The Jets won the coin flip but deferred, giving Cincinnati the ball to start things off. The Jets d-line dominated, and Bengals ran it twice and threw an incomplete pass before punting it to the Jets 43. Kerley caught the punt and blasted it 8 yards to the Bengals 49.
When the Jets got the ball, Sanchez’s confidence was still a little low, as it tends to be early in games. He hit Burress for a nice gain on his first passing attempt, but his second one, again to Burress, was into tight coverage. Then, his timing was incredibly out of sync with Keller on 3rd sending him to the sidelines visibly upset. Fortunately, his defense stepped up on the first play of the Bengals’ drive. Eric Smith picked off Andy Dalton’s pass, and make a very effective case for his starting at safety. Thinking quickly, he tossed the ball to Revis, a much more nimble and evasive player, who stretched the pick another 22 yards. Starting at the Bengals 16, Sanchez was back in it. He threw a quick TD pass to Holmes, and, thanks to his defense, he was soaring.
It was pouring rain out there. Buckets of it. Apocalyptic stuff. Staring down a freshman offense, Rex Ryan’s defense was chomping at the bit. They forced Dalton back to a 4 and 27 on the 1, with a near-miss fumble recovery TD by the Jets. But the Bengals special teams unit stepped in, and sent the ball 77 yards, pinning the Jets at their own 22 yard-line on the punt.
Its verve lost, the Jets offense was shaky. Kerley picked up 5 yards on 2nd and 12, but a Vladimir Ducasse false start erased that, setting the Jets back to 3rd and 12. Tomlison ran it 6 yards on 3rd down, which was not nearly enough, and the Jets punted it.
Dalton didn’t fare much better his next time on the field. It’s hard to envy his position. He’s tasked with carrying the future of this franchise on his shoulders, and he’s standing in the pouring rain, just trying to make sure his passes fly straight. “It’s just preseason,” he tells himself, “it doesn’t matter.” But this feels like it matters quite a bit. His hurls miss high, low, and into the hands of Jim Leonhard, who carried one back to the Bengals 10 yard line. The Jets try throw it to no avail, and with a loss of 2 yards on a run on 2nd and a short pass on 3rd, have to settle for 3 points.
Back to the Jets defense. They stand strong, and the Bengals are forced to kick it after 3. Kerley shows promise on the return. He dodges one defender, and nearly slips away from another, and the Jets start on the 32. But, after a successful 7-yard pass to Keller, the Jets run a screen and a run to the left, and the Bengals guess right each time. Chris Bryan kicks the ball back to the Bengals, setting them at their own 30.
Settling in, Dalton started to take command of his offense. He and A.J. Green colluded to make an 8 yard reception on 2nd and 8, taking the Bengals to their own 40. After a pass that Bo Scaife tumbled through the Jets defense for 12 yards, Dalton took the Bengals down to the Jets 48. The 1st quarter ended. Immediately, Dalton tossed to Brian Leonard for 33 yards at the Jets 14 yard line.
Now, pinned against their own end zone, the Jets defense would be tested. On 1st down, Dalton overthrew A.J. Green. Kyle Wilson ensured the 2nd down reception he let up didn’t go further than 4 yards, tossing Jordan Shipley out of bounds. Fortune swings both ways. On the next down, Wilson gave up a pass on the 1 to the very same receiver, setting up 1st and goal. Dalton handed the ball to Leanard, who ran into a pile of humanity that landed into the end zone. With all the jerseys on the field, the initial call was inconclusive, and the NFL’s new replay rule was invoked. Evidence to the contrary was lacking, and the ruling on the field was upheld. The Bengals had scored, and, at 10-7, this game remained close.
That preface again. “It’s just preseason.” I know, I know. But Sanchez is throwing to a new receiver, a stranger, really, and he needs to find his rhythm. Kerley, again, was incredible. He caught the kickoff in the end zone and ran it to the 30, losing his helmet along the way. Sanchez connected with Burress in man coverage, and the Jets were at their own 49. Sacked for a loss of 2, Sanchez chucked it a few yards to Keller, who tried to add some yards but came up just one yard short on 3rd down.
Remember how it’s preseason? Exactly! It doesn’t matter. Let’s go for it on 4th! Let’s throw a pass to Santonio Holmes for a couple of yards and easily convert! That was fun!
