The Bengals normally defer to the second half when they win the coin toss, but on Sunday, they took a more aggressive approach and elected to receive the opening kickoff as Joe Burrow had indicated earlier this week that he would like a chance to start with the ball sometimes.
The aggressiveness paid off when Burrow led the offense down the field for a touchdown on the opening drive, capped by a 12-yard touchdown pass to Samaje Perine. Cincinnati ended up scoring points on four of the first five drives en route to a 20-9 halftime lead – Ja’Marr Chase fumbled on the other one.
Burrow also went deep a few times, which was something that had been lacking in the last two games. He connected with Tee Higgins on a 45-yard pass and had a few other long attempts that fell incomplete. A short pass to Tyler Boyd turned into an explosive play, a 56-yard touchdown at the end of the first quarter.
Boyd finished with 105 yards on four catches, and Higgins had 93 yards on five receptions, despite an injury scare when he took a hit that caused his helmet to pop off on that 45-yard catch. He returned to the game, but there was some initial concern because he had been in concussion protocols after the opener.
2. Pressure and turnovers
The Jets went without a touchdown, and the Bengals defense achieved their goals of trying to get more pressure on the opposing quarterback and forcing turnovers. Joe Flacco was sacked four times, and the Bengals had two interceptions and two forced fumbles they recovered. The first two turnovers resulted in points – a field goal and a touchdown – but Evan McPherson missed a field goal on the third and Jessie Bates’ interception with less than a minute left sealed the game.
Trey Hendrickson, who was quiet in the first two games, recorded 2.5 sacks, four quarterback hits and forced both of the fumbles. Logan Wilson had the first interception and returned it 47 yards. B.J. Hill recovered both of the fumbles caused by Hendrickson. Hendrickson had come off the field with an apparent shoulder injury but returned, and the Bengals played the entire second half without D.J. Reader, who hurt his knee late in the second quarter.
Cincinnati went into the game with just three sacks and one turnover, but no interceptions.
3. Improvement on the O-line
The offensive line played a much better game.
After taking 13 sacks through the first two games, Burrow was sacked just twice on Sunday, and he finished with 275 yards and three touchdowns, including 215 of those yards in the first half. The early lead enabled the Bengals to run the ball and chew up clock in the second half. Hill’s first fumble recovery came on the first drive of the second half to put the offense on the Jets’ 25-yard line, and Burrow threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Chase to give Cincinnati its final score and a 27-9 lead.
Joe Mixon had just 13 yards rushing on eight carries in the first half, but the Bengals ran the ball 20 times in the second half. Although that produced just 2.5 yards per carry, it helped Cincinnati sustain drives. The Bengals had two drives of more than six minutes in the second half.
Mixon came out of the game in the fourth quarter because of a sore ankle.