Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 12/21/11
By JOE KAY AP Sports Writer CINCINNATI (AP) -- Receiver A.J. Green raised his right arm to shoulder level and smiled. The Bengals rookie felt noticeable improvement Tuesday in his sprained right shoulder, an indication he'll be ready for the next game with playoff implications. He got hurt Sunday during a 20-13 win at St. Louis that kept Cincinnati (8-6) tied for the final wild card spot. The first-round pick is the most valuable receiver in an offense that has hit a lull lately. The Bengals can't afford to miss him. "I'm doing good," Green said, elevating his arm. "Just a little sore but better than I thought. I actually can move my arm some, so it's good." The Bengals need a win over Arizona (7-7) before another less-than-capacity crowd at Paul Brown Stadium on Saturday. They're tied with the Jets (8-6) for the final AFC wild card spot, but New York has the tiebreakers in its favor. As long as Green is on the field, they've got a chance for a big play. The fourth overall pick has 11 catches of 35 or more yards this season, the most in the NFL. Detroit's Calvin Johnson is second with nine. Green's total is the most by an NFL rookie since Minnesota's Randy Moss had 14 during the 1998 season. Green landed hard on his right shoulder during the first half in St. Louis and left the field for an examination. He returned for the second half even though he had trouble raising his arm. Green finished with a team-high six catches for 115 yards, including a 55-yard reception. Nobody else had more than three catches. It's been a trend for the Bengals, who rely on Green for most of their big plays. In the last four games, receivers Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell have combined for only 11 catches for 101 yards. Caldwell was inactive Sunday. Without Green, they're in trouble. "I think we're trying to find ways to get him the ball," quarterback Andy Dalton said. "He can do it all." Even with Green, they've struggled lately. Dalton has passed for fewer than 200 yards in each of the last three games, two of them losses. The second-round pick has completed 54 percent of his passes for 503 yards with two touchdowns, an interception and a below-average passer rating of 77. Penalties have been a particular problem on offense, putting the Bengals in tough situations. They had 11 penalties Sunday. "We've just got to be more consistent," Dalton said. "We can't have the mental mistakes, and we've got to execute better." The Bengals have tried to rely on the run to take the pressure off Dalton all season. The rushing game hasn't done much lately -- only 110 yards Sunday against a defense that ranked last in the league at stopping the run. Coach Marvin Lewis thinks the recent decline in the passing game is more a function of the game plan. "I think if we wanted to go out and throw it 40 times, we'd throw it 40 times and feel pretty good about it," Lewis said. "But the goal is to win the football game and if we don't have to throw it 40 times, I think we're better served to run it 40 times." Notes: Green didn't fully participate in an afternoon practice, giving him time to work on the shoulder. ... The Bengals said on Tuesday that there were so many tickets left for Saturday's game that it wouldn't sell out. Only one of their seven home games has sold out -- when Pittsburgh brought thousands of fans to Paul Brown Stadium. ... A win would give the Bengals only their third winning record in the last 21 years.
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