A.J. Green still does not look like A.J. Green. Fortunately for Cincinnati, he does not have to.
Not when you have guys like Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins and Auden Tate around.
In the Bengals’ 23-23 tie against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, Boyd had 10 catches on 13 targets and finished with 125 yards, marking the eighth time in his career that he has gone over 100 yards. Five of those receptions went for first downs.
“Tyler is a great player,” Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow said in his postgame news conference. “We have a really good connection right now. I’m really happy with where I’m at with him.”
Boyd came into the game with only 11 receptions for 105 yards, and was on pace for about 850 yards over the course of the season. He now has 21 catches for 230 yards and is on pace for more than 1,200 yards, which would be his third straight 1,000-yard season.
Higgins finished with five receptions for 40 yards, including the first two touchdowns of his NFL career. Two more of his receptions accounted for first downs.
“Tee has been playing football now for about six weeks,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said after the game. “He’s just getting better and better every single day. He missed the first part of training camp, and now he’s starting to get his legs back under him. He’s got the confidence of our whole group, and he went out and made some big plays for us.”
While Tate had just two receptions for 29 yards, including a long of 19 yards, both of his receptions resulted in first downs.
Meanwhile, Green was targeted six times and caught five balls for 36 yards, with a long of only 12 yards. It marked the first time in Green’s career that he had gone three straight games without a reception of more than 15 yards and only the third time that he had gone three straight games with 51 yards or less.
Still, despite the relative successes of Boyd, Higgins and Tate, it was not enough.
“Week in and week out we feel pretty comfortable on the pass game and whatever we’ve got dialed up,” Boyd said after the game. “But at the end of the day it’s not good enough. Despite everything that’s going on, despite all the statistics and everything, we’ve still got to make one more play.
“I feel like if I could have made one more huge play to get us into a field goal drive to go on and win the game. At the end of the day, we’ve just got to find a way to win.”
One receiver who did not contribute was John Ross, the NFL’s fastest man who was a healthy scratch Sunday.
“We have talks all the time,” Boyd said of Ross. “I don’t feel like he’s down because it’s only Week 3. “We are going to need him at some point in time. His number is going to get called again.
“It’s the NFL, it’s a business at the end of the day. As long as he’s not taking it personal. We were all in that position before. I was in that position before (and) other guys were in that position before. He understands his worth. He’s straight.”