*Updated, 6:30 p.m. ET
*The Jets' second opening-day assignment under head coach Todd Bowles began as if it would be a fast-start success for the home team, turned into a Cincinnati big-play comeback, and ended up a nailbiting battle between two teams who think of themselves as playoff contenders.
The Bengals got the last kick, former Jet Mike Nugent's 47-yarder with 54 seconds to play, the Jets' only giveaway sealed it on Ryan Fitzpatrick's interception by CB Josh Shaw, and the Bengals took home a 23-22 victory, snapping the Jets' nine-game home win streak over the Stripes.
"You never let one get away," Bowles replied after the game. "You either win them or you lose them. We lost this one. We have to let it go and move on."
The ending marred a smooth start to his Green & White career by RB Matt Forte and a record-tying day of pass-rush pressure on QB Andy Dalton by the defense, led by Steve McLendon, Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson.
That was of no consolation to Bowles, who said, "You have to understand this about me: If we lose the game, nobody played well."
The Jets can't lick their wounds, the coach said, with a Thursday night game against Rex Ryan's Bills in Buffalo's home opener.
Here are seven observations as the game unfolded:
1. Q FactorWR Quincy Enunwa was hot early as Fitzpatrick found him for the 4-yard touchdown with a swing pass on the Jets' opening drive, then for a 23-yard snag over the middle on second-and-12, then 9 more to set up another first down. It was Q's first pro touchdown and gave the Jets their third first-drive TD in 17 games under Fitz, OC Chan Gailey and HC Todd Bowles. Enunwa finished with a career-high seven catches for 54 yards.
2. Forté-fied OffenseFans got their first real up-close look at new featured back Matt Forté and he didn't disappoint. Showing his trademark outstanding vision and quick cuts, Forté ran for 96 yards, added 59 more on five catches, and totaled eight first downs.
"He's a pro's pro," Fitzpatrick said of his backfield mate. But that job description, along with runs of 14, 10 and 13 yards and receptions of 10, 24 and 17 yards, wasn't enough real estate.
3. Dalton Under the GunNo one would mistake new Jets NT McLendon for Ring of Honor DE Mark Gastineau, but the new No. 99 led the early pass rush charge against Dalton, getting his second sack of the game midway through the second quarter. It was McLendon's first multi-sack game of his seven-year career, the first six years spent with the Steelers, and gave him seven total sacks for his career. Williams had two solo sacks, Wilkerson one, and the two split another as Dalton went down seven times on the day.
The seven sacks were the most ever by the Jets at home on opening day and tied the mark for the most sacks in any opener of seven, set 50 years ago in 1966 at Miami.
4. Deep Ball ResponseDalton rebounded smartly from the pressure, though. A.J. Green, who had a pair of 53-yard receptions from Dalton against the Jets at Cincy three years ago, did it again, getting deep down the middle and gathering in a Dalton 54-yard heave against Darrelle Revis 1-on-1. The play gave the Bengals their first lead at 10-7 early in the second quarter.
"I can take a punch on the chin — he had a great game today," Revis said.
Then in the second half, Dalton loaded up again and hit old New England foe Brandon LaFell down the left sideline against Marcus Williams for 49 yards to convert third-and-18 and send the visitors on to their go-ahead TD by Jeremy Hill for a 20-16 lead with 3:09 left in the third quarter.
6. Specials' Mixed BagThere were some nice special teams contributions, such as Jalin Marshall's 65-yard kickoff return — the Jets' longest since 2014 — and a few punts by rookie Lachlan Edwards, perhaps the niftiest a 5.03-hangtime, 53-yard net for a fair catch at the Bengals 8 by Alex Erickson. Nick Folk had three ups — 46-, 20- and 23-yard field goals, the last putting the Jets ahead, 22-20, with 3:25 to play — but also a blocked first FG try and the first extra-point miss of his career after hitting an NFL-record 312 regular-season tries and 322 in a row including playoffs without a miss.
"I left a lot of opportunities out there," Folk said. "I feel pretty bad about it, but we have to move on. We have a game in four days."
7. Red Zone BluesThe Jets' red zone defense held up fair, yielding only Hill's move-the-pile 12-yard TD. But the offense was only 2-for-5, with the blocked field goal wasting first-and-goal at the 4 early and Folk's last two FGs in the fourth quarter coming after first-and-goal at the 3 and first-and-10 at the 15.
"One, it's a credit to them," Fitzpatrick said about the Jets' RZ offense's shortcomings. "Two, it was just poor execution and I don't think it had anything to do with not being prepared and not being on the same page. We just didn't get it done."
Top Images from the Season-Opener on Sept. 11