A.J. Green and Adam “Pacman” Jones have helped the Cincinnati Bengals win a lot of games over the years with their Pro Bowl-level play.
However, both played a big hand in the Bengals losing their second straight game Sunday, 29-17 to the visiting Denver Broncos at Paul Brown Stadium, as Cincinnati fell to 1-2.
Green, the five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, dropped a pass from Andy Dalton at a pivotal point in the fourth quarter. Jones fumbled a punt on the last play of the first quarter and, moments later, the cornerback got burned for a touchdown.
With the Bengals trailing 22-17, Green couldn’t corral a pass on third-and-3 that would have been good for a first down with 6:09 left. The Bengals were forced to punt and, four plays later, Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian threw his fourth touchdown pass of the game, connecting with Demaryius Thomas on a 55-yard play, to put the game out of reach.
“We were going down (the field) and we had a chance if I made the catch,” Green said. “That was a concentration drop.”
Green admitted that he was thinking about the previous play, in which he stayed in to block because he thought the Bengals had called a running play. Instead, the intended pass play broke down and Dalton had to throw the ball away to avoid being sacked.
“I can’t lose my focus like that,” Green said.
Jones’ fumble was his first in seven seasons and 95 punt returns with the Bengals. Denver’s Shiloh Keo recovered at Cincinnati 46-yard line following a hit by Zaire Anderson but Jones believed he should have been ruled down by contact.
“My knee was down,” Jones said. “Then he hit me in the ribs. That’s why I fumbled. We haven’t got one (replay challenge) go our way all year.”
Three plays later, Siemian and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders connected for a 41-yard touchdown to put the Broncos ahead 10-7 just a little over a minute into the second quarter.
“If I don’t give up that play, it’s a different game,” Jones said. “I’ve got to keep running. I slowed down. I slowed down. I played a horrible first half. In the second half I played like I usually play, but in the first half I couldn’t get in rhythm. My feet weren’t right.”
Jones was on the bench with what he called “whole body cramps” when Thomas beat his replacement, Chris Lewis-Harris, for the clinching touchdown in the fourth quarter. That only added to a frustrating day for Jones.
“I was throwing up on the sideline,” Jones said. “I thought I was in shape. Early in the season, in the season, who knows? I wish to God I would have been there for the next play. Things happen.”
Both of the long scoring passes came on double moves, something the Broncos felt they could use to exploit the Bengals’ secondary during film study.
“They’re the best group we’ve gone against this year but they’re vulnerable to the double moves,” Thomas said.
The Bengals were beaten by big pass plays on a day when the Broncos didn’t allow Dalton to complete many long gainers of his own. Cincinnati had 13 passes of at least 20 yards in its first two games as Dalton racked up an NFL-leading 732 yards but were limited to three Sunday.
He was 21 of 31 for 201 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.
“Yeah, that was exactly what the biggest difference was in the game,” Dalton said. “They made a couple big ones that they scored off of, and we weren’t able to do that.”