Andy Dalton kept getting a close view of the pristine green turf at MetLife Stadium. The Jets kept flinging the Cincinnati quarterback down to field level, sacking him seven times, six by their relentless and talent-heavy line.
“Our quarterback will not make it through the season if we give up seven sacks a week,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said.
One of the Jets’ best pass rushers, Sheldon Richardson, didn’t even play. Yet seven sacks weren’t enough to power a victory. Dalton hit on 23 of 30 passes for 366 yards and a touchdown, former Jet Mike Nugent drilled three field goals and Nick Folk missed a PAT. So Cincinnati kicked off the season Sunday by edging the Jets, 23-22.
Since the merger in 1970, teams that have allowed at least seven sacks in a game have won only 12.7 percent of the time, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com.
“It’s definitely frustrating, but it’s a team game,” Leonard Williams said. “You need everybody there to win the game. There were small mistakes that we made here and there that cost us the game.”
Williams managed only three sacks as a rookie after arriving as the sixth overall pick. He nearly matched last year’s total with 2 1⁄2 on Sunday.
“It feels good, but I don’t want to let it get to me,” Williams said. “I want to just keep playing, just keep building up on the season, keep going forward. I just feel more comfortable. Last year, I had a lot of anxiety and pressure.”
Steve McLendon was signed to fill the void left by run-stuffing nose tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison’s move to the Giants. Harrison had 1 1⁄2 sacks in four seasons with the Jets. McLendon, who also can play other spots on the line, had one sack last season with Pittsburgh. He beat both totals, taking down Dalton twice.
“He’s a guy that’s always talking, talking and talking about what he’s going to do, and then he actually came out and did what he was supposed to do,” said Lorenzo Mauldin, the Jets’ edge-rushing linebacker. “He’s a man of his word.”
Mauldin set the sack-happy tone on the first drive, forcing a punt. The $86-million man, Muhammad Wilkerson, also contributed 1 1⁄2 sacks.
“This is a great team, a great defense,” McLendon said. “We’re just trying to do the little things to get better each and every week. I think we will do it. It hurts to lose, but now it’s time to get ready for Buffalo.”
The pass defense still needs tightening after yielding plays of 54, 54, 49 and 32 yards. One of the 54-yarders went for a touchdown by A.J. Green. “We’ve got to do better on the back end,” cornerback Buster Skrine said.
Besides the sacks, the line helped hold the Bengals to 57 yards rushing. And now it gets Richardson back after his one-game suspension.
“That’s going to just create competition amongst all of us,” Williams said. “He’s going to make all of us go harder. We’ve seen what we can do without him, and we know that we can do more with him.”