Beating a team on the road in a season opener is never easy in the NFL, and no one expected the Bengals to just roll through Sunday's clash against New York.
These Jets were hungry for a Week 1 win, hoping to get rid of the bad taste of last year's near miss of the postseason. What better way to do so than beat a team that's been to the playoffs five straight times?
Additionally, this was New York's team playing on 9/11, making them as close to being America's team for a day as they'll probably ever be. All of this made this September matchup feel like a January playoff brawl.
Winning games like this requires contributions from less-heralded players. That was good news for C.J. Uzomah, who wasn't heralded much at all since the Bengals surprisingly spent a fifth-round pick on him in 2015.
The Bengals liked what they saw in the 6'5", 264-pound athletic pass-catcher, who caught 29 passes for 435 yards and seven scores in 49 career games at Auburn. He was primarily a blocking tight end in Auburn's offense, which rarely featured tight ends, but the Bengals saw someone they could develop into an NFL contributor.
Before this game even kicked off, Uzomah was already making news after being named the starting tight end over Tyler Kroft. That like had to do with Kroft missing the preseason with a knee injury, though, he still practiced all week leading up to the game and played Sunday, but the Bengals felt Uzomah earned the start.
The 6’6” athletic freak 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.
The Bengals ended the drive with a 33-yard field goal from Mike Nugent to cut New York's lead to 7-3, but the impact of that play was worth more than just three points. To that point, the Bengals had been soundly dominated on both sides of the ball, and it looked like this game may get ugly quick.
But Uzomah’s big catch woke up the offense, as they went on to score on three of the next five drives en route to a 23-22 win. It’s these kinds of contributions that Uzomah and Kroft will have to make for the Bengals to keep winning without Pro Bowler Tyler Eifert.
Eifert is still out while recovering from ankle surgery. He’s not gone through an NFL practice since last season, so he’s probably a few games away from returning.
Until then, Uzomah needs to keep stepping up for the Bengals to keep winning these close games. One big catch could be the difference in a one-point win, and so far, the Bengals are 1-0 when Uzomah makes a big play.