The Jets endured a roller coaster of an opening day, as they experienced lots of good with some bad in a heartbreaking 23-22 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
New York (0-1) had a hellacious pass rush, but it was offset with some huge gaffes in the secondary, as the Bengals (1-0) overcame the former and capitalized on the latter.
Despite tallying seven sacks, the Jets couldn’t get to quarterback Andy Dalton enough when it counted, as he engineered the late-game rally. Jets head coach Todd Bowles was obviously upset with the outcome and was terse in his postgame comments.
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“Not good, too many busts … You gotta understand about me, if we lose the game, [to me] nobody played well,” Bowles said when asked if he was happy with the pressure his defense put on Dalton.
Bowles declined to throw any verbal bouquets to a defense that had seven sacks and nine tackles for loss.
“I didn’t expect us to make these kind of mistakes,” he noted, surprised at the amount of the errors his usually disciplined defense committed. “There were just too many mistakes. Didn’t expect those mistakes, the way we did.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise on the afternoon wasn’t the loss itself, as the Bengals are a perennial playoff participant, but it was how Gang Green was defeated. Future Hall of Famer Darrelle Revis was severely exposed in his one-on-one matchup with Pro Bowl wideout A.J. Green, as the receiver tallied 12 catches for 180 yards, including a terrific 54-yard touchdown reception early in the second quarter.
There was one point in the game when Green had snared all nine of his targets for 154 yards — all in front of Revis. And perhaps the biggest moment wasn’t even highlight-worthy, as Green had a clutch 11-yard reception in front of Revis on 3rd-and-13 that got Cincinnati to the 29-yard line to set up Novak’s go-ahead 47-yard field goal with 54 seconds remaining. The catch was what made Novak’s attempt that much easier, and the three points proved to be difference in Cincinnati’s rare road win against the Jets.
New York had a chance to redeem itself — and avenge Revis — but cornerback Josh Shaw iced the game for the Bengals with a terrific interception along the sideline, as quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick tried one last-ditch effort to rally the team.
Green’s scorching of Revis Island wasn’t the only huge event, but it was the most telling — not to mention Nick Folks’s first career missed extra point eventually came back to haunt Gang Green.
Metro takes a look back at other key factors as the Bengals earned their first road win over the Jets in 10 attempts.
What We Saw:
1. Forte is back
The offense may have come up short in the final moments, but running back Matt Forte was stellar in his Jets debut. Forte, who barely played all preseason, was fantastic, as he reprised his role as one of the league’s best dual-threat running backs. He finished with 96 yards on 22 carries and added another 59 yards on five receptions. Cincinnati may have won the contest, but they didn’t have any answer for the former Chicago Bear, who showed he’s still got it. Forte was his usual shifty self, never getting brought down by the original tackler and also being a great safety valve for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick anytime the pressure in the pocket got too hot.
2. What a rush
The back end of the Jets’ defense had as rough a day as ever during Revis’ tenure in New York, but the loss can’t be pinned on Gang Green’s front seven. The Jets racked up seven sacks on Dalton, never making him feel comfortable, especially early when they sacked him five times in the first half. Steve McLendon had a stellar debut as he notched two sacks. The former Steeler lived in the Bengals’ backfield, but he wasn’t alone. Second-year defensive end Leonard Williams added 2.5 sacks, while Pro Bowler Mo Wilkerson contributed with two. The Jets can only hope that Revis’ performance was a fluke, because if the Jets’ pass rush continues to ascend, this defense has all the makings of being a top-flight outfit.
3. Red Rifle trumps Amish Rifle
These two quarterbacks have two of the best monikers in the league, but on this day the former outdid the latter in every manner. Dalton was under duress for a majority of the game, but he never lost his cool. He engineered the game-winning drive that ended with a Mike Nugent field goal with 54 seconds remaining, and was locked-in to his favorite target all afternoon — regardless if the amazing Revis was defending. Dalton went 23-of-30 for 366 yards, one touchdown and an interception, while Fitzpatrick went 19-of-35 for 189, two touchdowns and a pick. Despite constantly being on his back, Dalton picked himself up every time and came back for more against a Jets’ front seven that is among the league’s best.