Following the free agency period of 2016, the Cincinnati Bengals found themselves with a depleted wide receiver room. While they still had their ace, A.J. Green, they lost their second and third targets, Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, both of whom have flourished in their new homes with the Lions and Falcons, respectively.
They were expected to address the position high in the draft that year, but the wide receivers flew off the board just ahead of them in the first round, so they turned to another position. But they came back to wide receiver on the second day, and added Pittsburgh alumnus Tyler Boyd, a native of Clairton.
Adding Brandon LaFell as a veteran presence in free agency, the Bengals slid Boyd into the slot, and during his rookie season, he came away with 52 receptions for 603 yards and a touchdown: not a bad start to a career at all.
But things did not continue as they began, and his sophomore season had been something of a chore. Dealing early with injuries, Boyd even found himself on occasion a healthy scratch. He ended up dressing for only 10 games, but the bulk of his production came in the last two.
And the Bengals’ final offensive play of the season was arguably their greatest, and certainly their most memorable, courtesy of Pittsburgh by way of Clairton.
Though Cincinnati had nothing to play for, the opportunity existed to help knock the rival Baltimore Ravens out of the playoffs. After blowing a two-touchdown lead, things were not looking good, however, and with under a minute left, they faced a fourth and 12 from the 49-yard line.
And that is when the Ravens’ vaunted defense broke, with quarterback Andy Dalton hitting Boyd, the receiver streaking past a trio of defensive backs who lay sprawled across the playing surface as he crossed the goal line and crashed their playoff party. In the process, he cost safety Eric Weddle—among those left in Boyd’s wake—a $1 million bonus.
“We all wanted to come in here and beat the Ravens. That was our goal”, Boyd said after the game, citing a quest for vengeance after Baltimore shut out the Bengals’ offense in the first game of the season, and, if I recall correctly, recorded five turnovers.
“Fourth and 12, we’ve got to go deep, all verticals. It was in zone, and I was in the perfect window for Andy to deliver a perfect ball to me”, Boyd described the play upon command by a reporter in the aftermath. “I did a great job of making a run after the catch”.
Boyd finished the season with just 22 receptions for 225 yards and two touchdowns, but he ended on a high note. Inactive in Week 15, he recorded 10 receptions for a combined 130 yards and a dagger of a touchdown as he and the Bengals—and thanks to himself, the Titans, and the Bills, the Ravens—head into their offseason.