East Rutherford, NJ (Sports Network) – Brad Smith scored on a 53-yard run and an 89-yard kickoff return, providing the spark for the New York Jets in their 26-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Smith also caught a pass for 23 yards for the Jets (9-2), who have won four in a row and kept pace with New England for first place in the AFC East. The Patriots clobbered Detroit, 45-24, earlier Thursday.
The Jets and Patriots, who hold the best records in the AFC, will meet in Week 13 in a Monday night showdown. The December 6 contest will be played in Foxboro.
New York entered Thursday’s game having won its last three by a combined 12 points, and pulled two of those victories out in overtime. But Smith’s scores, both of which came in the second half, assured the Jets weren’t in for another nailbiter.
While Smith turned in big plays, the rest of the Jets offense was mostly held in check. Quarterback Mark Sanchez threw for 166 yards and a touchdown to Santonio Holmes, while completing 16-of-28 passes and throwing one interception. Shonn Greene was the leading rusher with 70 yards on 18 carries.
“I’m just proud of our defense and special teams, for playing so well, for lifting up the offense today, ‘cause we sure weren’t at our best, and I was pretty much the reason for that,” Sanchez said. “Just some poor reads, poor throws and a couple bad decisions. To get a win when your quarterback doesn’t play that well, that means you’re on a pretty good team.”
New York’s defense held Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer to 135 yards and a score on 17-of-38 completions. Palmer was also picked off twice and sacked in the end zone for a safety, as Cincinnati (2-9) lost its eighth consecutive game.
“They scored two touchdowns in the second half, which were big, and both on plays that we need to be able to defend,” said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. “So I was disappointed in that.”
The Bengals held a 7-3 lead at halftime, but the Jets went in front for good on the second play from scrimmage in the third quarter.
After Sanchez passed to Holmes for 16 yards, Smith’s number was called. Sanchez faked a handoff before giving the ball to Smith, who crossed through the backfield from the right side and ran 53 yards up the left sideline. He picked up a few key blocks to reach the end zone and give the Jets a 10-7 edge.
Despite several mistakes, New York continued to hold a lead — mostly because of a series of Cincinnati gaffes.
Sanchez was intercepted on New York’s next possession and the Bengals had a chance to tie the game, but Aaron Pettrey missed a 27-yard field goal. Andre Caldwell muffed a punt a possession later, giving New York the ball at the Cincinnati 14.
The Jets again needed only two plays to score — Greene ran for a yard before Sanchez found Holmes. The receiver lined up on the right side and sprinted directly into the end zone before making a sharp cut into the middle, where he made the catch for a 17-7 lead.
Sanchez was nearly sacked in the end zone on the final play of the quarter, but officials ruled him down at the one, allowing the Jets to punt the ball away.
The Bengals caught a break when Steve Weatherford’s kick hit teammate Josh Mauga and traveled only 23 yards, and Pettrey’s 28-yarder had Cincinnati within one touchdown.
However, Smith’s kickoff return essentially secured the win for the Jets. He got into open space and reached midfield before losing his left shoe. But he actually picked up speed once the cleat was off and outran everyone, making it a 24-10 game with a little more than 12 minutes to go.
“One of my goals is to be a catalyst, to be the spark, to be a guy that, when things aren’t going well — or things are going well — to add to it, to keep piling the wood on and light it on fire,” Smith said.
The Jets defense kept the Bengals on their own side of the field for the rest of the game, and Trevor Pryce’s sack of Palmer with 6:52 on the clock accounted for the final score.
Neither offense had much success in a scoreless first quarter, and Palmer’s first interception led to the game’s first points. The quarterback tried a deep pass for Terrell Owens, but safety Jim Leonhard grabbed the ball to give New York possession at its own 23.
Running back LaDainian Tomlinson got the ball on most of the drive’s plays, but the biggest gain came on Sanchez’s 21-yard pass to tight end Dustin Keller. Cornerback Jonathan Wade got a 15-yard facemask penalty on the play to` bring the Jets to the Bengals’ 30, and Nick Folk kicked a 27-yard field goal with 9:01 left.
The Bengals put together their most successful drive late in the half, taking over at their own 37 and reaching the Jets’ five for a 1st-and-goal. On second down, Palmer’s pass to Chad Ochocinco on the left side of the end zone was called incomplete — a ruling that was upheld upon review, despite Ochocinco appearing to get both feet in bounds.
But Palmer found Jordan Shipley at the front of the end zone on the next play, putting the Bengals in front with 43 seconds left.
Folk missed a 44-yarder with only seconds remaining in the half.
New York has won its last four meetings with Cincinnati…Palmer’s 135 passing yards are a season-low…Holmes and Shipley each finished with a game-high five receptions…Bengals running back Cedric Benson was held to 41 yards on 18 carries.