Updated: 7:35 p.m.
The defense that got the Bengals into Saturday's AFC Wild Card playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium with brilliant play much of the season, didn't have enough left to bail out its season-long struggling offense in a 24-14 loss to the Jets.
And when they needed the most accurate kicker in their history and franchise player to come through, Shayne Graham missed two red-zone field goals, the last one from 28 yards out with 3:44 left that ended an improbable run that included a division sweep and AFC North title with four losses in their last five games.
The Bengals were supposed to beat a rookie quarterback at home with their two-time Pro Bowl quarterback. But the Jets' Mark Sanchez hit 12 of 15 passes for 182 yards and a passer rating of 139.4 while Carson Palmer was 18-of-36 for 146 yards, 58.3 rating, and a slew of dropped passes and miscommunication on throws. And wide receiver Chad Ochocinco had just two catches.
Running back Cedric Benson, the only offensive threat the Bengals had, breathed life back into his team and his stadium when he jetted off left tackle and behind a block by wide receiver Andre Caldwell for a 47-yard touchdown that cut the Jets lead to 21-14 with 11:04 left in the game.
It gave Benson 169 yards on 21 carries, breaking Ickey Woods' Bengals playoff record of 126 set against Seattle on Dec. 31, 1988. It was also the longest run in Bengals postseason history.
But the Bengals immediately gave up a back-breaking 43-yard pass to tight end Dustin Keller over the middle off a play-action bootleg rollout from Sanchez.
That set up Jay Feely's chip-shot field goal that made it 24-14 with just over five minutes left.
As the third quarter ended, the Jets had taken advantage of a stumbling Bengals offense to take command with a 21-7 lead.
With Benson gaining 119 of the Bengals' 178 total yards on the ground, the Jets were able to counter with running back Shonn Greene's 116 yards in the first three quarters on his way to 135 yards on 21 carries, the most rung up against the Bengals this season.
Graham had a chance to cut the Jets lead to 14-10 with a 35-yard field goal with 6:29 left in the third quarter.
But he hooked it for his first miss after making 12 straight and Benson's big-time drive was wasted. Benson had a 27-yard run as he went over the 100-mark mark for the sixth straight PBS game. Also helpful was cornerback Darrelle Revis' 26-yard pass interference penalty working against Ochocinco, but The Ocho still had no catches to that point. He didn't get his first one until 11:45 left in the game on a nine-yarder over the middle.
After jumping to a 7-0 lead Saturday, the Bengals defense that got them into this AFC Wild Card playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium melted down by giving up two long touchdowns to fall behind at the half, 14-7.
The second half started just as badly when the Bengals tried to catch the Jets napping on the kickoff with a short kick that backfired and put the ball at midfield. The Bengals then dodged the bullet when Jay Feely's 42-yarder field goal was negated with a hold. Then the Jets were called for a false start penalty and were forced to punt.
But the offense that has struggled for most of the season continued to spit and start and worse, they were down to two healthy receivers at halftime when Andre Caldwell limped off the field with a sprained ankle in the last minute of the half. He joined Laveranues Coles, who injured his thumb midway through the second quarter. Caldwell was expected to return and Coles came back for the first series of the second half.
Palmer, with 8-of-14 passing for just 48 yards in the half, didn't have his usual crispness and Ochocinco continued to be blanked against the Jets, going six straight quarters without a catch.
In a 7-7 game, Sachez pulled off a bootleg and while on the run he hit a wide open Keller running away from safety Chinedum Ndukwe and Ndukwe couldn't get him to the ground inside the 10 for a 45-yard touchdown pass with 6:19 left in the first half.
After stoning the Bengals on back-to-back three-and-outs, the Jets took advantage on Greene's 39-yard touchdown run that tied it at seven with 11 minutes left in the half.
Sanchez faked to the fullback and then came back with an option pitch to Greene on the short side of the field and Greene ran past defensive lineman Frostee Rucker and then followed Keller's block of cornerback Leon Hall.
And the Bengals couldn't get it back on the next series when they suffered their second turnover of the game on Palmer's interception with 8:26 left. On third and six, Palmer tried to hit Ochocinco's back shoulder on the sidelines and Revis read it at the Jets 23 for the pick and he returned it 20 yards to set up the go-ahead touchdown.
Coles, the long-time Jet, got the first word in when his 11-yard touchdown catch from Palmer on third-and-five gave the Bengals a 7-0 lead with 7:07 left in the first quarter.
