October 21, 2007
CINCINNATI (cbssportsline.com/AP) -- Don't blame it all on Chad Pennington. This time, he had plenty of help.
The punter shanked one. The rookie cornerback had two interference penalties. The center snapped one early. The safety took a swing at a player on the ground.
All in one horrid half.
The Cincinnati Bengals took advantage of nearly every mistake by the down-and-out New York Jets on Sunday, rallying for a 38-31 victory behind the best performance of running back Kenny Watson's career.
The Bengals (2-4) snapped a four-game losing streak -- their longest during coach Marvin Lewis' five seasons -- with Watson playing like a star instead of Rudi Johnson's fill-in. The seventh-year runner with a half-dozen career starts had 130 yards and three touchdowns.
"You never know how the game is going to go," Watson said.
The Jets (1-6) often have an inkling.
They've already matched their loss total from last season, when coach Eric Mangini was dubbed the "Mangenius" for taking a previously 4-12 team to the playoffs. There's been nothing brilliant about their play this year.
In some ways, this one was the worst yet.
"It's just not good enough, and I'm tired of giving the same speech each week," Mangini said. "We're going to find out about every person in the locker room. It should hurt deeply. It's a matter of it's all got to get better."
Things haven't been so bad for the Jets since 1999, when they opened the season 1-6 under Bill Parcells before recovering to an 8-8 finish.
"It's tough for everybody from top to bottom," said Laveranues Coles, who had eight catches for a season-high 133 yards and two touchdowns. "For us to come this far and continue to lose is disheartening.
"You can't point fingers at Chad. You can't blame one guy. All of us stink, not just one guy."
Pennington was the heart of the Jets' playoff run last season, when he returned from his second major shoulder operation and won the Comeback Player of the Year award. This year, he's under fire for his dink-and-dunk passing and six interceptions in the last three games.
Fans have clamored for strong-armed Kellen Clemens to take over. So far, Mangini has resisted. He was noncommittal about his quarterback after the game, pointing out there were a lot of mistakes by a lot of players.
"The nature of this business, the quarterback is generally the fall guy," said Pennington, who was 20-of-31 for 272 yards with three touchdowns and a game-sealing interception. "When a team struggles, the first person people look at is the quarterback. But I don't blink, one way or the other."
Johnathan Joseph's 42-yard interception return put Cincinnati ahead 38-23 with 37 seconds left. Pennington threw a touchdown pass on the game's final play.
In the first half, the Bengals made the glaring gaffes. They were flagged for having too many players in a defensive huddle, and Carson Palmer was called for grounding on the final play before halftime, costing them a chance for points.
They calmed themselves and ground it out in the second half.
"We stayed patient," said Palmer, who was 14-of-21 for 226 yards with a touchdown and an interception. "We didn't ever freak out. We didn't ever think we weren't going to win the game. We never thought of being 1-5."
Instead, the Jets freaked out.
First-round draft pick Darrelle Revis drew a pair of pass interference penalties that extended Bengals touchdown drives during their comeback. Ben Graham's shanked, 20-yard punt set up the Bengals' drive to a 24-23 lead in the fourth quarter.
The mistakes kept coming.
Pennington was calling a play in the shotgun formation when the ball was snapped, resulting in a fumble that gave Cincinnati possession at the 50. The Bengals then drove for Watson's 2-yard touchdown with the help of a personal foul on safety Abram Elam, who threw a left-handed punch at Watson on the ground at the end of a run.
"We didn't play very good football at the beginning, but it's not how you start but how you finish," Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko said. "We got some bounces. The ball finally bounced out way."