DENVER — It doesn't happen very often, but Bengals wide receivers A.J. Green and Jordan Shipley managed to log a 100-yard game for a Bengals rookie receiver in back-to-back years.
But Green, with 10 catches for 124 yards, did it on a day that Shipley looked to be lost for the year when he suffered a serious knee injury in the 24-22 loss to Denver. Shipley got drilled in the knee by cornerback Cassius Vaughn after he made a five-yard catch early in the second half.
Shipley, who had 131 yards last year against Atlanta, became the first Bengals rookie receiver since Danny Farmer in 2000 to hit 100 and before Farmer it was Darnay Scott in 1994. And then you have to go back another nine years to 1985 and Eddie Brown's 106-yard effort against the old St. Louis Rams in the second game of his career.
Green, a fellow first-round pick, outdid Brown in his second game and his remarkable five-yard touchdown catch on the left sideline that drew the Bengals within 24-22 with 11:17 left had the folks buzzing. He wasn't very polite to cornerback Andre Goodman, 10 years his senior, as he plucked the ball away from him while keeping his foot inbounds at the last possible instant to conjure up memories of The Ocho.
"It was just high, back shoulder, and I was thinking 'I've got to drag my feet,' " Green said.
But wide receiver Jerome Simpson had an even more spectacular day when his 84-yard catch and run that set up Green's score sent bolts of electricity through the Bengals sideline. Simpson took about a 15-yard flip from Andy Dalton over the middle and used his whiplash speed to embarrass the safeties before Vaughn dragged him down at the 9.
With the researchers needing an extra day, it's believed to be tied for at least the longest pass play in Bengals history that didn't result in a touchdown and at least tied for sixth for the longest pass in club history.
Green and Simpson.
It's how the Bengals envisioned it back in February, when plans were hatched to trade The Ocho and draft Green with the fourth pick.
And what about Simpson after his career-high 136 yards on four catches? In his five starts the last two seasons he's got three 100-yard games.
But he was down after his drop over the middle at the Denver 20 on third-and-eight with just under seven minutes left that would have at least given the Bengals a shot at a winning field goal. Dalton, getting pressure, had to lean back off his right foot and threw it slightly behind, but Simpson was able to get his hands on it.
"I've got to make those catches; I take full blame," Simpson said. "All these drops … because I got to make plays for Andy and this team, so I take full blame for this loss.
"It feels really bad. We are all competitors here. We should have won that game. We started off kind of slow. Like I said: I got to make those catches and help this team win games. To move that ball, especially on third down like that, there's no reason, if I touch that ball, I shouldn't catch it."
But Green and Dalton rushed to his defense.
"He had a lot of great catches," Green said. "Being a great receiver, you are going to have to go through adversity, dropping a lot of good passes. But we are going to bounce back, and we are going to be alright."
Dalton: "He's going to make some big plays for us and be a good player for us this year. Nobody's perfect; everyone's going to have a drop, everyone's going to make a mistake, but he played pretty good."
Certainly Simpson noticed Green's touchdown.
"That was awesome; to get both feet in and just dragging his feet in," Simpson said. "That was an awesome catch on that touchdown. A.J. is doing a great job on catching everything and being a professional."
Having two 100-yard receivers in the same game doesn't happen every day either. It was the fifth time in head coach Marvin Lewis' nine seasons, but it's the first time The Ocho wasn't one of the guys. Chad Ochocinco did it with Peter Warrick, Jordan Shipley and T.J. Houshmandzadeh twice.
The torch has been passed. Green didn't dance or sing. He simply spun the ball to the ground following his TD.
"I feel like I had a pretty good game catching the ball. But you know, I'd rather catch zero balls and get the 'W' than have 10 catches for whatever yards," he said. "We are just going to go out there and get better next week and open the home (schedule) with a win. We've just got to get better at finishing."
Green may have only played in his second NFL game, but he knows a lack of focus early cost the Bengals.
"Last year, Green Bay lost some of their key players, and they went to the Super Bowl," Green said. "That's not an excuse, to say we let this slip away because they lost some of their key guys. We didn't come out there with a lot of energy in the first two quarters. We came out in the second (half) shooting, but we were playing catch-up the whole game."
With Shipley out, Andre Caldwell steps in as the third/slot receiver and he already has. He caught a 10-yard pass for a TD five minutes after Shipley got hurt.