A.J. Green lined up for the first time since Oct. 6 on Sunday.
The Bengals took 67 snaps and Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green took barely half of them with 39, according to profootballfocus.com. He thinks he'll play a lot more Thursday night against the Browns at Paul Brown Stadium, when he faces one of his best friends, former Bengals wide receiver Andrew Hawkins.
"That's my boy. He's playing really well," said Green, who agreed he wouldn't want to miss it.
Green's return from a toe injury that took him out of the last three games went as well as could be expected with three catches for 44 yards and an 18-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
And no relapses.
"It's been a long couple of weeks," Green said. "I practiced like it was a game. They didn't play me many snaps, they wanted to just work me back in there. I'll be ready (Thursday)."
Green felt he was rusty even though he flayed Jags cornerback Dwayne Gratz on what he called a skinny post for the TD and earlier had a leaping nine-yard catch.
"I felt a little rusty but everybody said I looked good," Green said. "I know my routes and I felt I was just a little bit off. I'll be practicing much more this week."
Rust may be to blame for his touchdown that was taken away in the second quarter. It was the same route against Gratz on the opposite side from 12-yard line, but he was called for being offsides.
"Usually if I'm lined up offsides, they'll say, 'Hey A.J., back up a little bit, you're crowding,'" Green said of the officials. "They didn't say that. I thought I was OK. I got one anyway, so that's fine."
After Green scored on his 30th TD pass from Dalton, he said Dalton joked, "You finally got in there."
It looks like Green is OK, but starting right tackle Andre Smith and cornerback Leon Hall may not be for Cleveland in less than 96 hours.
Smith tried to come back after injuring his ankle on Dalton's 19-yard TD pass that began the Bengals scoring with 11:48 left in the second quarter. But he lasted for a series and Marshall Newhouse finished. Hall got hit in the head late in the game on what appeared to be a collision with safety George Iloka and had to leave.
SHADES OF DILLON: When the Bengals drafted LSU running back Jeremy Hill in the second round of last May's draft, there was a bit of a sigh in the draft room. They finally had the big, bruising running back. The type of back they last had in the Corey Dillon trade 10 drafts before in 2004, the kind of guy whose 230 pounds aren't big enough to prevent him from breaking a long one.
On Sunday Hill had the greatest day by a Bengals rookie running back since Dillon broke Jim Brown's rookie rushing record with 246 yards against the oddly named Tennesse Oilers in a 1997 Thursday night game at Riverfront Stadium. Hill rolled up 154 yards on 24 carries and in Dillon-esque fashion ripped off a 60-yard touchdown run with 8:04 left to close it out. Hill's TD run Sunday and Giovani Bernard's 89-run yard against the Panthers three weeks ago are the longest TD runs the Bengals have had since Dillon's 67-yard touchdown in 2002.
These 60-yarders don't grow on trees. Hill, Bernard, and Bernard Scott in 2009 with a 61-yard dash in Oakland have the only 60-yard runs in head coach Marvin Lewis' 12 seasons.
"I'm definitely one of the bigger backs in the league. I'm bigger than most of the defenders,' Hill said. "I can kind of tell if and when they're going to hit me.
"I think it was great scheme. If you watch the play, they had everybody blocked up. I just had to make my guy miss. If they continue to do those things for me, then I can continue to do my job and make guys miss. It was a big play in the game, and we needed it. Our defense kept getting stops, and we just needed to put the final nail in the coffin. It was a great job by our offensive line and a great play call. I was just doing what I needed to do."
If you watch the play, fullback Ryan Hewitt blows up linebacker J.T. Thomas III on the right perimeter and when he danced inside Hewitt, safety Jonathan Cyprien over ran him and Hill ran a straight line up the right sideline, where safety Josh Evans never caught him and he fell off Hill's arm at the 4.
"I just think he's got great explosiveness, good vision, good cut(s), and he can be a load to tackle, " said head coach Marvin Lewis. "It was a good job — basically, he was untouched (on the 60-yard TD) — so it was great execution by the offense."
How big was it? The Jags had just cut the lead to 26-23 with 13 points in 1:42 and were rolling. Hill ran the next snap with the scoreboard still smoking.
"It was just a heck of a play. Everybody did what they were supposed to do," said left guard Clint Boling. "Jeremy made a heck of a run. And in that situation, it was huge. We really needed that, and everybody got it done."
ILOKA GETS IT: Jaguars rookie quarterback Blake Bortles' NFL-high 13th interception turned out to be the Bengals' lucky play of the day. With Bortles trying to cut the lead to 33-30 with 3:55 left, he forced a ball into the end zone and Iloka made a leaping catch to seal it. On the Bengals' fifth shot at a pick Sunday, they finally got it.
"We should have had four to five today and all of them, he's forcing it," Iloka said. "I knew he was going to throw it. He looked left to the seam. I covered it. And he's not the type to just take what you give him. I'm like, 'I'm just going to catch it.'"
The Bengals sat back in a zone on first-and-10 from their 14 and Bortles was starting at plenty of congestion in the end zone when he went for tight end Clay Harbor.
"I knew he was going to throw it. That's a young quarterback we've watched on film," Iloka said. "I think he averages two interceptions game, he throws into double coverages."
Iloka now leads the team with three interceptions heading into the second half of the season. After getting one all last year in his first season as a starter, he vowed to get more during the offseason. Working against him was the cast he wore on his hand all season after he punched a teammate in the helmet during a training camp scrum.
"It's critical," he said of playing with two hands," Iloka said. "I broke this bad boy last year. It was obviously my mistake," Iloka said. "Catching the ball was a big emphasis that I wanted to improve on this year and Marvin (Lewis) and my coaches were trying to get me to make more plays on the ball. I'm just happy and I have and I'm looking to continue to get more."
SPECIAL DAY: The Bengals spent the post-game talking about how many mistakes they made. But whenever you can win on special teams, it usually soothes everything.
Sunday was no different. The Bengals league-leading special teams unit (they came into the game in the top three in six categories) blew away the Jags. They got two huge punt returns from NFL leader Adam Jones, with his 31-yarder early in the fourth quarter setting up some breathing room at 26-10.
Plus, they got their hands on back-to-back punts in the second quarter.
The first one running back Rex Burkhead came from his left edge and deflected it into a 27-yard punt. Then coming from his right edge safety Taylor Mays blocked his first punt on any level in taking it off punter Bryan Anger's foot. It bounded out of the side of the end zone, just missing the pylon for a safety that made it 12-3 with 2:58 left in the first half.
Mays found himself one-on-one with linebacker Telvin Smith. But he had envisioned the moment with special teams coach Darrin Simmons. He deked Smith one way and went the other.
"Darrin and I were talking about it before the game. We thought we had a good matchup in the slot," Mays said. "It's something we practiced during the week. Right move at the right time. It's nice when you practice something during the week and it happens during the game."