CINCINNATI (AP) — A.J. Green juggled oranges on a postgame show after a win earlier this season, showing off for the cameras. His latest sleight-of-hand got a touchdown and turned a game.
And maybe the Bengals’ season, too.
Green’s one-handed catch in the middle of an end zone scrum highlighted Cincinnati’s day full of big plays, and the Bengals pulled away to another lopsided victory over their intrastate rival, beating the winless Cleveland Browns 31-17 on Sunday.
Green’s 48-yard touchdown catch on the final play of the first half helped the Bengals (3-4) regain their footing in the injury-depleted AFC North.
“We needed it in a big way,” said Brandon LaFell, who caught a 44-yard touchdown pass.
The defending division champions piled up their most points since they beat the Browns 37-3 last December. Jeremy Hill had a 74-yard touchdown run as part of his 168-yard effort, the best by a Bengals running back in seven years.
After failing to score more than 23 points in any of the first six games, the Bengals finally got their act together against one of the league’s worst defenses, piling up 559 yards — their most since 1990.
“It’s definitely a start for us,” Hill said. “We’re not satisfied, but it’s a start in the right direction.”
For Cleveland, it was just another step in a downward trend since the season opener.
The Browns (0-7) extended their worst start since 1999, when they were a first-year expansion team. The NFL’s only winless team also lost yet another quarterback — the theme of their season.
Cody Kessler got hit hard while throwing a shovel pass in the second quarter, then went to the locker for a concussion evaluation and was ruled out.
“Quarterbacks only have so many hits in them,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said. “It’s unfortunate. On we go.”
The concussion left the offense in the hands of undrafted rookie Kevin Hogan, the Browns’ sixth quarterback of the season.
Hogan — Cleveland’s last quarterback standing — kept it close for a while by scrambling 28 yards for his first NFL touchdown, the longest TD run by a quarterback in team history. He finished as the Browns’ top rusher with 104 yards.
“Running is something I’ve always felt confident in, that I could get a first down or a big gain,” Hogan said.
With cornerback Joe Haden sidelined, the Browns had nobody who could cover Green, who had eight catches for 169 yards. The entire Browns defense couldn’t stop him on the final play of the first half.
Green reached with his right hand and pulled in the tipped ball for a 21-10 halftime lead.
“I beat everybody down there, so I had first dibs on the ball,” Green said. “I tapped it to myself a couple of times.”
He also had a 48-yard catch down the sideline that set up a field goal as the Bengals pulled away in the third quarter.
The Bengals have won the past four in the series by scores of 30-0, 31-10, 37-3 and 31-17. The Bengals’ 37-3 win in Cleveland last December was Cincinnati’s most lopsided in the series and matched the biggest margin of victory by either team.
Browns: Haden was sidelined with a groin injury. Terrelle Pryor, who leads the Browns in receiving, played with an injured hamstring and had two catches for 18 yards.
Bengals: TE Tyler Eifert was active for the first time following offseason ankle surgery and a back injury. Eifert got onto the field on the second series and finished with one catch for 9 yards.
ORANGE YOU CONFUSED
It was tough to distinguish the teams by uniform. Both have orange helmets. The Browns wore white jerseys and orange pants. The Bengals wore orange jerseys and white pants. And it was all the same shade of orange.
Andy Dalton has his third straight big game against the Browns, going 19 of 28 for 308 yards with two TDs. In his past three games against Cleveland, Dalton is 54 of 74 for 762 yards with seven TDs and no interceptions.
The Browns host the Jets, whom they haven’t beaten since 2007. They’ve dropped their past three against the Jets, including a 31-10 defeat in 2015.
The Bengals make their first trip to London, facing former offensive coordinator Jay Gruden’s Washington team. The Bengals have won their past three against Washington.