The drive came courtesy of rookie cornerback Rico Murray's alert 23-yard punt return of a short kick by emergency punter Jay Feely, the kicker pinch-hitting for the ill Steve Weatherford.
Benson, who had 73 yards on 13 carries in the half, ripped off 19 over the left side to set up Palmer's first playoff touchdown pass. Coles lined up in the slot and beat cornerback Dwight Lowery on an out pattern to the goal line.
It was quite an opening seven minutes for Coles. The Bengals actually had great field position on their first two drives, the first on Bernard Scott's 56-yard opening kick return to the Jets 36. But they turned it over right away when Coles fumbled at the 26 as he was close to a first down on a third-down pass.
Head coach Marvin Lewis challenged the fumble strip by Jets linebacker Bryan Thomas, but it was not overruled.
The Bengals lost starting SAM linebacker Rashad Jeanty on the kickoff when he broke his left fibula. Brandon Johnson started in his spot. Johnson forced a punt on the second Jets series when on third-and-11 Sanchez had Keller wide open over the middle at the Bengals 25 and Johnson tipped it away at the last instant.
Lewis ran out of challenges for the game with 47 seconds left in the first quarter when he red flagged a third-and-five first-down pass to Jets receiver Jerricho Cotchery. But the replay officials ruled that Cotchery kept his feet in-bounds on a play there was no Bengals defender within five yards.
Johnson then came up with his second big-third down play when he forced a punt following his deflection at the line of a Sanchez pass.
Sanchez was an effiecient 7-of-10 for 94 yards and was the beneficiary of great field position. The Jets' average drive start in the half was the Bengals 40.
PREGAME NOTES: With a nod to defense and special teams for Saturday's Wild Card game, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis' inactive list had running back Larry Johnson, as well as safety Tom Nelson.
Nelson, who injured his knee Sunday night against the Jets, is going to be replaced most likely on special teams by defensive back Keiwan Ratliff, signed Monday. Also out were wide receiver Jerome Simpson, defensive tackle Orien Harris, tight end Darius Hill, center Jonathan Luigs, and fullback Fui Vakapuna.
The list indicated that Lewis felt good about the health of defensive tackle Domata Peko, as well as tight end J.P. Foschi. Another reason Larry Johnson was inactive is the Bengals kept an extra offensive lineman active in tackle Anthony Collins.
Chad Ochocinco, wearing orange gloves with a black No. 15 in the palms to honor the late Chris Henry, had a much smoother warmup Saturday at Paul Brown Stadium.
In the pre pregame warmup, The Ocho, celebrating his 32nd birthday, seemed to cut easily while wearing sweats and catching balls from quarterback Carson Palmer. He didn't show any signs of a knee bruise he received falling in Sunday's pregame at The Meadowlands.
The offensive starters, wearing black jerseys and white pants, were introduced individually, as The Ocho held up his palms before running to his teammates. With Cincinnati's Hall of Fame left tackle Anthony Muñoz looking on as an honorary captain, the Bengals won the toss and took the ball.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, whose wife last year wanted to sit outside at a Bears-Packers game when it minus-26 degrees, said on the field before the game Saturday, "This is nothing," as temperatures looked to be about 20 with a 10-degree wind chill. He had a couple of layers on and a short coat with no hat and he was ready to spend about another 30 minutes out there before going upstairs.
He spoke on a variety of topics. He said the league continues to have discussions with the NFL Players Association about a new collective bargainning agreement and while he won't "characterize" the discussions, he said he thought "the respect was high among the two parties," and "there's very good dialouge going on."
He also said he has spoken with former coach and broadcaster John Madden as well as Rich McKay, co chair of the NFL Competition Committee, about how some teams that have made the playoffs sat a lot of their starters. He indicated he'd pursue it with the committee.
"There are a lot of ideas floating around out there," he said. "We want our game to have integrity. ... No one feels that coaches are wrong in what they did, but should we modify the structure so that every game is as meanigful as possible? That''s what we're trying to figure out."
» He's fan of The Ocho even though he leads the league in fines.
"He's a great individual and a great player," Goodell said. "I'd love to have him follow the rules. No one gets any pleasure out of fining him."
» Goodell, who attended Henry's funeral last month, admires what the Bengals have accomplished this season.
"They've certainly have had a lot of personal tragedy and that's obviously been a challenge for them on and off the field. They're a good football team. They deserve to be here. It's a tribute to the leadership of Mike (Brown), Coach (Marvin Lewis) and the players. Being able to keep everyone together and focus on the football game."
» Goodell said, "I loved (the Bengals on Hard Knocks). I thought it was great for the team and the fans."