Joe Burrow told reporters this week he would like to switch things up and take the ball first. He got his wish as the Bengals won the toss and put the ball in his hands. He did not disappoint.
Zac Taylor’s opening script was a thing of beauty as Burrow conducted an 11-play, 75 yard opening touchdown drive, which should’ve been a 10-play drive had Tee Higgins’ highlight reel touchdown catch been ruled, well, a catch. It was Samaje Perine of all players to haul in the game’s first score on a broken play, featuring vintage Burrow extending out of the pocket.
Higgins’ non-catch wasn’t the only controversial call of the first period. On the Bengals’ next drive, Ja’Marr Chase bobbled a simple hitch route out of the backfield and put the ball on the turf. Video evidence showed the ball never being secured before the second-year receiver made a football move, but the referees ruled it a fumble nonetheless.
Officiating miscues would not stop the Bengals from concluding an explosive first quarter. An unnecessary roughness call gave them another chance on their next drive, and Burrow ate up a third-and-long Jets blitz by finding Tyler Boyd over the middle. Boyd absorbed a big hit and went 56 yards to the house.
Burrow finished the first half with 215 yards and the aforementioned two scores on 25 attempts, but New York would soon abandon their single-high defense and gave Cincinnati fits with Cover 2 looks. The Bengals netted -6 yards on their final three drives of the first half.
Cincinnati’s defense did enough to help out the offense’s fast start, holding the Jets to two field goals, even after the home team received great field position off of Chase’s fumble. Chidobe Awuzie had a banner day in coverage, coming away with a couple pass breakups and taking away deep shots down the boundary.
Trey Hendrickson broke free and notched his first sack of the season in the second quarter, even knocking the ball free from Joe Flacco. The Jets would retain possession, but Flacco would turn the ball over on their next drive. The Bengals deployed some Tampa 2 of their own and Logan Wilson came away with a deep interception over the middle. Wilson fumbled at the end of his long return, but Tre Flowers was able to recover the football. The offense failed to gain a single yard on the ensuing possession and settled for three.
Hendrickson’s disruption continued into the third quarter as he met Joseph Ossai in the backfield and strip-sacked Flacco once more. This time, the Bengals recovered as B.J. Hill came away with possession, giving the offense a start just outside the red zone. Four plays later, the Jets tried to blitz Burrow on third down again, and the result was another touchdown. Chase secured his second score of the season on a coverage bust in the end zone.
Injuries suffered by D.J. Reader and Hendrickson cost the Bengals’ defense depth, but not effectiveness. Their streak of drives without allowing a touchdown reached 18 as they held the Jets to a late-third quarter field goal. They hit 19 when Hendrickson recorded sack no. 3 in the fourth quarter to get the Jets off the field.
Cincinnati opted to put Perine in for Mixon to bleed out the clock, and Perine answered the call. Perine rushed for 47 yards on nine carries, with none resulting in less than two yards. Perine’s efforts got the Bengals within field goal range, but an imperfect snap from Cal Adomitis led to an imperfect hold from Kevin Huber, and Evan McPherson’s attempt sailed wide left, leaving the door slightly open for the Jets. The door officially closed when a tipped pass in the red zone landed in the arms of Jessie Bates on the Jets’ final drive.
It was another fantastic outing for Lou Anarumo’s defense. The Jets mustered a measly -0.32 expected points added per play thanks in part to the four turnovers the Bengals forced. They needed every one of them as the offense did cool off in the final two quarters. Despite their continued inadequacies against two-high coverages, Burrow was only sacked twice as he managed to get the ball out quicker in precarious situations.
The 1-2 Bengals leave East Rutherford with a much-needed victory. They’ll have a quick turnaround with the undefeated Miami Dolphins coming to town on Thursday Night.