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Green lifts Bengals at bitter end, 23-22


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - A monster 12-catch,180-yard effort by Bengals Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton braving a career-high seven sacks with 366 yards hauled the Bengals to a 23-22 Opening Day victory over the Jets when former Jet Mike Nugent hit a 47-yard field goal with 54 seconds left Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

It was set up by Green's 11-yard catch, an absoulte must on third down where he beat cornerback Darrelle Revis, making a mockery of the Pro Bowlk matchup and leaving Green one shy of the club-record 13 catches.

Then cornerback Josh Shaw stepped in front of a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass on third down to end it on his first NFL interception.

Dalton, who came into the game with the NFL's second-best road record for all quarterbacks with 30 starts, upped it to 25-14 with a 114 passer rating after completing 23 of 30 passes.

With the Jets quarterback getting sacked just once all day, he dropped back with plenty of time on third-and-five and hit wide receiver Eric Decker for a 22-yard gain that set up Nick Folk's 23-yard field goal that made it 22-20 with 3:23 left as the red zone defense stiffened all day.

Green's 34-yard acrobatic diving catch against the befuddled Revis gave the Bengals a chance to tack on a field goal in the middle of the fourth quarter. But the record seventh sack took him out of it when Nugent missed a 52-yarder.

Just when it looked bleakest Dalton  converted a third-and-17 to one of his new targets and then watched running back Jeremy Hill smash in the from the 12-yard line to give the Bengals a 20-16 lead over the Jets with 3:09 left in the third quarter.

As he did all day Dalton took a shot after a quick incompletion to set up the third-and 17. He used a quick snap to drop back and fire a beautiful over the-shoulder ball down the left sideline to wide receiver Brandon LaFell getting behind cornerback Marcus Williams for 49 yards.

Then on third-and-two from the Jets 14, new offensive coordinator Ken Zampese trotted out the Wildcat formation with Dalton split wide and wide receiver James Wright taking the shot-gun snap in what turned into a basic power sweep left for the first down.

Then Hill unveiled a punishing touchdown run, with a cut back run up the middle that he finished off by running over one Jet and dragging in a couple into the end zone.

But the Jets responded with field goal and they did it by pounding running backs Matt Forte and Bilal Powell right at them. The first four runs accounted for 48 yards. The entire drive of 75 yards came courtesy of the run, resulting in Nick Folk's 20-yard field goal that cut it to 20-19 with 11:26 left in the half. The Jets spread the Bengals out in their nickel defense and rushed 30 times for 150 yards.

Thanks to their scrambling field goal team, the Bengals cut the Jets lead' to 16-13 on the last play of the first half when Mike Nugent hit a 21-yard field goal set up by rookie wide receiver Tyler Boyd's diving 14-yard catch with nine seconds left and no timeouts left. But they got on the field in time to kick.

The Bengals' usually impeccable pass protection wilted as Dalton was sacked seven times for the first time in his had no time and took five sacks. It's the first time he's The last one in the first half, his fifth, was on Dalton because after he conspired with Green to tightrope down the right sideline against cornerback Darrelle Revis  for two throws of 11 yards, the ball was on the Jets 7 with 54 seconds left. When tackle Leonard Williams split a double-team on the right side, Dalton held the ball and took an 11-yard sack, a no-no in the red zone.

The drive was all Boyd and Green. Boyd's first NFL catch picked up a screen on a first down and then he picked up a 25-yard pass interference penalty on cornerback Buster Skrine to put the ball Jets 18 with 1:25 left.

Dalton threw an interception under pressure in the half, but he had a 105.8 passer rating on 14 of 19 passing for 213 yards. He hit all six targets to Green for 87 yards that included a 54-yard touchdown pass, a play he also was working against Revis.

But the Bengals defensive line couldn't generate sack of Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick until the first series of the third quarter and he had plenty of time for two TD passes in the first half on 12 of 21 passing for 112 yards and a 103.5 passer rating.

It was Jets running back Matt Forte that did the most damage in the half. Wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker combined for just two catches (Decker caught a TD), but Forte ran for 53 yards on 12 carries and caught three more for 34 yards.

Meanwhile, the Bengals handed it off just five times in the half for 17 yards split by Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard.    

After going up 10-7, it looked like the Bengals had forced a punt in response to Jets rookie Jalin Marshall's 65-yard kick return. But safety George Iloka was called for hitting Marshall in the head and neck as a defenseless receiver over the middle on what looked to be a border-line call.

