It was still a game early in the third quarter on Sunday. The Bengals, leading by 20-9, recovered a fumble deep in Jets' territory and again had their eyes on the end zone.
Ja'Marr Chase was split out on the right with Tyler Boyd with Jets rookie CB Sauce Gardner and LB Quincy Williams in opposition. But when QB Joe Burrow took the snap from center, Boyd went to the sideline, taking Gardner and Williams with him. Chase slanted to the left and was unguarded in the end zone as he caught one of Burrow's 3 TD passes in the game. After Lamarcus Joyner delivered pre-snap messaging to Gardner and Williams, he drifted towards the middle of the end zone and Chase capitalized on the open space.
After the game, Gardner's partner at cornerback, D.J. Reed, lamented what he perceives to be a failure to effectively communicate in the Jets' defensive backfield.
"I would say we have to communicate more," said Reed, who signed with the Jets in free agency from Seattle. "I think we're not communicating enough, we're not overcommunicating, it's loud out there and I think that starts at practice just being extra loud because when we're on the field, sometimes somebody can say something to you and you can't hear it, but we have to look at each other, we have to have hand signals, we have to communicate so stuff like that doesn't happen, not just on the back end, but the linebackers, we all work together we all have to be on the same page and right now, we're not doing that and feel like we're not overcommunicating."
In the game, Burrow completed 23-of-36 passes for 275 yards and those 3 TD passes, and in the early going the Bengals converted their first four third downs. Chase finished the game with 6 receptions for a modest 29 yards and that single TD. Reed and Gardner managed to mostly keep the lid on, but Reed asserted that the defensive players and coaches needed to hash out some things.
"It's unacceptable," Reed said in a calm and steady voice. "The mental errors are unacceptable. So, we've got to have a meeting and just talk about everything. We gotta get this right. This has to happen. Has to happen."
Not to be overlooked is that the Jets' defensive backfield is working toward continuity. In essence, two corners (Reed and Gardner) and two safeties (Jordan Whitehead and Joyner, who missed last season because of a triceps injury) have only played together in three regular-season games.
Head coach Robert Saleh, in his postgame press conference, also lamented "mental errors," basically two plays, two personal fouls that cost the Jets dearly. The first was John Franklin-Myers' roughing the quarterback call that gave the Bengals a first down and led to Cincy's second TD. Then there was Corey Davis' unsportsmanlike penalty that cost the Jets 15 yards deep in Cincinnati territory when it was still a two-score game. Instead of third-and-6, it became third-and-21. On fourth down, Flacco was sacked and fumbled.
"Our vets made critical mistakes at critical times," Saleh said. "JFM [John Franklin-Myers] had the critical third-down foul which, ticky-tack or not, he just doesn't have to. And then Corey with the penalty he had. It has to get fixed."
Reed said: "The mistakes, we can't have. Penalties on third down, mental errors — we're not even giving a team a chance to beat us. We're just beating ourselves.
"They had the touchdown, OK, clap it up. But the other stuff is mental errors. We have to make it simple so we can stop with the mental errors, we have to communicate more, whatever the case might be.
"We have to get it fixed."
He added: "We gotta get it straightened out. Coaches on the defensive side and players. Tell them [the coaches] the dilemmas, what we're struggling with, what's working, what's not working. As far as the players: We've got to over-communicate because right now, we're not."
See the best images from the Week 3 matchup between the Jets and Bengals at MetLife Stadium.