Showing a nice blend of power and precision, the Bengals’ first-team offense ganged up on the Jets just like they did back in October when quarterback Andy Dalton hit his first eight passes, including strikes of 43 and 35 yards, as Cincinnati jumped to a 17-3 lead early the second quarter Saturday night at Paul Brown Stadium in a game the Jets ended up winning, 25-17.
The Jets cut the lead to 17-16 at halftime with their first offense working against the Bengals’ second-teamers as Bengals linebacker Vincent Rey defended Smith’s pass for a two-point conversion with 1:54 left in the half.
The only downer in the half came when first-round pick Darqueze Dennard was sidelined with a hip injury. Then in the second half the second-rounder, running back Jeremy Hill, was declared out of the game with a shoulder injury.
When running back Giovani Bernard followed the left side of his offensive line into the end zone on a one-yard-second-and-third-effort touchdown run in a scrum the Bengals wouldn’t let die against a New York defensive front that finished third against the rush last season, the first team was 2-for-2 on touchdown drives, the Bengals led 14-3 with 55 seconds left in the first quarter, and Dalton had a perfect passer rating with 144 yards and a touchdown.
“That’s about as good as it gets in the preseason, I guess,” Dalton said. “It just felt good out there. We are all in sync, moving the ball, got some big check plays and score points. That’s what you want.”
The Bengals overcame three penalties on the two drives, the last one a holding call on rookie center Russell Bodine at the Jets 8 on first down. But Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green immediately erased that with a 13-yard dart in the middle of the field. Bernard and the line mooshed for the rest from the 5. The Jets couldn't overcome playing without their top three cornerbacks.
“For a running back on a play like that, you just have to keep your legs moving,” Bernard said. “Never stop pushing until you hear the whistle blow, and I didn’t hear it. Down there near the goal line, it’s all about determination.”
The drive featured a Green-and-Dalton-pitch-and-catch on first-and-10 from the Jets 42, where Dalton had no problem seeing Green smoke cornerback Antonio Allen down the right sideline for 35 yards. Allen, a college linebacker and NFL safety who switched to cornerback on Monday because of a spate of injuries, never had a shot.
A few minutes later when Jets quarterback Geno Smith threw an interception right to cornerback Terence Newman over the middle and the Jets imploded with two personal fouls, Dalton rolled out for a third series. It was stoned on third-and-one from the Jets 23 when Jets nose tackle Damon Harrison blew up Bodine and Bernard was thrown for a loss.
Mike Nugent, the Jets’ former second-round pick, kicked a 42-yard field goal that made it 17-3 early in the second quarter.
That meant in Dalton’s four preseason series, the Bengals have come out of it with two touchdowns and two field goals with his staggering yards per attempt of nearly 20. On Saturday he left with 17 points on 17 snaps.
The Bengals overcame two pre-snap penalties on their first drive of the game when Dalton threw a 43-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Mohamed Sanu running down the middle of the field past Jets cornerback Kyle Wilson.
The play gave the Bengals a 7-0 lead just 4:35 into the game on the first offense’s second series of the season. Dalton hit four passes, one a 21-yarder to Green on third-and-five when slot receiver Dane Sanzenbacher drew coverage inside. Dalton, who threw five touchdown passes against the Jets last season, then shrugged off a procedure penalty up front before throwing a rope to Sanu, starting in place of Marvin Jones, the man that caught four touchdowns against the Jets in that game in October.
“Their safety was rolled way over the top, and I was able to get by the corner and get a step on him,” Sanu said. “And Andy just dropped it on a dime. All I had to do was stick my hands out and not drop it.”
The Bengals’ first defense replayed what happened last week in Kansas City when they only gave the Jets Nick Folk’s 40-yard field goal in about a quarter of work. Geno Smith had wide receiver David Nelson running free for a touchdown past cornerback Leon Hall on the first snap of the game, but Smith overthrew him. The Bengals then shut it down when the Jets had an illegal substitution and forced a three-and-out.
The Bengals gave up a nine-yard scramble to Smith to start the second series and then allowed a 20-yard pass to Greg Salas over the middle. But safety George Iloka blew up wide receiver Stephen Hill over the middle for an incompletion and Newman then came up with the play of the series. On second-and-10 from the Bengals 29, Newman sniffed out a swing pass to running back Chris Johnson and dropped him for a five-yard loss that forced the field goal.
