While the score might not signify a game that was pretty offensively, it was a masterpiece if you love good defense, because the Bengals for most of the night were suffocating the Jets and looked like they have the makings of a another top-10 defense.
Andrew Whitworth, Leon Hall, Cedric Peerman, and Jermaine Gresham were out representing the Bengals at the coin toss. The fact that Peerman was out there shows how much the team thinks of the 4th-string runningback and his abilities as a special teams ace.
The opening drive for the Bengals defense couldn’t have gone any better. Manny Lawson made a one-on-one tackle on John Connor on the first play of the game. He looked noticeably stronger after playing in a limited role last season despite starting every game. Rey Maualuga sacked Mark Sanchez on third-down and forced a three-and-out and couldn’t have looked any better doing it.
The opening drive for the Bengals offense was a different story, as they went three-and-out and starting guard Travelle Wharton went down with a knee injury that required the dreaded injury cart to come take him off the field. Clint Boling took his place at LG.
On the next defensive drive for the Bengals, Maualuga injured his ankle and limped off the field. On third-and-2 of that same drive, Terrence Newman had a nice pass-breakup to halt the drive. However, a special teams penalty would keep it alive, and on first-down, Carlos Dunlap went down with a knee injury, but was able to walk off the field, though he did it very gingerly.
The Bengals D would eventually get off the field after Lawson and Roddrick Muckelroy combined for a sack and Sanchez threw an incomplete pass on third-down after facing another heavy rush. In the Jets’ two drives with the starters in, the Bengals defense was constantly in the backfield and in the face of Sanchez, notching two sacks and several pressures.
The Bengals offense finally got going after a third-down completion to Andrew Hawkins and an 11-yard run by Green-Ellis got them into Jets territory. Then on third-and-long, Green-Ellis caught a pass over the middle and took it 18 yards to the Jets 26-yard line. Jermaine Gresham caught an 11-yard pass and got down to the Jets 5-yard line as the quarter ended.
The drive would stall there, and a Mike Nugent field goal gave the Bengals a 3-0 lead after they drove 75 yards down to the Jets 5-yard line but couldn’t punch it in, something that plagued them all of last year.
The Jets would then go on a drive behind Tim Tebow that was 8 plays, 36 yards, and lasted 4:14. It ended with a Josh Brown field goal from 42 yards that tied the game at 3 with 9:48 remaining.
The Bengals second-team, led by Bruce Gradkowski came in and subsequently went three-and-out. Both offense would continue to stall until the Bengals final drive before the half, when Gradkowski hit Armon Binns and Brandon Tate for long passes to drive the Bengals down to the Jets 27-yard line with 2:00 remaining. A sack and a holding penalty would halt the drive, but the Bengals would block the ensuing Jets punt and score a TD to take a 10-3 lead into the half. Robert Sands and Dan Skuta got the block on the punt and Cedric Peerman recovered it in the end zone for the TD. It was the Bengals special teams’ first blocked punt in three years.