CINCINNATI — When he caught four touchdowns in a three-game span midway through the 2012 season, many thought Mohamed Sanu was going to develop into a red zone threat that would take the pressure off of A.J. Green.
Then came a toe injury that shelved him for the remainder of his rookie year and a challenging 2013 season where he finished fourth in the team in receptions but had only two touchdowns and seemed to be lost in the shuffle as Marvin Jones developed into more of the a complimentary receiver opposite Green.
With Green sidelined due to a toe injury and Jones lost for the year due to an ankle sprain, Sanu has shouldered the load for the Bengals receiving corps. In Sunday’s 27-24 win over Baltimore, he had a career-high 125 yards on five receptions. It is his second 100-yard game in the past three weeks.
"I would say I’m playing a little bit better (than two years ago). I’m just more consistent and confident," Sanu said.
Added head coach Marvin Lewis: "It’s been what we really expected from Mo when we took Mo (in the draft). He and Marvin (Jones) have always jockeyed for position. He’s got it back, and he’s taking full advantage of the whole thing. It’s great."
Sanu’s day mirrored the Bengals. He had one notable bad play but then came up with two big ones, including one on the game-winning drive. His day started with a 48-yard reception on the opening drive where he was able to snag it with one hand at the Ravens 49 and then had 31 yards after the catch.
Lardarius Webb played it like it was going to be overthrown but Sanu did a great job of tipping the ball towards him and snagging it with one hand. Six plays later the Bengals scored on a 1-yard Dalton sneak.
"I was trying to snag and it slipped out when I was squeezing it. I was just able to stay with it and come down with it," Sanu said.
Early in the third quarter, Sanu had a 26-yard run on a reverse that later led to a Giovani Bernard touchdown as the Bengals took a 14-6 lead.
Then came the wild fourth quarter. On the first play after Baltimore took a 21-20 lead, Sanu had an 8-yard reception ripped out of his hands by Matt Elam and C.J. Mosley intercepted it. The Bengals held the Ravens to a field goal which would set up the game-winning drive.
On third-and-10 from the Bengals 20, Andy Dalton was flushed out of the pocket and underthrew it up the left sideline. Sanu made a double move on Dominique Franks and then had the presence to come back a couple yards and catch it. Terence Brooks was in position but didn’t turn back to see that the ball had been underthrown. The reception ended up going for 53 yards and seven plays later Dalton would score on a sneak on fourth-and-goal from the Ravens 1 with 57 seconds remaining.
"Andy was able to get the ball out. He put it up and I knew that I had to grab it," Sanu said. "He (Brooks) was a little behind me and I was able to work around him and get to the ball."
Over the past four games, five of Sanu’s 23 receptions have gone for 25 yards or more. When Green does return, and there is a chance it could happen next Sunday against Jacksonville, Sanu has emerged as another threat to take the pressure off.
"Mo’s been great. I have a lot of confidence in him, and he has a lot of confidence in himself that he’s going to go make plays," said Dalton of Sanu. "He made some spectacular catches today. There’s so many things he can do."