The first Jets’ first touchdown was set up when the Jets blitzed backup quarterback Matt Scott on his first snap and forced a fumble at the Bengals 19. That turned into Bilal Powell’s two-yard touchdown run with 8:26 left in the first half to cut the lead to 17-10.
That big Jets offensive line did a number on the backups when they scored on a nine-play, 62-yard drive to cut the lead to 17-16 on Smith’s one-yard run off the zone option. Domata Peko and Geno Atkins didn’t play at defensive tackle and by that time Brandon Thompson was out of there. Working against Christo Bilukidi and Devon Still in the middle, Powell ripped one for 32 yards and Chris Johnson added runs of 12 and 5.
The Bengals approached their return game without incumbent Brandon Tate. Cornerback Adam Jones returned the first punt for 10 yards and Sanzenbacher returned two kickoffs and his fumble on one of them was recovered by Bengals tight end Alex Smith. Veteran safety Danieal Manning was going to run back the second-half kickoff, but his foot touched the end line.
The Jets had all sorts of discipline problems in the first half with five 15-yard penalties. But the Bengals also drew their share of flags. Rookie wide receiver James Wright got his second penalty of the preseason blocking on a kickoff when he was called for blocking below the waist.
The second half opened with the offensive line centered by Mike Pollak and rookie running back Jeremy Hill got a nice second-effort first down on a four-yard run after contact, but it was wiped out by penalty. Tate did field the first punt of the second half after left end Margus Hunt forced Jets backup quarterback Michael Vick to hurry a third-down incompletion.
The Bengals couldn’t take advantage of punter Kevin Huber pinning the Jets back on the New York 3 midway through the third quarter because running back Cedric Peerman fumbled the ball away at the Jets 34.
The Jets took the lead for the first time with 13:26 left in the game, 23-17, when Vick burned the Bengals on another screen, this one to wide receiver Clyde Gates for a 17-yard touchdown on a run he wasn’t touched. That came on the drive Vick converted a 26-yard screen to running back Daryl Richardson on third-and-20 with defensive end Sam Montgomery and safety Taylor Mays, among others, able to get off their blocks.
The Jets tacked on a safety with about 12 minutes left when linebacker Ikemefuna Enemkpali blew by wide receiver Ryan Whalen with Huber standing in the end zone and batted it into the end zone, another tough chapter for special teams that suffered an 80-yard punt return last week in Kansas City.
The Bengals depth took shots with injuries in the second half. With running back Rex Burkhead
looking to run in the fourth quarter, he was sidelined on his first carry when Jets rookie safety Calvin Pryor blitzed and gave him a knee shot just as he got the handoff . Burkhead then went to the locker room. Rookie linebacker Marquis Flowers
, fifth-round pick who, like Burkhead with an excellent chance to make the team, hurt his right ankle in the third quarter. They did say he could return.
But linebacker JK Schaffer, who just came back from a concussion, was lost for the game early in the fourth quarter after a hit to the head. Wright, another draft pick with a shot to make the team, left the game with a hip injury.
With Jason Campbell out with a bruised elbow, the Bengals young quarterbacks had a miserable night. Matt Scott worked the second and third quarters and was only five of 14 for 29 yards. Tyler Wilson, who has been a Bengal for only a week, suffered an intentional grounding call before he got racked up in the pocket and suffered a cut elbow with about three minutes left and had to leave the game after completing eight of 15 for 57 yards.
PREGAME NOTES: Left tackle Andrew Whitworth and tight end Jermaine Gresham looked ready to start the Bengals preseason game against the Jets Saturday night at Paul Brown Stadium for their first action of the season.
Meanwhile, Marshall Newhouse moved from left tackle to right tackle to replace Andre Smith (concussion).
Also sidelined for the Bengals were cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (hip), tight end Tyler Eifert (shoulder) defensive tackle Geno Atkins (knee), quarterback Jason Campbell (arm), wide receiver Marvin Jones (foot), linebacker Sean Porter (knee) and defensive end Dontay Moch (unkown).
The sense is Atkins is expected to practice enough next week to play Aug. 24 in Arizona.
GAME CAPTAINS: Head coach Marvin Lewis sent out for his game captains Green, quarterback Dalton, Burfict, defensive end Carlos Dunlap, and running back Cedric Peerman. The Bengals won the toss and chose to kick off.