Five days after the passing of Yogi Berra it was déjà vu all over again.
Last year in Baltimore, the Bengals blew a 15-0 halftime lead and fell behind in the fourth quarter before winning on a 77-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green with 4:58 remaining.
This year, the Bengals blew a 14-0 halftime lead and fell behind twice in the fourth quarter before Green answered both times. His 80-yard touchdown grab came 12 seconds after Baltimore took the lead for the first time, and his 7-yard game-winning TD happened 1 minute and 46 seconds after Cincinnati trailed for the second and final time.
“It was fun man,” said Green. “We know that every time we come up here that it’s going to be a fight. We stayed the course and just ran our offense and it worked out.”
“What is there to say?” said Marvin Jones. “He’s a great talent obviously. He made the big play that gave us some juice and we feed off of him.”
Green’s biggest play was the 80-yard stadium silencer that came on the first play from scrimmage after C.J. Mosley recovered an Andy Dalton fumble and raced 41 yards for a touchdown to give Baltimore a 17-14 lead with 6:49 on the clock.
“That was the first time we were down all year,” said Domata Peko. “We just had to keep our composure and we did.”
“I was next to (Director of Player Relations) Eric Ball on the sidelines because we only had two receivers out there,” said Mohamed Sanu. “He told me what the play was and said, ‘Watch. In about two minutes it’s about to get real quiet.’ It sure did. A.J. made a phenomenal play. (Eric) came running over and said, ‘I told you! I told you!’ It was pretty cool.”
But the home crowd wasn’t silent for very long as Steve Smith hauled in a 16-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to give Baltimore a 24-21 lead with 3:56 remaining. Smith finished with 13 catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns.
“His competitiveness is breathtaking,” said my broadcast partner Dave Lapham. “In my mind he is Corey Dillon at wide receiver. They couldn’t tackle him because he refused to be tackled. He was just better than they were when they were one-on-one in space.”
For the second straight year in the last five minutes of the Ravens home opener, it was up to the Bengals offense to deliver a game-winning drive.
“If you would have looked into our huddle, our faces all said, ‘We’re going to get this,’” said Jones.
“Of course we were upset, but we knew what we had to do,” said Sanu. “You can’t drop your head. We knew there was time on the clock and that we had to go make plays.”
On the Bengals final drive it wasn’t strictly the A.J. Green show. Dalton completed four straight passes to four different targets: Giovani Bernard for 23 yards, Sanu for 19, Jones for 31, and Green for the 7-yard touchdown to win the game 28-24.
“Marv made a big play to get us down there,” said Green. “Mo made a 5-yard route into like a 15-yard play. Andy made a play with his legs where he got the ball to Gio and he picked up 23 yards. It’s not just me. We’ve got playmakers all over this field.”
“That’s what we say in the receiver room: ‘Pick your poison,’” said Jones. “We’re all going to do what we have to do to catch the ball and make big plays when we need them. It didn’t come as a surprise. Andy did a great job of getting us the ball and we just did the fun part.”
The end result is a 3-0 record and five wins over the Ravens in their last six meetings.
“We still have things to fix, but at the same time, we have resolve,” said Jones. “They came back and turned it up a little bit, but we did too.”
“To show the fiber that they showed is something that I think will carry over,” said Lapham. “To fall behind twice and answer quickly – I think that’s going to play well during the course of the season.”
“It’s not our first rodeo,” said Green. “We were here last year in the same situation and came out with the ‘W.’ We didn’t flinch.”
“It was kind of like déjà vu,” said Peko.
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