Smith elevates high-flying Jets
His kickoff return helps sink Bengals
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — One shoe or two, Brad Smith was too much for the Bengals.
Smith, the Jets’ Mr. Everything, scored on an 89-yard kickoff return during which he lost his left shoe and also had a 53-yard touchdown run in New York’s 26-10 victory over Cincinnati last night.
The Jets are off to the second-best start in team history — eclipsed only by the 1986 squad that won 10 of its first 11. And the Jets did it by overcoming a sluggish first half and sending the struggling Bengals (2-9) to their eighth straight loss.
Santonio Holmes scored his fourth touchdown in three games on a 13-yard reception from Mark Sanchez after Cincinnati’s Andre Caldwell had a punt deflect off him while he was blocking. Sanchez was 16 for 28 for 166 yards with the TD and an interception.
Smith had three carries for 55 yards, a catch for 23 yards, and the long kickoff return.
It took New York only two plays to go ahead after halftime. Sanchez hit Holmes for 16 yards, then Smith used superb blocks by Dustin Keller and D’Brickashaw Ferguson to speed down the left sideline untouched for a 53-yard TD run.
The Jets’ defense followed with a three-and-out, but Sanchez gave it back with a terrible pass that was intercepted by linebacker Rey Maualuga. His 11-yard return to the Jets’ 37 set up the Bengals in good shape, and they were aided by a 15-yard roughing-the-passer call against James Ihedigbo on fourth down.
Faced with another fourth down, Cincinnati sent Aaron Pettrey out for a tying 27-yard field goal, but he was wide left.
Ihedigbo made up for his penalty on the next drive when Steve Weatherford punted and officials ruled it hit Caldwell and Ihedigbo recovered at the 14. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis surprisingly did not challenge the play.
After a 1-yard run by Shonn Greene, Sanchez found Holmes zipping across the middle of the end zone for a touchdown and a 17-7 lead.
Pettrey kicked a 28-yard field goal to make it a 3-point game with 12:33 remaining.
But Smith, a wide receiver and converted college quarterback, took the ensuing kickoff, got a few nice blocks, and had a nice cutback before losing his shoe around the 50 and zipping down the right sideline for a touchdown.
Trevor Pryce sacked Carson Palmer in the end zone for a safety, making it 26-10 with 6:52 left.
The anticipated matchups between Cincinnati’s dynamic receiving duo of Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens and New York’s shutdown cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie finished decidedly in the Jets’ favor.
Ochocinco had four catches for 41 yards, and Owens finished with three receptions for 17 yards.