CINCINNATI (AP) — Le’Veon Bell’s 23-yard run was wiped out by a holding penalty. Bilal Powell’s 23-yard gain off a screen pass was called back because of an illegal block. Every time the Jets seemed to be getting momentum, a flag flew and they were back to square one.
New York’s high-scoring offense repeatedly tripped itself up during a 22-6 loss to the previously winless Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, leaving the Jets with some dubious NFL history. Combined with their loss to the Dolphins, they’re the first team to drop games to a pair of opponents that were 0-7 or worse in one season.
“I felt like our defense, this one’s not on them,” coach Adam Gase said. “We did not do enough on offense.”
New York came in on its best run of the season, having scored 34 points in each of the last three games, all victories. Second-year quarterback Sam Darnold was in the best stretch of his career. And the Jets were facing a team that hadn’t won a game in nearly a year.
The Jets won the coin flip, chose to get the ball, and settled for a field goal after a series that included a throw into the end zone that didn’t connect and a dropped third-down pass. It never got much better. The Jets had 10 penalties — eight on offense — for 106 yards, including a holding penalty in the end zone for a safety.
“Whenever you get big plays and you have penalties, those are killers,” Darnold said.
The Jets (4-8) also had a costly penalty on defense. Linebacker Neville Hewitt never turned to look for the ball on a deep throw to Tyler Boyd, bumping the receiver for a 39-yard pass interference that put the ball on the 5-yard line. Joe Mixon’s run put Cincinnati in control.
Darnold was 28 of 48 for 239 yards with four sacks as New York had its least-productive game on offense since a 33-0 loss to New England on Oct. 21. It’s the fourth time this season that New York has been held to six points or less.
Darnold had a foot stepped on late in the game, but said it wasn’t an issue. Darnold’s 48 passes were a season high. His 58 percent completion rate and 71.4 passer rating were his second-lowest, trailing the loss to New England.
After three encouraging wins behind their young quarterback, the Jets found themselves back in a discouraging place.
“It hurts,” defensive lineman Henry Anderson said. “We felt like we were starting to get into a rhythm.”
The Jets lost to the 0-7 Dolphins 26-18 on Nov. 3. The Bengals (1-11) were the last winless team in the NFL, stuck in the longest losing streak in franchise history. After being benched for three weeks as Cincinnati took a look at rookie quarterback Ryan Finley, Andy Dalton returned and led the Bengals to their breakthrough win.
New York never got into a flow against a winless team.
“I don’t feel like we had a lack of energy,” Bell said. “We didn’t play well enough.”