The Jets took a timeout on 2nd and 9, then Sanchez faked the handoff, slipped away from a pass rusher, motioned to Burress, and threw the pass in the very direction that Plaxico was not running. The CBS color guy reminded me the Jets have not converted on 3rd down today. Yikes. They do not break the pattern. An attempt at a screen to Burress was knocked awry by a Bengal. This time, T.J. Conley contributed a punt that was lovely, and, though it ended up a touchback, it hit the end zone pylon a half-yard away from bouncing out of bounds.
We’re not playing against the Bengals this year (and likely won’t in the playoffs), so I don’t think it’s treasonous to root for their quarterback right now. Faced with a 3rd and 9, he caught Andre Caldwell for 11 yards. Then, Leonard ran the ball another 11 to their own 43. On 1st down, the Bengals managed to move into Jets territory, but ran into a wall on 2nd. On 3rd, an incomplete pass to Green forced a punt.
When he’s caught the ball, Kerley’s looked great. Slippery and hard to tackle. But he’s still a rookie. With the ball slicing through the air at him, and two Bengals about to make a hit, he stepped out of the way of the ball at about the 20, and it bounced to the 1. That’s fair catch territory, Jeremy. Oh well. Glad it happened in preseason.
This I’m not glad about. With the ball on the 1-yard line, Ducasse jumped over the line, pushing the ball back. Fortunely, on 2nd and 10, Sanchez threw the football into the hands of Keller, who took it 44 yards to the Jets 43. Tomlinson ran to the 44, and, on 2nd and 9, caught a ball and took it to the Bengals 45 for 1st down. Keller and Sanchez hooked up again, and brought the ball to the XX. The rookie Kerley was tested on 1st and 2nd downs and came up short. Granted, Sanchez threw it a bit high and a bit too close to the sideline, but the drop on 2nd down was aimed at the center of his jersey.
Now the wide receiver coaches know which drills Kerley needs to run this week. Remember, there’s a ring-wearing WR on the other side of the field. Despite Sanchez’s slight overthrow, Burress caught the ball in a gliding dive that landed in the end zone. The way a Super Bowl winner should, even 1000 days after the last time his feet touched a pro field. He might have some rust on him, but this guy came to play. Nick Folk hit the extra point, and with 51 seconds left in the 1st half, the Bengals offense barely tried to stop the Jets walking into the locker room winning 17-7.
On the field, his dark green shirt soaking wet and rain bouncing off his hat, Rex Ryan speaks to a reporter. “It’s all going according to plan,” he says. Despite a few missteps, the starting defense is solid. The offense isn’t quite there yet, but a few playmakers are getting it down. Sounds like the Jets. I guess believe him.
During halftime, I try to find wine and failed. Why do liquor stores in Manhattan close early on Sunday night? Why isn’t wine sold in supermarkets but really fancy beer is? Politics are confusing. Football isn’t. Football is pure. Football is honest. Two groups of men want to move a ball from one end of a field to the other. They might pretend to carry the ball when they intend to throw it, or vice versa, but we all know what they want to do. There’s no dissembling here.
The second half starts, and the starters are standing along the sidelines. After Kerley returns a kickoff into the end zone to the 29, McElroy is in, but doesn’t have a chance to do much before the Jets are pushed back to a 2nd and 18 on two penalties. With the long field, McKnight and Powell pitch in a couple of short runs. A punt, and the Bengals have it again.
At this point, Dalton is out of the game. Bruce Gradkowski is under center, and it’s hard to say that I don’t wish Dalton well. He’s got a heavy weight on his shoulders and I hope he carries it well. Anyway, we’re watching a team with an untested quarterback trying to make a name for himself. Their backup QB is not going to be nearly as exciting. Bruce Gradkowski makes a couple of passes but eventually comes up short at the Jets 38. The Bengals punt it to the 17.
Second-half preseason football is enjoyable in its own weird way. Right now, the McElroy-Cumberland Show is on, and it’s fun to watch these two work. During the drive, Cumberland catch two catches from the young QB, for 26 and 17 yards respectively. I’m looking forward to seeing him line up in double tight end sets with Keller. Joe McKnight took a couple of carries for 7 and 4 yards each. During a phone interview, Bill Cowher says, “I’m looking forward to September 11th, no doubt about it,” which makes me feel very uncomfortable.
McElroy is sacked on 3rd down, and the Jets opt to let Folk try to kick the ball 50 yards. The pressure is off, given that it’s still summer, but Folk sends it flying through the uprights, putting the Jets up 20-7. Two steps forward, one step back. Immediately after, Folk kicks the ball out of bounds and the Bengals start at their own 40.
