The Jets, when playing Cincinnati at home, had the Bengals' number for a long time. But neither that nor their fantastic finish at Cleveland last week could slow down a winless but awakened Bengals unit that returned to MetLife Stadium for the second year in a row and this time handed the Jets a 27-12 defeat on Sunday afternoon.
The Jets' 34-31 win at home last year? Cincy's 0-2 start to the season? Joe Burrow sacked a league-high 13 times? None of that seemed to matter as the Bengals, last year's AFC representative in Super Bowl LVI, shook off its doldrums from the first two weeks and knocked the Jets to 1-2.
The statistics for the teams ended up fairly even (Cincinnati led in first downs, 20-19, and yards, 330-328) and the Jets did shut down the Joe Mixon-led ground game for three-plus quarters. But the game wasn't that close as Burrow clicked with three of his receivers, RB Samaje Perine and WRs Tyler Boyd and Ja'Marr Chase, for touchdown passes to build a 27-9 lead in the third quarter and the Stripes coasted to their first win.
Joe Flacco and his receivers had some connections — TE Tyler Conklin had eight catches for 84 yards, rookie WR Garrett Wilson six for 60 — but other times struggled to move the ball. Last week's QB hero (4 TDs, no INTs, 307 yards vs. the Browns) completed 28 of 52 for 285 yards no TDs, threw two INTs, was sacked four times, suffered three strip sacks and lost two of them. DE Trey Hendrickson was credited with 2.5 of those sacks.
See the best images from the Week 3 matchup between the Jets and Bengals at MetLife Stadium.
Second Half: No Cleveland Comeback Replay
The beginning of the end came when top Cincinnati sacker Hendrickson beat LT George Fant and hit Flacco's arm from behind. The stripsack was recovered by DT B.J. Hill, who returned it to the Jets 24. Three plays later, Burrow, unflustered under pressure, flicked a 5-yard touchdown pass to Chase.
So the Bengals turned the Jets' second-half opening-drive bid to get back into this game into a quick strike to open their lead wider still at 27-9 just 2:58 into the third quarter.
The Jets offense, who lost Wilson for a short while, then got him back but lost Fant to his ailing knee, continued to move only so far before coming to a stop. Their next drive went to the 25 before Greg Zuerlein, in the middle of a record-book long-range game, hit his fourth field goal in four tries from 43 yards to trim the Jets' deficit to 27-12 as the teams headed into the fourth quarter.
The Jets got as close as the Bengals 14 with 10:37 to go, but an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty on WR Corey Davis and a fourth-down strip of Flacco ended that attempt to turn this game into a Browns-like miracle comeback.
Flacco's fourth-and-1 pass for Breece Hall from the Cincinnati 17 was batted in the air and intercepted by S Jessie Bates to seal the Jets' defeat, just their second loss in their last 12 home games against the visitors from southern Ohio.
First Half: Bengals Flip Their Script
Both teams scored on their opening drives. The Bengals went 75 yards on 11 plays to open a 7-0 lead on Burrow's scramble and toss to Perine for a 12-yard score just 5:25 into the game.
The Jets answered with their own opening drive to the Cincinnati 30, stalling, and then bringing on Zuerlein for his second field goal of 50-plus yards in back-to-back games, this one from 50 on the nose to cut the Jets' early deficit to 7-3.
On Cincy's second series, outstanding Chase committed an unforced fumble after a reception, with LB C.J. Mosley pouncing on the loose ball at the Bengals 43. This Jets got a little closer to the goal line before halting, so Zuerlein came on once again, this time for a 40-yard FG to cut the Jets' deficit to 7-6 late in the opening frame.
But a John Franklin-Myers roughing call of Burrow on third-and-9 extended the visitors' next drive, then on their next third down, Burrow beat the Jets' blitz to hit Boyd, who then bounced off tackle attempts by Jordan Whitehead and Michael Carter II for a 56-yard catch-and-run score on the last play of the first quarter to open the Bengals' lead back to 14-6.
After opening their first two games with 17-6 deficits, the Stripes were suddenly on top by a touchdown, with more to come.
The second quarter was more of the same for a Bengals reawakening as they moved 71 yards to the Jets 4, then Burrow found Chase for what was ruled fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line. But Jets HC Robert Saleh challenged the ruling and referee Jerome Boger overturned the call into an incompletion. The Bengals settled for Evan McPherson's 22-yard FG and a 17-6 lead midway through the second quarter.
Then the visitors capitalized again following a Flacco interception by LB Logan Wilson into Jets territory with McPherson's 43-yard FG and a 20-6 lead with 5:28 left in the first half. The 14-point advantage was the Bengals' largest at any point in the last 13 Jets home games in this series, one of many indications that this game was not going the Jets way.
It looked as if the Jets would take that deficit into the locker room. But shortly after the Jets' first sack of Burrow, by Quinnen Williams, forced a three-and-out, the Jets maneuver to another long-range Zuerlein kick. This time "Legatron" drilled it from 52 yards, giving him three 50+ FGs in the last two games (the last 3 quarters, actually). Thus Zuerlein became the first kicker in franchise history to hit three 50-yarders in back-to-back games.