6.3 points. That is how many fantasy points Bengals star receiver A.J. Green scored in week one against the Raiders. I just so happened to be playing against Green in my fantasy league and did a double take when I saw his total points scored. How does one of the best receivers in the NFL score only six points against a secondary that struggled mightily in 2014? The answer comes in two words: TJ Carrie.
I went back and watched every snap Carrie played in the Raiders loss to the Bengals and here is what I found.
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton had 21 opportunities to throw to T.J. Carrie. 19 of those times, Carrie had the wide receiver blanketed. What I mean by this is if Dalton had thrown it, Carrie was in a solid position to make a play on the ball. That is a 90% success rate.
To make that number even more impressive, Carrie was matched up one on one with A.J. Green a majority of those snaps.
In four quarters of football, Carrie allowed only one positive gain.
That moment came with 5:34 left in the third quarter when Bengals running back Rex Burkhead got behind Carrie for a 24 yard gain. Carrie was playing in a zone covering the flat where Burkhead was, but Andy Dalton scrambled towards Carrie and looked like he would tuck it and run. Carrie took one step forward which gave Burkhead enough time to run behind Carrie for the 24 yard reception. What impressed me was that Carrie showed quick recovery speed and almost deflected the pass.
Here is a list of specific plays T.J. Carrie made in chronological order.
Q 1 (12:29): Carrie was lined up three yards off A.J. Green. The Bengals pitched it to Carrie's side and he did a nice job creating leverage on Green by extending his arms and creating separation. Carrie pushed Green aside and made the tackle on Jeremy Hill.
Q 1 (3:27): Carrie had a solid open-field tackle on Tyler Eifert. He came up aggressively and prevented a first down which forced the Bengals to punt.
Q 1(3:31): Carrie was covering Mohammed Sanu two yards off in man coverage. Sanu faked going deep and cut inside on a slant route. Carrie bit the fake and lost a step on Sanu. The play would have been a ten yard completion but the pass was batted down by Justin Tuck.
Q 2 (11:46): Carrie was covering A.J. Green and the Bengals threw a wide receiver screen to Sanu who was lined up in the slot. Green blocked Carrie and Carrie could not shed the block giving up a long play. I wouldn't blame this play on Carrie though. A cornerback's job is to contain the outside which Carrie did well forcing Sanu back inside. The problem was that nobody else was out there to help with the play.
Q 2 (10:52): After having success with their last receiver screen, Cincinnati attempted the same concept and ran a similar screen to Sanu. Like the first time, Carrie did his job and contained the outside forcing Sanu back inside. But this time, Charles Woodson and D.J. Hayden were there to help and make the tackle after a short gain.
Q 2 (10:22): Green ran a streak to the right corner of the endzone but Carrie knocked the ball out of his hands.
Q 2 (10:17): Carrie was playing zone on the left side of the field. A.J. Green ran a five yard crossing route from the opposite hash across to Carrie side. Green caught the ball (coverage was on the linebacker) but Carrie stepped up to make a nice open-field tackle and force a field goal.
Q 2 (1:03): Carrie was lined up in man coverage against Marvin Jones. Jones ran a slant into the endzone and Carrie played it perfectly making a beautiful play to break up the touchdown.
Q 3 (5:34): Completion to Bengals running back Rex Burkhead as mentioned above.
Q 3 (4:55): The very next play, Carrie was lined up against Marvin Jones. Giovani Bernard ran a power to the left and cut out towards Carrie. Carrie came in to make the tackle but gave up contain and Bernard cut outside. Carrie recovered 15 yards later to make the tackle with Charles Woodson.
Q 3 (2:50): Carrie was playing left corner and was lined up tight because he did not have a receiver to his side. Jeremy Hill bounced a run out left and Carrie made a nice open-field tackle squaring his pads up with Hill.
Q 3 (1:35): Carrie was playing Cover Three on the right sideline. Bengals tight end Ryan Hewitt ran a seam up the middle and Carrie closed beautifully to break up the touchdown and force a field goal.
Q 4 (13:32): Carrie was covering A.J. Green deep. Dalton looked his way but checked it down to Jeremy Hill. Carrie came up and made the tackle along with Ray Ray Armstrong to force a punt.
Initially watching the Raiders play the Bengals, I thought Carrie played well. But after taking a closer look, I realized just how impressive his performance was. This man literally shut down one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. There were so many plays when Dalton looked for A.J. Green but didn't throw it to him because Carrie had him blanketed in coverage. And the one catch that Carrie did give up was almost an incompletion because of his recovery speed.
The Raiders defensive backfield took a huge hit Sunday when free safety Nate Allen was diagnosed with a torn MCL and future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson suffered a dislocated shoulder. They will likely take a long look at many of the top cornerbacks in the 2016 NFL Draft.
One player they won't have to worry about replacing is T.J. Carrie who will look to repeat his week one success against Steve Smith Sr. and the Baltimore Ravens in week two.