A.J. Green had eight catches Sunday, but he was fuming about his fourth-quarter drop.
Pro Bowl cornerback Adam Jones stood in front of his locker and one of the Bengals captains took the blame for letting Sunday's 29-17 loss to Denver start to spin that way in the first half of Paul Brown Stadium's sold-out opener.
"If I don't give up that play, it's a different game," said Jones of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders' 41-yard touchdown catch that gave Denver a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter.
Jones' fumbled punt at the Bengals 46 set up the score, but he said his knee was down and it wasn't a fumble. He was more concerned about Sanders getting by him. Word out of the Broncos' locker room is they named the double move route "Play for Pacman," a play they had scripted in their first 15 snaps.
"I've got to keep running. I slowed down. I slowed down," Jones said. "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 wasn't on the field for the other big TD, a 55-yard floater to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas for the final points with 3:05 left on another double move. Jones had just come off with cramps, but they ran the same play and Thomas ran past cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris.
"Whole body cramps. I was throwing up on the sideline," Jones said. "I thought I was in shape …. go in and get some running … early in the season, who knows? I wish to God I would have been there for the next play … Things happen."
Both big plays were double moves and Thomas saw something on film.
"Watching fim, you saw guys. They're great," Thomas said. "They're the best group we've gone against this year, but they were vulnerable to the double moves."
But Jones wasn't taking the blame for the fumbled punt, his first in seven years and 85 returns as a Bengal and he was surprised it wasn't overturned.
"My knee was down. Then he hit me in the ribs that's why I fumbled," Jones said. "We haven't got one (replay challenge) all year. Have you all realized that yet?"
DROPPING IN: Jones wasn't the only Bengals Pro Bowler that struggled. Wide receiver A.J. Green was fuming not only about his third-and-three drop just beyond the first down sticks around the Bengals 45 with 6:09 left and the Bengals trailing, 22-17, but also his mental malfunction the snap before when Dalton had to throw the pass away.
"I thought it was a run and it was a pass. I can't lose my focus like that," Green said.
He may have still been thinking about it on the next play because he was open on the sidelines for the first down and dropped it.
"I had that drop. We were going down (the field) and we had a chance if I made the catch," Green said. "That was a concentration drop."
Green had eight catches for 77 yards, but he didn't have one longer than 20 as Denver kept him in front of its secondary with various help coverages. Dalton finished with just 6.6 yards per pass with just three throws of 20 yards or more.
"Yeah, that was exactly what it was," Dalton said of the biggest difference in the game. "They made a couple big ones that they scored off of, and we weren't able to do that. We've got to play better in the second half."
CED HOLDS UP: For the first time since November, it seems like, Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller didn't take over a game and eat it alive. Bengals right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi didn't have quite the third NFL start that Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian had, but he certainly held his own against the NFL sack leader.
Miller did get a sack, his fifth of the season, but not until the last minute of the game when all was Ced and done.
"I was lazy on that one," Ogbuehi said. "My job is not let anyone touch Andy and I failed."
Bengals offensive coordinator Ken Zampese did a nice job giving Ogbuehi help with a steady mix of run and pass (23 handoffs to 36 drop backs) while also usually having an extra tackle and/or tight end in there. Ogbuehi, who studied under Miller for a year at Texas A&M, traded words and jerseys with him after the game.
"I think I got better today. But I think I can play a lot better," Ogbuehi said. "He said I've come a long way and I told him it was an honor to play someone of that caliber."
Ironically, it was the other top tackle they drafted in 2015, second-rounder Jake Fisher, as the extra tackle, that may have allowed the sack that turned the game around. On the snap after Bengals linebacker Karlos Dansby recovered a Demaryius Thomas fumble at the Denver 37, linebacker Shane Ray lined up on the line and blew up the drive when he knifed inside Fisher for the Broncos' first sack, an eight-yard loss.
TEZ ON WAY: The good news out of Sunday is that it is the last game they play without linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Burfict is now off his NFL three-game suspension and don't you think they don't know.
"Hell, yeah. Can't wait until 55 gets here,' Jones said. "I don't give a damn who doesn't like it, either. Can't wait for him to get back. I'm calling him right now when I walk out of here. We've been talking anyway, trust me."
Cincinnati Bengals take on the Denver Broncos at Paul Brown Stadium in week 3 of the regular season 9/25/2016