E. RUTHERFORD, N.J. — For the most part, Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer's call to coverage last week paid off, but the first unit still got stung for some big passes in Sunday night's 27-7 loss.
The game opened with Jets wide receiver Plaxico Burress running through a zone for 20 yards and later Burress and quarterback Mark Sanchez looked like they'd been together forever when cornerback Leon Hall was draped all over Burress and Sanchez lofted a 20-yarder to his back shoulder. And the one TD the first unit gave up came on a 16-yard pass to a wide-open Santonio Holmes. Someone obviously blew a coverage back there because head coach Marvin Lewis observed, "That was a great teachable moment for the guys involved in that and how it needs to be played better in that particular defense."
MORE DEFENSE: The Bengals' pressure was a little better Sunday compared to the preseason opener because Zimmer dialed up the blitz after being blackboard in Detroit. The first sack of the season ended up getting shared between SAM backer Manny Lawson and tackle Clinton McDonald after stunting backers Rey Maualuga and Thomas Howard flushed out Sanchez.
McDonald and fellow tackles Domata Peko and Geno Atkins held up well in the running game and were a big part of giving the Jets just 16 yards on 11 carries in the first half. But the standout player continues to be safety Reggie Nelson. Not only was he solid in the running game (he shared a tackle for loss with Peko), but Zimmer used him some on the blitz Sunday, where he knocked down a Sanchez third-down pass.
FUMBLE: A season after running back Cedric Benson fumbled seven times, another one hit the ground Sunday when he and Dalton had a bad exchange that resulted in a 19-yard loss. Dalton wasn't sure if it was a wet ball or a miscommunication but said, "I have to make sure it gets in there."
DALTON'S LEARNING CURVE: Left tackle Andrew Whitworth isn't surprised by the struggles of Dalton. He thinks Dalton has shown enough that he'll be the guy the Bengals need, but he knows it will take a while.
"There's no doubt about it. This isn't TCU. This isn't college football," Whitworth said. "This is the NFL. There's a lot of great players. He's growing like any rookie has to grow. Most of the time they're sitting watching a veteran ahead of them, but he's stepping in here and taking the reins. He's fighting his butt off and playing better every single day and we have to continue to do the same thing as a team."
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» A big night for wide receiver Andre Caldwell after he missed the preseason opener with an abdominal pull. He was the Bengals leading receiver with 50 yards on two tough catches, including the season's longest play, an acrobatic 39-yard catch from backup Bruce Gradkowski. Dalton threw him a nice 11-yarder over the shoulder between cornerback Antonio Cromartie and safety Dwight Lowery and Caldwell held on despite getting rocked by Cromartie.
» Rookie wide receiver Andrew Hawkins made his debut and showed how versatile he is. He had a 15-yard catch, downed a punt on the Jets 1, had a special teams tackle, and chased down linebacker Brasheed Satele at the Bengals 4 to prevent an interception run back for a touchdown.
» With Jordan Palmer not quarterbacking at all Sunday night and Dan LeFevour working the fourth quarter for a 52.1 rating on 2-of-5 passing, the roles figure to be reversed Thursday night against the Panthers at Paul Brown Stadium.
» LeFevour had the honor of being linebacker Aaron Maybin's first sack as a Jet. The 11th pick in the draft of 2009 by Buffalo, Maybin, drafted as a pass rusher, has no regular-season sacks.