It wasn't always pretty, but the Jets used a big 2nd half to cruise past the Cincinnati Bengals 26-10.
The first half performance was forgettable at best, as the team left to boos down 7-3 to the lowly Bengals (2-9). But as usual, the Jets received the ball in the 2nd half. From there, they proceeded to dominate the football game and put it out of reach.
Brad Smith was the hero in this one. Smith had a 53-yard touchdown run on an end-around early in the 3rd quarter to give the Jets the lead back rather quickly. The defense forced a three-and-out, but Sanchez threw an awful interception to Rey Maualuga. Luckily, Bengals kicker Aaron Pettrey missed the field goal. The Jets went three-and-out again, but the ensuing punt grazed Bengals WR Andre Caldwell's leg, and James Ihedigbo was alert enough to dive on the ball. Two plays later, Sanchez found Santonio Holmes in the endzone for a 13-yard strike.
The rest of the game was an offensive struggle for both sides. Both defenses capitalized on field position, with the Bengals blocking a punt from the Jets' 1-yard line, setting up a short field goal. But Smith quickly answered with an 89-yard kick return for a touchdown, giving the Jets a 14 point lead. Then midway through the 4th quarter, the Jets sacked Carson Palmer in the endzone for a safety, essentially icing the game with 6:52 left.
This game wasn't perfect, especially offensively, but the defense showed up in a big way in the 2nd half. The Bengals had just 163 total yards of offense and Palmer had two interceptions. Smith and Ihedigbo also made big plays on special teams.
But the offense was a problem. Sanchez had a poor game, going 16 for 28 for just 166 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. However, he left a lot of plays on the field by making poor throws, and as a result, the Jets failed to string too many drives together and only scored on one of their two red zone opportunities.
The Jets opted to play conservatively, keeping the ball on the ground and keeping the Bengals' offense off the field. Shonn Greene, Brad Smith, and LaDainian Tomlinson combined for 174 yards rushing. Neither Greene nor Tomlinson averaged 4 yards per carry, but they consistently would gain at least a couple. Smith's 53-yard touchdown pads those numbers a bit as well.
Next is New England. The defense appears mostly ready for them, but is the offense? The passing game wasn't in sync, and the rushing game was mostly average. And the penalties keep continuing: 8 for 64 yards in this game. Still, as good teams need to do, they did enough in the 2nd half not only to win, but win comfortably. Kind of like the Patriots earlier in the day, who, like the Jets, trailed at halftime, only to win by double digits.
With both the Jets and Patriots at 9-2, the winner takes command of this division with just four games to go after it. If the Jets win it, they would also own the tiebreaker, giving them a dominant lead. But the Patriots are dominant in Foxboro. This is going to be the most important regular season game before Christmas in years. The Jets better be ready.