The Jets were riding high off the biggest win of the season over New England. But they got shot down from that high horse in Cincinnati.
The Bengals took it to the Jets early, marching 80 yards for a touchdown on their opening drive, and they never let up from there. The Bengals finished with a 49-9 victory to drop the Jets back to 4-4. They have alternated wins and losses every week this season.
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With a win by the Patriots against Miami — after a falling behind due to a slow start — the Jets are now two games back in the AFC East. The high-flying Saints, who scored 35 points on fellow AFC East member Buffalo Sunday, come into the Meadowlands next week.
What went wrong ...
1. Bad Geno
Rookie quarterback Geno Smith looked revelatory, especially in the second half, against New England. No such good news in Cincinnati. Smith was downright awful the entire game. He finished 20-of-30 for 159 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. Both picks were returned for touchdowns by the Bengals and both were forced into tight coverage. You expect bad play from a rookie quarterback at times, but eventually you need to be consistent. The win in New England seemed to signal a new level of growth for Smith. There is no question Sunday was a step back. Matt Simms came in late, though that was mostly just to keep Smith from taking any more of a beating — mentally as much as physically.
2. Bruised running game
What happened to that bruising running game fronted by Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell? Ivory had 34 carries and 104 yards last week against New England. That helped Smith find receivers in one-on-one coverage. You can't get much worse news than Simms — who didn't enter until the fourth quarter — being your leading rusher. Ivory finished with six carries for 11 yards, while Powell had 10 carries for 19 yards. If Ivory and Powell can't provide at least the illusion of a ground game, the Jets are in serious trouble offensively.
3. Secondary violations
The Jets defense has been rightly applauded all season for keeping an up-and-down offense in every game. Yes, two of the scores by Cincinnati were on defense, but the defense didn't do its job Sunday. The front seven, specifically Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples and Sheldon Richardson, did fine stopping the run (25 carries for 79 yards), but the secondary was like Swiss cheese all afternoon. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton finished with 325 yards passing and five touchdowns. The fear going into the game was that tight ends Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham would run wild on the Jets. Gresham had a touchdown early, but the pair had just a total four catches for 37 yards. Instead it was little-known receiver Marvin Jones who had 122 yards receiving and four touchdowns. Jones was locked up on Dee Milliner, Kyle Wilson, Darrin Walls and any other corner they could find. And A.J. Green burned Antonio Cromartie for 115 yards of his own.
Follow Metro New York Sports Editor Mark Osborne on Twitter @MetroNYSports.