Coming into Week 1, the Bengals traveling to take on the Jets was viewed as one of the best matchups of the 2016 opening weekend, and it lived up to the billing. Both teams fought tooth-and-nail for four quarters, but it was Cincinnati that won in New York on the 15th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks.
As is the case with any game, the Bengals had their fair share of winners and losers from the game, which we're now taking a look at in the aftermath of the win.
Despite going against a premiere corner in Darrelle Revis and a tough Jets defense at all levels, A.J. Green was still able to make a gigantic impact. After ending last season with four-straight games under 100 yards (including playoffs), Green reached that mark early in the third quarter while carrying the Bengals offense.
Oh, and he smoked Revis in one-on-one matchups on several occasions:
The 54-yard touchdown from Andy Datlon to A.J. Green over Darrelle Revis, burned him pic.twitter.com/Vdy4I9IJeA— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 11, 2016
His 180 receiving yards on 12 receptions would have been the second-biggest game he had in 2015, trailing only his 227-yard onslaught on the Ravens in Week 3. Sunday afternoon’s performance was also the fourth-highest mark Green has ever hit in his 80 career games, including the postseason.
Green was the unquestioned MVP of this game. While I don't think he can regularly keep up at this pace, he should be at or near the top of the NFL MVP leaderboard after one week, which means about as much as a 1-0 record.
Before this game even kicked off, C.J. Uzomah was a winner after being named the starting tight end over Tyler Kroft. While part of that may have had to do with Kroft missing the preseason with a knee injury, he still has been practicing and played Sunday, but the Bengals felt Uzomah deserved the start.
He responded with a career-high two catches for 59 yards, one of which being a 54-yard catch and run that set up a Bengals field goal.
Dalton with a big strike to Uzomah!! https://t.co/SmlPkETEiM— Grant Kelly (@GrantKelly07) September 11, 2016
Maybe, just maybe, Uzomah will be good enough to help the Bengals make it through the next few games without Tyler Eifert. He certainly gave hope it can happen on this day.
All of the talk this preseason around new Bengals receivers involved Tyler Boyd, Cody Core and Alex Erickson. However, Brandon LaFell quietly had a quality showing that was hampered due to a ligament injury in his hand, but he looked like the team's second-best pass-catcher against the Jets.
Brandon Lafell's first catch as a Bengal does for a big first down! https://t.co/8jomLctiS8— Grant Kelly (@GrantKelly07) September 11, 2016
Dalton hooks up with LaFell on 3rd and 18!! https://t.co/OuIsM1DhRD— Grant Kelly (@GrantKelly07) September 11, 2016
LaFell finished the game with four grabs for 91 yards. What's even more amazing, and a tribute to how important LaFell was, was that the Bengals scored on every drive he caught a pass on (two touchdowns, one field goal). The Bengals appear to have found a free agent gem in LaFell.
Honestly, I could have pre-written Russell Bodine as a “loser” for this game. There may have not been a bigger Week 1 lock for the Bengals “losers” category than one of the NFL's worst starting centers struggling against one of the best defensive lines.
Bodine was repeatedly mauled in this game, many times by former Steelers nose tackle Steve McLendon. He had just two sacks over his last 46 games with Pittsburgh, but somehow got two in this game alone while largely going up Cincinnati’s embattled center in the game. Bodine’s play is killing this strong unit, which is no longer collectively good enough to overcome his woes.
The Offensive Line
While pinning blame on Bodine and rookie offensive coordinator Ken Zampese is easy, the entire offensive line was still a mess in this game. Andy Dalton was under siege throughout the game from seemingly everywhere. A lot of it was from exotic blitz packages and defensive line stunts, but this line has seen plenty of those in their NFL careers.
There was no excuse for the effort we saw from this unit. Sure, it was hot and humid and emotion was on New York’s side, but the Jets front seven embarrassed what was supposed to be one of the NFL's best offensive lines. They looked closer to being one of the league’s worst unit in this game.
Between all of the sacks this offensive line, only scoring 20 points, and those two bone-headed run calls in the final drive, it made this a less-than-enthusiastic start to Zampese’s career as the offensive coordinator. Green and Dalton made this offense score as many points as it did, despite Zampese's questionable calls throughout the contest.
Whatever Hue Jackson and Jay Gruden did to keep this offense from giving up as many sacks as they did on this day, it appears Zampese is still trying to figure out that formula. There's a reason this offense allowed the most sacks they have since 2013 at Baltimore, and it lays at the feet of Zampese. I'd be willing to bet the rookie play-caller not making the proper adjustments was part of it, but at least the Bengals got the win.
Who were your winners and losers from this thrilling win?