A.J. Green gave his newborn son the shirt off his back Thursday night. But not before he undressed the Miami secondary on 10 catches for 173 yards and the Bengals' lone touchdown to take the momentary lead in the NFL receiving yardage race heading into a weekend he'll be getting to know Easton Ace Green while the others are trying catch his 468 yards.
"We're going to call him Easy," said Green, who had a hard couple of days after his drop on Sunday. "There's never a bad day when you come and look at him."
After watching Easy born eight days ago, Green has alternated simmering with anger over his huge drop against Denver on Sunday and brimming with happiness as a new dad.
"He never sleeps at night. He sleeps all day," Green said. "If he's not awake when I get home tonight, I'll get him up to see him."
Green didn't get the touchdown ball. Instead, he's going to give him the No. 18 Rush jersey he wore in his 26th 100-yard game.
"I figure I'll have plenty of more balls to give him," Green said.
Since the birth of the Green-Dalton Era, we have come to expect this, the 2011 draft soulmates leading the Bengals out of another tough spot and such was the case in Thursday night's 22-7 victory over the Dolphins at Paul Brown Stadium. Quarterback Andy Dalton bobbed and weave for another triple-digit passer rating (111.8), his 10th since the beginning of last season and came within four yards of a third 300-yard passing day this season.
"That connection is one of the more underrated connections in this league,." said running back Jeremy Hill. "They don't get the love that they deserve, and it's a blessing and a pleasure to play with those men every day and just watch them go out there – that's the key to every Sunday in and Sunday out."
For the second time this season, Green and Dalton saved the bacon. The last time was in the opener in New York, where Green fried the great Darrelle Revis on 180 yards and Dalton hung in there bravely despite seven sacks to orchestrate another fourth-quarter road comeback.
On Thursday night the Bengals could gain just 2.1 yards per 37 carries against the NFL's second worst run defense, but Dalton found enough nooks and crannies to unleash Green on the two biggest plays of the night.
The Biggest Play came right after the Dolphins had sucked the air out of PBS with a stunning 74-yard TD pass on their second snap of the game that had the faithful murmuring, "Here we go again."
As angst spread through Bengaldom like a toxic cloud, Green and Dalton got everybody back on track like they always seem to do.
"I figure my team needs me every game to come up big," Green said. "I'm one of the leaders."
They set the tone for the night, down 7-3, when a boot-leg rollout got blown up and Dalton barely escaped to set his feet and at the last instant threw a 51-yard jump ball down the sideline to Green working one-on-one.
Dalton takes those odds every time and this time he was rewarded with Green skying to outstrip rookie cornerback Xavien Howard on the sidelines. A few deep breaths later Green scored the Bengals' only touchdown of the night when he made cornerback Tony Lippett miss him on the perimeter before he walked in for what proved to be the winning score with 3:19 left in the first quarter.
"I'm not surprised, that's why I threw it," Dalton said of the jump ball with a laugh. "We trust him to make those plays, and I trust him. When you get the ball up and in the air, he's the best at making those types of plays. I'm not surprised at all. "
So don't be surprised about this. In their sixth year together, they're on pace for their greatest seasons ever and shatter the Bengals club records for yards passing and receiving. Dalton is on pace for 4,936 yards, flirting to become the club's first 5,000-yard passer. Meanwhile, Green is on pace to rack up more than 1,800 yards , about 400 more than Chad Johnson's club record.
"I think there's a lot of chemistry there. We've definitely put in a lot of work," Dalton said. "That's why he's having the games like tonight and the way the season started. Big games like that, when we're on the same page, we have to keep it up."
Before the game, Green mused that the Dolphins defensive coordinator, former Bengals secondary coach Vance Joseph , would have a good plan for him. If he did, he's saving it. They did mix it up but he was one-on-one a lot more than you thought he would be.
"It's not surprising," Green said. "They stick to their guns. They've got a great front seven so they rely on their rush just like we do."
The one move Joseph made is bench veteran Byron Maxwell in favor of Lippett, a second-year cornerback in his first NFL start and 13th NFL game. It didn't go well for him.
On the first series of the second half, Green and Dalton conspired to let Miami know it wasn't going to be easy. Before they could set up in their Cover Two, Green raced past Lippett down the sideline and before the safety could get over there, Dalton led him on a perfect 43-yard ball and Green later said offensive coordinator Ken Zampese did a great lining him up all over the field to free him up.
"As this offense go, so goes Andy and I," Green said. "It was a two-man and he threw me a nice firm ball … The safety couldn't get over there. I caught it in some great spots. Zamp did a great job making sure I moved around."
On two big third downs in the first half, Green lined up in the slot and converted one-on-one on crossing routes of 19 and 15 yards. Dalton was as shocked as anyone.
"There were times they were doubling and times when they weren't," Dalton said. "When there were times he was able to get single coverage, we were able to make plays. I think its how different teams play. You can't double him every single snap, so it definitely worked for us today."
It was one of those rare wins in the NFL. A loss on Sunday when he dropped a third-down ball with the game on the line, fuelled a win on Thursday. He had vowed it wouldn't happen again.
"Of course. I hold myself to a very high standard. I know what I'm capable of, and when I don't perform to that level, I've got to refocus myself," Green said. "This week, I had to refocus myself on a short week. Coming off of last week, which wasn't my best, tonight I had to make plays whenever the ball or the opportunity presented itself."
Cincinnati Bengals take on the Miami Dolphins at Paul Brown Stadium in week 4 of the regular season 9/29/2016