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 on Thursday night.
Hours after New England beat Detroit to improve to 9-2, New York matched the Patriots and 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 games. And the Jets did it by overcoming a sluggish first half and sending the struggling Bengals (2-9) to their eighth straight loss.
The Jets and Patriots meet for the AFC East lead in their next game, a meaty Monday night matchup Dec. 6 at New England.
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 was another disappointing loss for the Bengals, who previously lost to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday in game they led 31-14 but were outscored 35-0 in the second half.
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, while Owens finished with three receptions for 17 yards.
The Jets took advantage of Jim Leonhard’s interception, New York’s first in seven games – their longest drought since 1979 – early in the second quarter.
Keller had a 21-yard catch on first down from the Jets 34 and Bengals cornerback Jonathan Wade, signed earlier in the week, was called for a face-mask penalty, adding 15 yards and putting the ball at Cincinnati’s 30. After three runs by LaDainian Tomlinson put the Jets at the 13, the drive stalled and New York settled for a 27-yard field goal with 9:01 left in the first half.
Cincinnati had another promising drive short-circuited when Palmer threw into triple coverage to Owens in the end zone and Cromartie picked it off.