That gave Fitzpatrick a first down at the Bengals 25 and he got the touchdown when hit Decker on the back shoulder for a 15-yard touchdown despite tight coverage from cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. When Nick Folk missed the first extra point of his career to go along Bengals defensive lineman Margus Hunt's blocked field goal in the first quarter that gave the Jets a 13-10 lead with 9:38 left in the half.

Then the Bengals couldn't protect Dalton on the next series and gave up two sacks for 15 yards on the first two sacks. Nose tackle Steve McLendon basically blew up the drive on the first snap when he just bulled up the middle and Dalton didn't have a shot.

An ensuing 30-yard punt by Kevin Huber didn't help and that set up Folk's 45-yard field goal that made it 16-10 with 3:19 left in the half.

 When in doubt, dial up Dalton and Green.

After a bumpy first quarter, Green, the perennial Pro Bowl wide receiver, whacked Revis, the perennial Jets Pro Bowl cornerback, and Dalton laid it up there for a 54-yard touchdown pass that gave the Bengals a 10-7 lead with 11:23 left in the half.

That came one play after Dalton hit wide receiver Brandon LaFell for his first catch as a Bengal on  a shallow crossing route. With the Jets blitzing six, Dalton had to get rid of it and LaFell got it for 20 yards. Then on the next play, the Bengals ran some misdirection with Boyd going in  motion and Dalton executing a play-action fake to free up Green.

 The Bengals missed a chance to tie at 7 when tight end C.J. Uzomah, in his first NFL start, was wide open in the flat at the Jets 10 and would have walked in but he couldn't catch the low ball. Dalton couldn't get enough on it because he was under pressure and had to unload it before he wanted. That came after Uzomah made the biggest play of his career, a 54-yard catch over the middle that Dalton lofted over linebacker Darron Lee and then Uzomah ran away from safety Calvin Pryor.

On third down from the Jets 15 he went back to Uzomah working on cornerback Marcus Williams crossing across the end zone but the ball was high and they had to settle for former Jets draft pick Nugent's 30-yard field goal that cut the Jets' lead to 7-3 with 1:29 left in the first quarter.

It was Williams who intercepted Dalton on the previous series as Dalton took a shot from that man Leonard Williams, the Bengals first Opening Day turnover since 2013. But the Dalton interception on the second series didn't hurt as the Jets drove to the Bengals 5 and looked ready to go up 14-0. On first down cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick outmuscled monstrous Brandon Marshall for a pass defense and after an incompletion over the middle, safety Josh Shaw dropped Bilal Powell for no gain and Hunt came up with his first NFL blocked kick on Folk's 22-yard field goal try.

The proud Bengals defense, off a season it set a franchise scoring record, got hit on the season's first drive when Fitzpatrick led a stunningly easy 78-yard, 10-play touchdown drive.

The Bengals offense got off to a choppy start. Dalton Green working against Revis on the second snap with a high throw and Green made a nice leaping catch but was short of the first down by a yard.

On third-and-one, the Bengals brought in Jake Fisher as the extra tackle, but he was called for an illegal procedure. Then on third-and-six, Dalton was forced to take a timeout. When he came back to the huddle, he couldn't find anybody open and had to take the coverage sack.

PRE-GAME NOTESIn what appeared to be a nod to special teams for Sunday's opener against the Jets, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis sat down two offensive linemen and a defensive lineman to make sure he had all linebackers and all but one defensive back suited up at MetLife Stadium.

The Bengals deactivated backup defensive tackle DeShawn Williams, leaving them with just seven defensive linemen and three tackles on a day forecast to reach the mid-80s. They also sat down backup tackle Trey Hopkins and backup guard Christian Westerman, indicating that Jake Fisher (knee/ankle) is well enough to back up Cedric Ogbuehi in his first NFL start at right tackle.

Slot cornerback Darqueze Dennard (ankle) was well on his way to the inactive list when he was labelled doubtful on Friday. That puts backup safety Josh Shaw at the nickel for just the second game of his career against veteran Jets slot receiver Eric Decker.

Also down for the Bengals were tight end Tyler Eifert, wide receiver Cody Core, and third quarterback Jeff Driskel.

Expected to get his first NFL start at tight end was C.J. Uzomah.

With MetLife honoring the anniversary of 9/11 as every fan was given an American flag , middle linebacker Rey Maualuga led out the Bengals holding the American. With former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani  flipping the coin, the Bengals wore NYPD ball caps presented to them at Saturday's visit to the 9/11 Memorial. The Jets won the toss and deferred.

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