Inspired by my ESPN.com colleague, Lions reporter Michael Rothstein, I'm starting a new weekly tradition on the Bengals blog. Following each game, we'll take a deeper look at one key play from the contest just passed, and analyze it with comments from those who had a true front-row seat for it.
Sure, it may be getting a little late in the season to start new traditions, but we're going to give this a shot anyway. As we do, what better play to start off our "Bengals Breakdown" than to explore what quite possibly is Cincinnati's clubhouse leader for play of the year?
With 2 seconds left in Sunday's AFC North showdown between the Bengals and Baltimore Ravens, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton spiked the ball, leaving him time for one last valiant try at tying the game at 17, and giving his team a chance to pull off the improbable and win it in overtime.
Since the ball was sitting on the Bengals' own 49-yard line, the only thing Dalton could do was send his receivers racing downfield on straight go routes to the end zone and hope that one of them could catch his towering fly that was likely to get tipped. Hail Marys so seldom work, but if the Bengals were going to salvage their 17-0 deficit they overcame, this one was going to have to.
By now, you've certainly seen the highlights and maybe even heard the radio call featuring Dan Hoard and a breathless ("Ohh! Ohh man! Ohh my God!") Dave Lapham. When receiver A.J. Green grabbed Dalton's pass, which was tipped twice, in the end zone, Lapham's shocked but gleeful take on the play was probably repeated in countless homes of Bengals fans. Inside Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium, a hush fell over the 70,000-person crowd, stunned the Bengals had actually tied it with the 51-yard score and subsequent point-after attempt.
Of course, as great as that play was for Cincinnati, it was completely negated moments later in the overtime period, when the Bengals failed to convert on a fourth-and-2 from the Ravens' 33, and ended up allowing them to mark into range for Justin Tucker's game-winning 46-yard field goal.
The following are snippets from interviews players and coaches have given in the last two days about the play:
Bengals WR A.J. Green
"I was in the right spot at the right time. We talk about that a lot. I was just looking for someone to tap the ball so I could catch it. I stood off to the side and watched. I was thinking about coming back closer to the ball, but I stayed right where I was and the ball found me. It would have been a greater play, though, if we had won."
Bengals QB Andy Dalton
"I did see the whole thing happen. I just threw it up and hoped for the best. I know we did a great job tapping the ball into the air, and I saw A.J. Green sitting there waiting for the ball. In that situation, if you can't make the catch you want to, tip it up and keep the play alive. That's something we never practice, but we do talk about it. When I called the play, I just reminded everybody what to do."
Ravens S James Ihedigbo, who tipped the ball last
"[Ravens safety, and former Bengal] Jeromy Miles, he's the jumper. He's tall, long. He's supposed to jump up, tip the ball. My job's to be back, almost in the back of the end zone. I saw the ball get caught in the wind, so I knew it was going to hit the end zone. I knew it was going to be short, so I moved up. Bone-head move. I moved up a little bit. I just should have stayed back. It probably would have fell right in my lap. I saw it drifting, tried to slap it to the ground. It went up in the air; easy touchdown."
Bengals S George Iloka, who was on the sideline
"We go over that play every Saturday. We don't really throw it, but we just practice what you're supposed to do as a defense and what you're supposed as an offense. When I saw the ball tipped and I saw A.J. near it, I was like, 'He's going to catch it. He just has to out-jump somebody, so he's going to catch it.' What was funny was right before that the [Bengals'] coordinators threw their headsets off and then someone was like, 'He caught it,' and everyone's scrambling. I'm not sure, but I think some of the guys in the [press] box were probably like halfway down. [Laughs] It was crazy. A lot of ups and a lot of downs, just like how the game went."
Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden
"[Bengals receiver] Marvin [Jones] did a hell of a job getting in there and jumping up there and tipping it. A.J. kind of got grabbed and the ball just popped up to him. It was a fluke. Unfortunately, that's how we had to score."
Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict, who was heading into the locker room
"They were about to take me in and check me for a concussion. I saw it on the big board and I thought, 'Man, that was crazy.' It was like a video game. It was a great throw by Dalton. He threw it to the end zone. It was a great heads-up play by A.J. Green."