All it took for the Jets to notch their second win of the season was some Mike White magic. And a late call to go their way.
Facing third-and-11 at their own 20 with two minutes to go, White found Ty Johnson. The receiver put his head down, drawing helmet-to-helmet contact with Bengals corner Mike Hilton.
The ensuing flag gave the Jets a first down, setting up the Jets to run the clock down and end the game with a 34-31 win. The Bengals used all three of their timeouts on the ensuing three plays, which culminated with White picking up a first down on a QB sneak. White then kneeled out the clock.
The question at hand is whether Johnson, who ducked into the hit, deserved to have drawn the penalty. He had already turned upfield, and wasn’t a defenseless receiver. Hilton lowered his head to make the hit, but had Johnson not also lowered his, there wouldn’t have been helmet-to-helmet contact.
“I just don’t know what a tackle is anymore!” Hilton vented on Twitter after the game. “It’s fine we will bounce back! Much more left to accomplish. #RuleTheJungle #Bengals.”
Bengals coach Zac Taylor sang a different tune.
“It shouldn’t come down to those plays,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor told reporters when asked about the call.
It’s true that the Bengals, who came in 5-2, expected more than to need a stop with two minutes left to have a chance to win the game.
Their defense, ranked top-10 in the league in both yardage and points coming into Sunday, let White throw for over 400 yards and three touchdowns with Zach Wilson out. His 37 completions set an NFL record for the most in a player’s first start.
Cincinnati also blew an 11-point fourth-quarter lead thanks to a circus touchdown catch from Johnson and a Joe Burrow interception that gave the Jets a short field. They converted a touchdown to Tyler Kroft, then scored a two-point conversion on a Jamison Crowder pass to White to go up by three.
But that won’t stop the Bengals from being frustrated over the call.
Had Johnson gone down without the flag, the Jets would have punted the ball over to Burrow, who would have had two timeouts and just under two minutes. That could have been enough to tie or win the game.
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