Cincinnati’s A.J. Green had just two catches going into the fourth quarter, but his third was the charm in a 23-20 win over the Cleveland Browns Sunday.
CINCINNATI -- The Cleveland Browns held Cincinnati rookie wide receiver A.J. Green in check for most of Sunday’s game, but when the first-year professional got an opportunity to make an impact, he helped seal a 23-20 come-from-behind victory.
On third-and-eight from Cincinnati’s 47-yard line, rookie quarterback Andy Dalton dropped back and lofted a pass deep down the left side of the field.
Green out jumped the Browns defenders, hauled in the pass and raced toward the end zone before Cleveland defensive back Joe haden knocked him out of bounds.
Four plays later, Mike Nugent kicked a 26-yard field goal that turned out to be the game winner.
“We put pressure on (Dalton) and I don’t know what they were trying to do,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “There were two guys running verticals and we had guys in coverage. The ball was thrown up and A.J. just went and caught the ball. It looked like (Ahtyba) Rubin was on (Dalton) when the ball was thrown, so he just kind of threw it up and A.J. made a nice play and a nice run.”
Before the Bengals had the chance to kick the go-ahead field goal, the Browns had an opportunity to add three points onto their advantage.
On fourth-and-10 from Cincinnati’s 37-yard line, Phil Dawson lined up to kick a 55-yard field goal with a cross wind blowing from the Bengals sideline. Dawson was kicking from the left hash mark, the one closest to Cincinnati’s sideline on the attempt.
The snap from Ryan Pontbriand was low and skidded against the ground.
“It was a bad snap,” Shurmur said. “It rolled back from what I saw. We’ve been working on it because it’s been something that’s been going on. We’ve tried a lot of different things to get him back on the mark.”
Earlier in the game, Dawson connected on a 54-yarder that gave the Browns a 10-point lead with 3:50 remaining in the third quarter.
Up 20-10, the Browns could not hold and allowed the Bengals to 13 unanswered points, six on Nugent field goals with an extra point after Jermaine Gresham’s 22-yard touchdown reception.
“It’s a very disappointing loss to be up at halftime -- and we found a way to be up 10 points in the second half,” said Shurmur. “We didn’t finish it off. The Bengals did a good job of coming back on us. Just like if we had won the game, it would’ve been a team victory and since we lost the game, it’s a team loss.”
The Browns outrushed the Bengals 134 to 132, but Cincinnati finished with 389 yards as opposed to just 274 for Cleveland.
Cleveland went six of 15 on third down conversions, but the Bengals finished six of 14 and converted all three of their field goal tries against the Browns.
“They just made more plays than us,” Haden said. “It doesn’t matter who did it. They did it and it sucks. No matter who would’ve caught the ball, they were doing it and we lost. We have the players; we’ve just got to start doing it.”
HURTING IN PREGAME
Running backs Montario hardesty and Peyton Hillis were both active for Sunday’s game, but only Hillis was able to play. Hardesty felt something in his calf during the pre game warm-ups and in an effort to give his leg more time to heal, he was only going to be used in an emergency situation.
“I wouldn’t say disappointed, but I’m frustrated,” Hardesty said. “It wasn’t at 100 percent, so I was available if they needed me, but it wasn’t strong enough to go 100 percent. When it was time to go full-out, I wasn’t ready to go out and do that today.”
“It was quite surprising, but I didn’t do as badly or as good as I thought,” Hillis said. “I wanted to get out there and play. I felt like I could help the team win. It felt really good to be sore and to have my mind clear and be ready to go.”