CINCINNATI -- The Bengals took A.J. Green at his word. They kept throwing his way, even after the ball repeatedly slipped through his wet hands. The elusive receiver found a way to make the difference, just as promised.
Green contributed to three turnovers that kept it close, but he also had a 77-yard touchdown and another long catch that set up the go-ahead score Sunday, rallying Cincinnati to a 20-16 victory over the Buffalo Bills in a steady rain.
"I understand the ups-and-downs," Green said. "You know me, I'm pretty level all the time. The drops hurt, but you just have to erase everything."
After losing their first three games, the Bengals (2-3) salvaged their season by getting the ball to their stars at decisive moments. Green's 47-yard catch set up a 5-yard touchdown run by Joe Mixon that put Cincinnati ahead to stay in the fourth quarter.
Combined with Pittsburgh's 30-9 loss to Jacksonville on Sunday, the Bengals are a game out of first in the AFC North.
The Bills (3-2) got their season off to an encouraging start by relying heavily on kicker Stephen Hauschka and a defense that led the league in stinginess, allowing only 13.5 points per game through the first four. The combination wasn't enough this time as Buffalo's depleted offense failed to take advantage of Cincinnati's three turnovers.
Tyrod Taylor's off-target pass was picked off near midfield with 2:14 left, clinching it for Cincinnati. Taylor finished 20 of 37 for 166 yards with a touchdown pass to Brandon Tate . He also was sacked six times.
"It wasn't a great offensive performance and I take responsibility for that," Taylor said. "I take the blame. My job is to get the ball out quicker. Sometimes we weren't on the same page."
The Bengals changed offensive coordinators after failing to get a touchdown in their first two games. Green complained that they weren't getting the ball to their difference makers in the biggest moments. He caught seven passes for 189 yards Sunday, the third-highest total of his career.
Green ran past rookie cornerback Tre'Davious White and caught Andy Dalton's pass in stride for a 77-yard score on the Bengals' second possession. Green also had a hand in the Bengals' three turnovers that kept the Bills in it. Green had passes go off his hands and his chest for a pair of interceptions . He also fumbled after a catch .
The turnovers are so uncharacteristic that coach Marvin Lewis wondered if he was hurt.
"I asked him if he was OK," Lewis said. "He said yes. I said, well, go win the game."
Dalton twisted his left ankle in the first half and finished the game with a limp, getting it heavily taped at halftime. He was 22 of 36 for a season-high 328 yards.
The Bills got little out of an offense down to four healthy receivers because of injuries, managing only 221 yards. They've been held under 300 yards in each of their last four games.
In his last two games , Dalton has completed 47 of 66 passes for 614 yards with five touchdowns. Since the Bengals changed coordinators, his passer rating is 116.2.
The Bengals showed clips from the Steelers' loss on the videoboard during timeouts, drawing cheers from the crowd of 52,367 that was their smallest of the season.
A fan banner in the upper deck said: "Just Play Football." A pro-Trump banner was displayed briefly criticizing players and owners, signed with (hash)MakeAmericaGreatAgain. During the anthem, a fan held a cardboard sign that said "Cincy Stands For The Anthem." It was the first game at Paul Brown Stadium since President Donald Trump tweeted that players should be fired if they protest during the anthem, prompting a pushback from players and some team owners. Bills and Bengals players all stood.
Bills: WR Jordan Matthews already was sidelined by a broken thumb. TE Charles Clay hurt his left knee when he was tackled in the first half and didn't put weight on it as he was helped to the bench. He didn't return.
Bengals: The Bengals lost starting cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick (right shoulder) and Adam "Pacman" Jones (lower back) to injuries in the first half. WR Tyler Boyd hurt his right knee in the first quarter and didn't return.
Bills: Following their bye, the Bills host Tampa Bay and Oakland in the next two weeks.
Bengals: Following their bye, they play at Pittsburgh. The Bengals have lost four straight and seven of eight against the Steelers, including a first-round playoff game in the 2015 season.
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