DeAndre Hopkins had just Houdini'd his way past three Browns defenders for a 13-yard touchdown when he found teammate A.J. Green on the sideline.
"Hop, I didn't know you had that in you," Green told Hopkins.
"Me neither," Hopkins replied, asking, "A.J., What'd I do?"
"I'd never seen that out of him," Green recounted with a smile. "He's like, 'A.J., I need to see the replay.' I said, 'You need to see it. It was pretty nice.' "
Hopkins has done a lot of nice things this season, even if the Cardinals haven't had to need him to it as often as 2020. The Pro Bowl wide receiver already has matched his 2020 total of six touchdowns even as his catches and yards have dropped thanks to the balanced passing game orchestrated by quarterback Kyler Murray.
But Sunday, Hopkins may have an opening to shine – against the team that traded him away two years ago, the Houston Texans.
The Texans are struggling. Hopkins' once-and-former teammate J.J. Watt noted that the team barely resembles the one he played on last season, and Hopkins is two years removed. Plus, the man who traded Hopkins – head coach Bill O'Brien – is no longer there. Hopkins has repeatedly said how happy he is in Arizona.
Seeking an upgraded contract from the Texans, he was traded to the Cardinals with a fourth-round pick in exchange for running back David Johnson and second- and fourth-round picks. Before he played a down for the Cardinals, he also got the new contract he wanted. It couldn't have worked out much better for Hopkins.
"Talking to him, he hasn't said anything about it, but obviously it's his former team and he spent a lot of years there," quarterback Kyler Murray said. "So it might mean a little bit more to him."
Hopkins was not available to speak this week.
While Hopkins' statistics aren't as gaudy as he posted in 2020, he remains a difference-maker and one of the best receivers in the league. The win in Cleveland was a good example, his numbers – three catches for 55 yards – didn't properly show how much he meant, from the whirling dervish touchdown he discussed with Green to the two pass interference calls he drew to help another scoring drive. He also had a second TD catch.
For the year, Hopkins has 26 catches for 367 yards and six touchdowns. No, it isn't what he may have done last year at this time, or what he did in Houston – but his team is winning more than before as well.
"Guys like Hop, with his All-Pros, and me with whatever (accolades), and then a guy like Zach (Ertz), to come in and want to be the guy, you can't because we have one goal, and that's to win," Green said.
"We tell the young guys all the time, we've been to the highest level, we've had the catches we've been the No. 1 receivers -- but like Hop said, that doesn't win championships."