Adam Jones had a big 45-yard punt return Sunday to set up a first-half score.
BALTIMORE - Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green basically called his own number Sunday with 4:58 left and it is now known as the 77-yard Shot Heard 'Round Bengaldom that gave them a thrilling 23-16 Opening Day victory over the Ravens.
Moments before the Bengals had their breath taken away when wide receiver Steve Smith caught an 80-yard bomb from scrambling Joe Flacco with 5:46 left to give Baltimore its first lead of the day. But Green told quarterback Andy Dalton that the Ravens defensive backs were playing Green and the rest of the wide receivers tightly and they could get deep on them.
Two snaps after Smith's play, Green obliged and flew past cornerback Chykie Brown and Dalton lofted it right there. But when Brown tipped it, Green, an expert juggler as a youth, got it back with a juggle and then deked safety Darian Stewart to the left while he went right.
"I like the juke, I like to juke," said Green, who finished with 131 yards on six catches. "I took an inside release, he dove and got a hand on it and I got it. There's no way I was going down after what Steve Smith did....I'm a big fan of his. When I saw that I said, 'I got to go make a play.'"
New defensive coordinator Paul Guenther made a name for himself as Mike Zimmer's third-down specialist who knows how to get pressure and he came up big on the last two snaps of the day from the Ravens 16 and 21 on third and fourth down.
Without pass rusher specialist Geno Atkins in there at defensive tackle, Wallace Gilberry lined up at nose tackle and came around the edge off an inside stunt by Margus Hunt for a sack of quarterback Joe Flacco. Then on fourth down, Gilberry moved over to the three technique and when safety Reggie Nelson was an unblocked blitzer, they shared the sack to end it.
"Paulie knows how to get you in great situations," Gilberry said.
But it is also nice to have players who won't be denied.
"I'm so tired I can't even think straight right now to give you an answer," said Gilberry.
Apparently Atkins is fine. It was reported he was carted off the field at the end of theh game, but head coach Marvin Lewis said he was dehydrated and as Atkins walked out of the locker room he said he was fine.
Gilberry led an emotional and exhausted defense after they spent more than 11 minutes on the field in the fourth quarter.
"It's an out of body experience. We knew we couldn't take that team into overtime. We knew we couldn't let them on the board," Gilberry said. "I just took it upon myself with the calls that I was given, and with the effort my teammates were giving me, to make those plays."
It obviously meant something. Only two players on offense, tackles Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith, were on the team when the Bengals last won in Baltimore in 2009.
"We want to make a statement. And one way to do it is to come out here on national TV against the division rival and play your heart out," Gilberry said. And that's what we did. We're trying to find our identity and create our identity, and that's what we're doing. And it starts today, and it's going to be there for rest of the season." Standup guy is cornerback Adam Jones after he gave up that touchdown to Smith. He admitted he was a happy man as he was one of the first to greet Green coming off the field.
"Hell ,yeah. I've got a lot of confidence in my guys," Jones said. "My eyes got bad on the one…But you learn from your mistakes. I thought we had a good week overall in the back end."
Indeed, they held Flacco to 345 yards even though he threw it 62 times, third most ever against the Bengals. And Jones added a 45-yard punt return to set up one of Mike Nugent's NFL-tying record five field goals in a half. It was his longest punt return since a 68-yarder against the Giants in 2012.
Nugent admitted he thought back to his first home game as a Bengal, the 2010 Paul Brown Stadium opener, when he also hit five field goals in a 15-10 win over Baltimore, his first win in Cincinnati.
Nugent had an adventurous day. Not only did he tie his career high, but he also had a 45-yarder blocked midway through the third quarter by former Bengals safety Jeromy Miles, his old special teams captain, roaring through the slot. But two plays later Bengals SAM linebacker Emmanuel Lamur came up with his first NFL interception.
"I wish it was anybody but Jeromy and I say that because he's a great guy and I love him," Nugent said. "The turnover kind of erased that."
Nugent's longest kick was the first one, a 49-yarder, and he said it was his toughest of the day.
"It was my first time on the field and it was a little windy," Nugent said. "That's one of those ones where you think, don't try to hit it too hard. Don't try to kill it. A normal hit is going to go in even though the wind is in my face.
The five gives him 90 field goals as a Bengal as he bids to join Jim Breech, Shayne Graham, Doug Pelfrey, and Horst Muhlmann with 100 in their careers...