CINCINNATI -- A.J. Green's bruised knee kept him on the sideline for the final minutes of Cincinnati's past two games, when the Bengals came up just short against AFC North rivals.
Finally up-and-running on Sunday, the rookie receiver from Summerville High School made all the difference in the final minute.
Green, who had three catches for 110 yards on the day, made a leaping catch across the middle of the field and kept going for a 51-yard play, setting up a field goal that rallied the Cincinnati Bengals to a 23-20 victory over self-destructive Cleveland.
The surprising Bengals (7-4) stayed right behind Baltimore and Pittsburgh in the AFC North with another second-half comeback forged by their rookie big-play combination.
"I like my chances with A.J.," rookie quarterback Andy Dalton said. "You just put it around him and he makes plays. He's a special player."
The Browns blitzed on third-and-8, and Dalton threw it down the middle just before he got hit. Green adjusted, leaped high above cornerback Joe Haden for the catch at the 30-yard line, then kept going until he was pushed out at the 2.
"That's why he was the fourth pick in the draft," coach Marvin Lewis said. "He's the best first-round draft pick I've ever been around. He continues to amaze me. He's a phenomenal athlete."
The Browns (4-7) forced Cincinnati to settle for Mike Nugent's 26-yard field goal with 38 seconds left, the Bengals' first lead of the game. Cleveland's last possession went nowhere.
Cincinnati's turnaround season started in Cleveland, where the Browns failed to line up promptly and were surprised by a quick snap that led to Green's uncontested 41-yard touchdown catch.
That one was easy. This one was amazing.
"I did play basketball when I was younger," Green said. "It's like rebounding. A lot of it just timing and going up strong."
Green's game-turning play gave him 110 yards against the Browns, who along with the Steelers had been the only teams in the NFL that hadn't allowed a 100-yard receiving game.
"It was an amazing catch that won the game for them," Browns quarterback Colt McCoy said.
And a gut-wrenching gaffe set it up.
For the second time in three games, a botched snap cost Cleveland an opportunity to take a late lead. Phil Dawson was well short on a 55-yard try with 1:51 left after the snap skipped along the ground.
Cle-Norwood 24 pass from McCoy (Dawson kick), 10:55.
Cin-Benson 16 run (Nugent kick), :21.
Cle-FG Dawson 32, 9:20.
Cle-Little 3 pass from McCoy (Dawson kick), :07.
Cin-FG Nugent 23, 8:51.
Cle-FG Dawson 54, 3:50.
Cin-Gresham 22 pass from Dalton (Nugent kick), 1:22.
Cin-FG Nugent 40, 10:57.
Cin-FG Nugent 26, :38.
RUSHING-Cleveland, Hillis 19-65, McCoy 6-38, Ogbonnaya 3-16, Little 1-13, Cribbs 1-2. Cincinnati, Benson 21-106, Dalton 6-23, Leonard 1-2, Scott 4-1.
PASSING-Cleveland, McCoy 16-34-1-151. Cincinnati, Dalton 21-31-0-270.
RECEIVING-Cleveland, Little 5-57, Norwood 4-69, Watson 2-14, Hillis 2-(minus 4), Cribbs 1-8, Ogbonnaya 1-4, Moore 1-3. Cincinnati, Gresham 5-68, Benson 4-24, Green 3-110, Caldwell 3-24, Hawkins 2-27, Simpson 2-15, Scott 2-2.
MISSED FIELD GOALS-Cleveland, Dawson 55 (SH).