CLEVELAND — The challenge was put to Joe Haden almost immediately after the team’s win over the Minnesota Vikings.
A.J. Green is coming for you.
The Bengals wide receiver came to Cleveland on Sunday, but he and his team left defeated. Haden was a big reason why.
“People were hitting me up on Twitter and Instagram as soon as (last) Sunday’s game was over,” Haden said. “They were letting me know who I got next week. I look forward to these games. To go against the best you’ve got to bring you ‘A’ game.”
Green was targeted 15 times Sunday and caught seven balls for 51 yards. His longest reception was 16 yards. In all, the Bengals passing game was non-existent. Andy Dalton was 23-for-42 passing for 206 yards with an interception.
“We played really hard this week in practice knowing we had a tough challenge ahead,” Browns safety T.J. Ward said. “The Bengals have great tight ends and wide receivers. Today, we challenged them when the ball was in the air. We tackled well and we came out with a win.
“Everyone made plays, it wasn’t just one or two players.”
Haden didn’t have an interception, but he finished with four tackles and two passes defended. More importantly, Green was severely limited. Consider the last time he was in Cleveland, Green caught the same seven balls, but he had 135 yards with two touchdowns.
“This is the best game I’ve played against him, for sure,” Haden said. “Well, besides when I was at Florida (and Green was at Georgia). We’ve always had good battles. I like him as a person, he’s a good dude, but when I get on the field I want to get the best of him and he wants to get the best of me.”
Cincinnati simply did not have many big plays Sunday. Jermaine Gresham’s 26-yard pass reception was the Bengals longest play of the game.
“We didn’t make enough plays today,” Dalton said. “I expect better out of the offense and to not score a touchdown, we’ve got too good of players, too good of a team to do that.”
Yards after the catch were non-existent and it was thanks to sure tackling by Haden and the defense.
Perhaps Haden’s biggest tackle came earlier in the game. The Bengals faced a third and 3 on the Browns’ 8-yard-line. Dalton threw short to Green, but Haden was right there and wrapped up Green for only a 1-yard pass. The Bengals were forced to kick a field goal. Instead of answering the Browns’ touchdown, the Bengals trailed 7-3.
“I take a lot of pride in my tackling,” Haden said. “It was the first thing I learned at Florida. My coaches make sure I learned to tackle first before I learned any technique.”
Now in his fourth season in the NFL, Haden’s technique is among the best in the NFL.
“He continues to show the type of player he is and rises to the challenge,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “I can’t be more pleased with him. It’s no surprise. I’ve seen that from him from when I first came in here and started working with him.”
This round went to Haden and the Browns were victorious. In the first four games, the Browns’ defense is stopping the run, getting to the quarterback and preventing big plays in the passing game. Coupled with a capable offense, that has added up to two consecutive victories and a tie for first place in the AFC North.
So, after Sunday’s performance, would anyone else care to call out Haden on social media?
“Once you get challenged you have to step to the challenge,” Ward said. “Joe is the type of player that is all cool and calm, but once you point him out you awake a sleeping giant.”