Wide receiver Tyler Boyd‘s controversial fumble in the waning minutes of the Bengals’ 24-16 loss to Pittsburgh spoiled what was a great homecoming for the Clairton, Pennsylvania native.
The Bengals’ loss to the Steelers was a damper due to the heavy precipitation in Pittsburgh all afternoon. The way it ended was a damper because rookie receiver Tyler Boyd’s controversial fumble ruined his return to Pennsylvania.
Heinz Field, where Boyd spent the last three years setting school records in receptions (254) and receiving yards (3,361) for the University of Pittsburgh, was the setting for an unfortunate end to an impressive homecoming for the 22 year old.
Boyd’s afternoon was going well until the first play after the two-minute warning. On 1st and 10 from the Pittsburgh 39-yard line, Boyd caught a short pass over the middle of the field, but lost the handle on the ball when he was hit by former-Bengal and NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison.
It appeared Boyd’s knee had hit the ground prior to the coughed up pigskin. The officials reviewing the play did not concur. Upon review, the fumble was upheld and the Bengals’ bid to tie the game was stripped away.
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The Bengals were looking for a no. 2 receiver with the loss of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu this offseason. Using a deep-safety look, Pittsburgh was able to limit A.J. Green on Sunday, holding the five-time Pro Bowler to just two catches for 39 yards.
Needing someone to step up with Green getting so much attention, Boyd answered the call. On seven targets prior to the fumble, Boyd caught five for 73 yards.
After three receptions for 34 yards in the first half, Boyd made his biggest catch of the game when the Bengals needed it most. Pittsburgh took an 11-point lead on a Jesse James touchdown when Cincinnati nearly self-destructed.
On the ensuing drive, an Andrew Whitworth holding call and a delay of game penalty pinned Cincinnati at their own 10-yard line, facing 1st and 25.
Boyd raced up the seam past rookie safety Sean Davis and hauled in a 29-yard pass from Andy Dalton. The first down to the 39-yard line was a huge start to the Bengals’ longest drive of the game. It would lead to a third Mike Nugent field goal to make it 17-9.
Then, Boyd snagged a nine-yard pass on the first play of the fourth quarter to once again move the chains.
In throwing a career-high 54 times, Dalton completed passes to nine different receivers. From the receiving corps, targets were evenly distributed. Boyd, Green, and Brandon LaFell were each thrown to eight times.
After just three targets in week one, it was a great sign to see Boyd more involved in the offense. With a date with the Denver Broncos looming in week three, Boyd’s performance could shoulder the offense.
Green and LaFell should see a lot of Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib. Meaning the offense’s ability to move the chains could hinge on Boyd’s success from the slot against Bradley Roby and Kayvon Webster.