The Bengals jumped out to a 14-0 lead with touchdowns on their first two possessions of the game and increased the lead to 18 points, 21-3, in the third quarter before having to withstand a Jacksonville rally in the final 15 minutes. Bengals cornerback Johnathan Joseph and safety Marvin White combined to break up a two-point conversion pass attempt from Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard to wide receiver Jerry Porter with 1:17 left in regulation to preserve the win.
“The outcome is great, although we do have a way of keeping it interesting,” said head coach Marvin Lewis.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick won for the first time as a starter in the NFL, completing 21 of 31 passes for 162 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception. Both of his touchdowns were to Chad Ocho Cinco in the first quarter. The Bengals also got 104 yards rushing on 24 carries from Cedric Benson. It was the first 100-yard rushing game of the season for a Bengal, and the first since Kenny Watson rushed for 130 yards against Cleveland in Week 16 last season.
The Bengals rushed for a season-high 159 yards as a team; Fitzpatrick added 52 yards on three scrambles.
“Relief is one of the biggest words, especially with how hard that we worked and we haven’t given up,” said Fitzpatrick. “We’re still playing hard, we’re still practicing hard every week and to see no results week in and week out is a tough thing. It is tough to win the NFL and I think that we felt that this year, obviously, so anytime you can get a win no matter how it comes you have to savor it and you have to be happy about it and today, I mean, it was a team effort and it just feels great to get that out of the way.”
Fitzpatrick’s touchdown passes to Ocho Cinco were for 2 and 10 yards as the Bengals grabbed their largest lead of the season. It was the first time the Bengals had scored an offensive touchdown in the first quarter this season. It was also the first time the Bengals had produced a first down on their opening series of a game this season; they had previously produced seven punts after going three-and-out and one interception.
The Bengals defense made the lead stand up. Cincinnati had led for just 43 minutes, 20 seconds coming into the game; they led for the final 47:28 Sunday. Jacksonville got back into the game with an 18-yard fumble return for a touchdown on a Glenn Holt kickoff return, but the defense kept the Jaguars out of the end zone until Maurice Jones-Drew scored on a 1-yard run prior to the two-point conversion attempt.
The Bengals held the Jaguars to 68 yards rushing as a team. It was just the second time this season the Bengals had kept an opponent under 100 yards rushing as a team. Playing with the lead and all but eliminating Jacksonville’s rushing attack allowed the Bengals to concentrate on getting pressure on Garrard.
The Bengals sacked Garrard three times and were credited with 13 quarterback hits altogether. Rookie defensive tackle Pat Sims had three of those hits, including his first career sack.
“I’ve been wanting a sack for the longest time and I finally got it,” said Sims, the team’s third-round pick out of Auburn. He tripped up Garrard from behind as Garrard attempted to scramble out of pocket. “We had a nice little talk before the game and said we were going to give it our all. You see how it turns out; it turns out to be a win.”
Even after the Bengals stopped Jacksonville’s two-point conversion attempt the Bengals still had to sweat out some anxious moments. Houshmandzadeh recovered Jacksonville’s onside kick attempt but the Bengals still had to punt the ball back to the Jaguars with time on the clock. The Jaguars got to run one last play, from their own 4-yard line with :11 left, and it resulted in three laterals and an illegal forward pass that ended the game.