With over five minutes left in the first quarter, the Bengals offense went three-and-out and Manny Lawson was flagged for a false start, pushing the Bengals back to their own 20-yard line. Yet with a guy like Kevin Huber on your roster, you can hold out hope that the defense might have some room to work with, giving them an opportunity to prevent the Jets from expanding their 10-point lead. A 55-yard punt later, they did. And the Bengals defense felt blessed to have 68 yards behind their backs.
With 5:09 left in the first quarter, the Jets setup at their own 32-yard line in single-back formation and duel tight ends on the left. Sanchez fakes the handoff to Tomlinson as the entire Bengals defense bit on the play-action, save for linebacker Thomas Howard keeping an eye in the backfield waiting for someone to release. Once Dustin Keller cleared the the line, Sanchez completed the pass. Howard picked him up out of the backfield, limiting the tight end with a seven-yard gain.
I-formation, strong-side right with both receivers on the left. Cincinnati shows blitz on second down with Howard and safety Chris Crocker flanking the defensive line. Sanchez takes the snap and immediately targets Santonio Holmes, who stepped back to wait for the drop-back pass. Safety Reggie Nelson sprinted towards the receiver, taking on the block of Plaxico Burress, leaving Leon Hall uncovered. Rather than trying to take out Holmes legs, wrapping an ankle or doing whatever undersized cornerbacks do, Hall lowered his shoulder into Holmes' facemask and violently dropped the wide receiver. Fantastic hit. I just punched a hole in the wall.
Single-back formation with three wide receivers on third down forces the Bengals into nickel formation with Jonathan Wade as the fifth defensive back. Over three minutes remain in the first half with two yards needed for the first down. Man against man. Power against power. Sanchez hands off to Tomlinson behind the left side of the offensive line. Rey Maualuga diagnosed and found the point of attack faster than it takes for you to say holybejesusawesome. Maualuga's collision on Tomlinson echoed the sound of slamming of helmets, pads and football-related grunts at the line of scrimmage. No-gain. Jets punt.