routes, glided with back-shoulder routes, enjoying his role from the slot but resuming his distant relationship from the edges.
At the end of the day, Green posted 112 yards receiving, converted several third downs during scoring drives, and in the middle of it all, reached an impressive milestone. Prior to the game, Chad Johnson and Green were tied for the franchise lead with 31 100-yard career games. Let’s compare how quickly they achieved that milestone:
- Johnson reached his 31st 100-yard game on his 143rd career game at 32 years and 288 days old.
- Green reached his 31st 100-yard game on his 95th career game at 29 years and 104 days old.
When Green recorded a 15-yard reception with 5:09 remaining in the fourth quarter, he surpassed Johnson for most 100-yard performances in franchise history. “It’s unbelievable, it’s another humbling achievement. Chad was one of the best, and I’m just trying to live up to it,” Green said after the game.
“He’s had so many big games here and so, it’s one of the records he’s going to have,” Dalton said of Green after the game. “I feel like he’s going to have a ton of records here. I’ve just got to allow him to break these records. He’s so good, and I’m very thankful that I’ve had him my whole career.”
Green humbly played down his touchdown from Sunday’s win.
“It was just another option route,” Green added, reflecting on the play. “It’s hard to double me when I’m in the slot. Andy threw me a great ball.”
In the meantime, the Bengals needed to win a football game and significant moments featured Green.
The Bengals, facing a 17-point deficit, have third-and-seven from their own 28-yard line with 8:09 remaining in the third. They need a spark, a trigger, but most importantly, they need to sustain a drive to feed the Gods of momentum.
Green, enjoying his role from the slot, sprints about 17 yards with an eye toward Dalton. After his quarterback releases the pass, Green positions himself against rookie Minkah Fitzpatrick for the back-shoulder throw. The 22-yard reception leads to a first down. A few plays later, Randy Bullock crushes a 51-yard field goal with 5:12 remaining in the third.
This was the moment momentum began shifting, according to Green. “When we drove down the field for the field goal for our first points. That was big.”
Fast-forward to the 2:54 mark in the third. Cincinnati has third-and-10 from its own 29-yard line. At this point, Dalton has only completed two of five on third down, generating 18 yards with an interception (that pesky red zone pick early in the first quarter). This writer wouldn’t have blamed you if pessimism clouded your heart.
Dalton, under intense pressure, scrambles. The crafty veteran quarterback surveys the field and finds his most trusted companion; Green is running a deep cross around the Bengals’ 48-yard line. The eighth-year receiver hauls the football in and leans forward for a 21-yard gain.
Cincinnati would drive an additional 32 yards before Joe Mixon’s 18-yard touchdown reception, reducing Miami’s lead to a touchdown.
Green didn’t have a headline-caliber afternoon, but without his contributions, the Bengals do not win.