One of the most anticipated matchups on Sunday was between two former Georgia Bulldogs — Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green and Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey.
Having watched Green play since his days at Sanford Stadium, Bailey expected a busy day.
“I expected it, and he didn’t let me down,” he smiled.
Green was targeted nine times, and for the majority of the game, Bailey was matched up in man coverage on the second-year receiver.
The 14th-year cornerback said it was “definitely” the most times he has been thrown to in a game this season.
“I like that, though,” he said. “I love to put myself in position to get the ball thrown my way, whatever it takes.”
Green caught seven passes on the day, and two of his most notable receptions came one-on-one against Bailey. The first was a 37-yard catch down the sideline that helped set up Cincinnati’s first points of the game. The second was a 10-yard touchdown on a fade route past a leaping Bailey.
“On that route, he has a two-way go,” Bailey explained. “When you get a receiver lined up on the numbers, you don’t know which way he’s going to go. So you just kind of have to play it honest. The toughest route is the fade, but he didn’t make it look tough. He makes it look easy. That’s one thing that’s special about him, his ball skills. If you’re not right there to knock it down, he’s going to catch it.”
It was the first touchdown Bailey has given up all season, and he was asked about the score multiple times in the locker room after the contest.
“That must be a rare thing if y’all keep asking me about it,” he laughed. “This is why I play — guys like him. A new guy coming into the league, making a name for himself, I want those challenges. He’s one of the best. I don’t care that he scored on me. I don’t like it, but at the same time I’ve got to move on. I’ll just look at the tape, try to correct my mistakes and just go from there.”
In total, Green had 99 receiving yards and a touchdown, as Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton continued looking his way to try to get his team back in it.
After the game, the respect between the two competitors was mutual. Green called Bailey “a future Hall-of-Famer,” and Bailey called Green “special.”
“Ball skills, speed, quickness, the fact that he’s 6-4 or whatever he is and can run a 4.3 (40-yard dash), that combination doesn’t come around that often,” Bailey said of what makes Green effective. “I don’t know what his ceiling is. We’ll see. I don’t know how much better he can get, but I’ll be one of the guys watching.”
When it came down to it on Sunday, however, Bailey got the best of the matchup, as he reeled in his first interception of the season on a pass intended for Green. The takeaway allowed the offense to drive down a shortened field for a touchdown and a 31-20 lead. Most importantly, his team got the win.
“He’s a good player,” safety Mike Adams said of Green. “He’s going to get his. He’s going to do his thing, A.J., but at the end of the day, Champ made a great play at the end and sealed the game.”
The pick gave Bailey 33 as a Bronco, tied for fifth-most in franchise history.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Bailey said. “But I knew if I got enough opportunities, I would get one today.”
“Anytime somebody scores a touchdown on you, you want to get a little redemption,” he smiled. “It was good to get it in this game.”