EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Bengals dug down for that complementary effort they needed for their first victory of the season Sunday, a 27-12 win over the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium.
Quarterback Joe Burrow threw three third-down touchdown passes to three different receivers and sack ace Trey Hendrickson came up with his first 2.5 of the season that included two huge sack-strip as they channeled the big plays from the AFC title run. Burrow finished with a steady-hand 23 of 36 for 275 yards, with slot receiver Tyler Boyd catching a game-high 105 that included a 56-yard touchdown on a YAC special to end the first quarter. The Jets couldn't cover wide receiver Tee Higgins and he physically dominated them with five catches for 93 yards, all in the first half.
Rallying around a knee injury that drove nose tackle DJ Reader from the game in the first half, his buddies on defense stepped up and bothered Jets quarterback Joe Flacco like it was the old days when he went 9-11 against the Bengals while with the Ravens and threw 25 interceptions. Flacco was 28 of 52 for 285 yards on Sunday, and was picked off twice. Middle linebacker Logan Wilson ranged like a safety for an interception in the second quarter and then free safety Jessie Bates III on what was the last play of the game off a tip..
The Jets got four field goals before they reached the red zone early in the fourth quarter. That's all they would get. Hendrickson was there waiting. On fourth-and-six from the Bengals 14, Hendrickson, sucking up a shoulder issue that briefly sent him to the sidelines, beat his second Jets left tackle of the day. This time Connor McGovern, switched from center, saw him go by and stripping Flacco with 10:03 left and the Bengals leading by 15.
Hendrickson, held sackless in back-to-back games for the first time since 2019, came up huge. The Bengals then salted it away in the ensuing drive. They ran it nine straight times, with eight of those attempts going to running back Semaje Perine as the clock ticked from 10:03 to 2:19 remaining. Perine got 47 yards on the drive, but Evan McPherson missed the first road field goal attempt of his career on his 30th try, a 41-yarder wide left
The Bengals held the Jets to 140 yards in the first half with a bevy of different blitz looks to go with the Wilson pick. When Cincinnati went against the grain to take the ball after winning the coin toss, it worked out in both halves. The Bengals scored on the first possession of the game, and then on the Jets' first series of the second half Hendrickson came screaming off the edge on third down against left tackle George Fant and got Flacco and the ball. It was recovered by three technique B.J. Hill -- his first career fumble recovery -- at the New York 24.
On third down from the 5, an old friend from the edge, Carl Lawson, and blitzing linebacker C.J. Mosley blew up Burrow just as he saw wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase wide open in the end zone for the score that put the Bengals up 27-9 just three minutes into the half. It was Burrow's first three-touchdown day since the AFC North-clinching win over the Chiefs in Week 17 last season.
The Bengals couldn't put them away with 4:40 left in third quarter. They had a fourth-and-one from the Jets' 19, burned their second timeout and with the Bengals in an extra tackle set they tried a jet sweep to Chase to the right and he didn't get a yard.
For the first time since December of 2020 the Bengals won the toss and took the ball in an effort to exorcise the slow start. After not scoring in the first half in the first two games, they scored three times on the first drive.
One, a four-yard shovel pass to Boyd, was erased on rookie left guard Cordell Volson's holding penalty. The second one, a 12-yard touchdown coming on the 6-foot-4 Higgins' leap over 5-9 cornerback D.J. Reed in the right corner of the end zone, was ruled out-of-bounds and it survived the Bengals' replay challenge.
Then on third-and-goal, Burrow hung in the pocket for a good bit before rolling to the left and jamming in the touchdown pass to Perine between two defenders at the goal line. That gave the Bengals their first lead of the season with 9:35 left in the first quarter and capped a drive-of-old for Burrow as he hit eight of 10 passes for 95 yards.
He had enough time to convert two monster third downs, quickly unleashing a 19-yard back-shoulder throw to Higgins working against Reed, and then sifting a 22-yarder to Boyd running through a zone on third-and-eight.
They were all in. They tried a double pass (with an extra tackle) and when Burrow got it he went long to Chase steaming down the left sideline inside the 10. The ball was there, but Chase could only get one hand up.They didn't stop gunning. On second-and-seven from his 44, Burrow again went up top to Chase, this time down the right sideline inside the 5. Working against Sauce Gardner, the wondrous Jets rookie cornerback from the University of Cincinnati, Chase went up at the same trying to take it off of Gardner's helmet and couldn't quite do it as the ball fell to the ground.
But on the next snap, no one could catch Boyd. With the Jets sending an all-out blitz, Burrow got rid of it decisively to Boyd over the middle and when safety Jordan Whitehead delivered a shot, Boyd didn't go down. He spun away and there was no one home and he got about 40 yards after the catch on a 56-yard touchdown pass that gave them a 14-6 lead on the last play of the first quarter.
Burrow economically took care of the first half woes, hitting 11 of 15 passes for 163 yards with both touchdown passes coming on third down.
They kept going upstairs and Burrow kept knocking on Higgins' door. The Jets couldn't cover him. Even the acrobatic Gardner. On the first snap after the Boyd touchdown, Burrow went play-action and dropped a 45-yard pearl to Higgins wrestling it away from Gardner down the left sideline. And they got 15 more on a shot to Higgins' head by safety LaMarcus Joyner.
But the Bengals couldn't get any yards on a series that began at the Jets' 4 and took McPherson's field goal to make it 17-6. They had a chance to add on after Wilson's terrific textbook interception. He backpedaled to the middle of the field and reached up in front of wide receiver Braxton Berrios and took it 45 yards the other way with some nifty moves worthy of his running back glory day in Wyoming.
He fumbled at the end, but the Bengals had the ball at the Jets' 25. Yet they couldn't get the seven. With the Jets dialing up the heat, Burrow threw three straight incompletions and their second delay-of-game penalty didn't help.
But McPherson knocked in a 43-yarder that made it 20-6 with 5:28 left in the half.