Again, the Bengals have nothing, and I don’t expect them to. There are really only a few positions that are still exciting to look at. Kerley’s one of them. On a punt return, he makes another mental mistake fumbles a catch that sneaks out of bounds at the Jets 18 right before a Bengal falls on it. Don’t get me wrong, I want to love this guy. When the ball’s in his hands, he’s deadly. The trouble is making sure it gets there.
The backups play like backups. McKnight gets 4 yards and Jeff Cumberland drops a well-thrown ball. Patrick Turner saves the drive with a 7-yard gain on 3rd to take the Jets to their 29. Kerley is covered on 2nd down and makes a leaping catch…but is rather far out of bounds. A short throw on 3rd yields naught, and the Jets punt it to the Bengals 32.
An interception by Brashton Satele set up an impromptu goalline drill from the 4 for the backup offense. Satele is an interesting player. Originally signed by the Raiders, he ended up with the Jets after Oakland failed to execute his contract. Last year, he failed to make the team. I’m sure this interception return can’t hurt him. Once the Jets offense was on the field, Powell tried to run twice but the line can’t create a lane for him. The 3rd quarter ended.
On the 1st play of the last quarter, McElroy and McKnight showed why they’re professional football players. McKnight ran in front of a linebacker to the right, caught McElroy’s pass at the 2, and extended his body into the end zone for a touchdown. Novak’s kick was good are the Jets were winning 27-7. The game was becoming more and meaningless by the second.
The kickoff from Novak was a touchback. Dan LeFavour, the Bengals 3rd-string quarterback, is in. No disrespect meant to the players, but things are mattering less and less. CBS cuts to a sideline interview, and Wayne Hunter (I think) and Nick Mangold make funny faces in the background. If I had TiVo, I would have a picture for you. I don’t, which is disappointing, because their faces were very funny. The Bengals punt it and the Jets take over at the 29.
It’s time to test Powell some more. He runs twice for 2 yards each. McElroy throws it for 2 yards to Powell on 3rd, but there’s a penalty on the play. For a moment, it seems as though the Bengals weren’t paying attention and accepted the penalty. The referee corrects himself and the Jets are faced with 4th and 4. The Bengals get the punt at their own 25 after a fumble recovery.
LeFavour is quickly forced out of bounds on 3rd down after two short runs. Dan De Palma is on and returns the punt to the Jets 30. There are about 10 minutes left in the 4th, probably about 1,000 people left in the stadium, and the game has made the word “meaningless” meaningless. Bilal Powell spins through the defense for a first down. Even CBS is assuming that I don’t care what happening, because they’ve pushed the game into a tiny box while someone interviews Antonio Cromartie. The Jets punt into the end zone and the Bengals star at their own 20.
- Note: Every time there’s been a sideline interview tonight with a member of the Jets defense, someone from the television crew has very ironically asked them: “Your defense moved from 1st place in 2009 to 3rd place in 2010. What are you going to do to get all the way back to 1st place?” Revis and Cromartie both expressed mild annoyance before giving their smiling answers
Around four minutes left. It’s time for the deeper parts of the roster to show what they’ve got. After stomping the defense for a 1st down on 3rd and 1, Chris Jennings explodes through the line, breaks a tackle, and takes the Jets to the Bengals 8. And we’re at the 2-minute warning.
At this point, both teams acknowledge how silly they’re being. The Jets take a few knees to end the game and the Bengals don’t use any of their timeouts. We get a chance to reflect.
Overall, I’ve liked what I’ve seen. Having held the Bengals offense to 7 points in the 1st half, the defense was as dominant as it could be. While they exhibited problems in the red zone, especially after the Leonhard interception, I can’t help but be excited about the Jets offense. Our running game is working, and their receiving corps holds quite a bit of promise. Sanchez has managed the throw the team down the field despite the fact that he’s been lacking at least one receiver in each game he’s played. I cannot wait to see what this offense looks like when Holmes, Burress, and Mason are all waiting for Sanchez’s snap at the line of scrimmage.
As far as the back-ups go, Kerley has shown some flashes, but also has some issues. If he wants to fulfill his potential, he needs to get better at holding onto the ball. Ducasse was better today, but still had some lapses. Cumberland had one drop that I saw, but figures to be a big part of the offense this year. I know it’s just preseason, but I enjoyed this game, and am looking forward to seeing a real one.