What We Saw: Week 8

It's backup QB SZN

Bengals @ Jets 

Final Score: Jets 34, Bengals 31

Writer: Benjamin Haller (@benjaminhaller1 on Twitter)

 

Ladies and gentlemen, “The Mike White Game” is upon you. Making his first career start in the NFL in his fourth year in the league, Mike White came out to play, throwing for 400 yards and three touchdowns in the surprise performance of the week as he catapulted the New York Jets to their second win of the season over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Robert Saleh‘s determined and gutsy Jets team made up for their many limitations by grinding down the Bengals in the run game and restricting rookie receiver phenom Ja’Marr Chase to just three catches on the night.

The Jets trailed by 11 points with just 7:29 left in the fourth quarter, but White led two touchdown drives, one for 8 plays and 75 yards, and the other taking just two plays as White found Tyler Kroft in the back of the end zone for the go-ahead score after Joe Burrow was intercepted by Shaq Lawson. White put the cherry on top of a memorable night by hauling in the two-point conversion on a pass from Jamison Crowder in a version of the famed “Philly Special” – miraculous!

 

 

Cincinnati Bengals

 

Quarterback

 

Joe Burrow: 21/34, 259 yards, 3 TD, INT, 3 sacks | 1 carry, -1 yard

 

Bengals franchise quarterback Joe Burrow threw for three touchdowns for the third consecutive game and kept up his impressive run of throwing for multiple touchdowns in every game this season. Still, this showing wasn’t as impressive as anything we’ve seen over the last month or so. Burrow seemed to rush his reads and lacked accuracy throughout the first half. He struggled under pressure at times, and namely on a fourth and goal at the Jets’ 3-yard line near the end of the first quarter. He failed to release the ball quickly and was caught by Quinnen Williams trying to spin out of the pocket.

 

 

Burrow failed to take advantage of the Jets turning the ball over three times in the first half, the Bengals only scoring only one touchdown from those turnovers. He failed to establish his receivers and it was Joe Mixon who carried the offense through a messy half. In the second half, Burrow started to link up nicely with Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd in particular. This phenomenal deep ball away from the coverage to Higgins set up the go-ahead touchdown pass to Mixon.

 

 

Burrow hit Boyd for a score before getting the ball back up by five with just 4:36 left in the game. On the first play of the drive, Shaq Lawson jumped on a screen pass that he read from the play design, batting the pass into the air before hauling it on for the interception.

 

 

The turnover cost the Bengals the game as White punished Burrow with a game-winning touchdown throw and two-point conversion. Burrow had another opportunity to bounce back but took a sack at the hands of Sheldon Rankins to bring up fourth-and-19 at their own 40-yard line. Head Coach Zac Taylor chose to punt the ball back to the Jets with all three timeouts and the two-minute warning still to come. Burrow never got the ball back.

 

Running Backs

 

Joe Mixon: 14 carries, 33 yards, TD | 5 targets, 4 receptions, 58 yards, TD

Samaje Perine: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 16 yards

 

A fruitful day for Joe Mixon, who scored on the ground and through the air to put up his second-best fantasy score of the season. Mixon was far and away the best offensive player on the park for the Bengals, always looking dangerous when given the opportunity. I was surprised he only saw 18 touches but it was a strange game plan from Taylor and the Bengals this week. Mixon punched the ball in for the Bengals’ first score of the day after he had just fallen short of the goal line after a pass from Burrow.

 

 

Prior to that touchdown, however, Mixon had been stuffed on two attempts from within the 2-yard line after White’s first interception. The Bengals eventually turning the ball over on downs. So, it should have been an even better day for Mixon. Still, he has been noticeably utilized more in all aspects of the offense this year, no better highlighted than in this beautifully designed play – Mixon catching the pass from Boyd for a big gain to set up Cincinnati in the red zone at the end of the first half. Unfortunately, more woes from Burrow in the red zone meant they only came away with a field goal.

 

 

Mixon finally hit pay dirt again with the scores level towards the end of the third quarter. Mixon took a swing-pass from Burrow to the house.

 

 

However, Mixon only saw five touches on the Bengals’ final three drives thanks to some baffling play calling from Taylor and that horrible interception from Burrow.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

Tee Higgins: 6 targets, 4 receptions, 97 yards

Tyler Boyd: 8 targets, 5 receptions, 69 yards, TD | 1/1, 46 yards

C.J. Uzomah: 4 targets, 4 receptions, 33 yards

Ja’Marr Chase: 9 targets, 3 receptions, 32 yards, TD | 1 carry, 9 yards

 

It was a tale of everybody contributing but nobody stepping up to make a significant difference with their usually reliable quarterback struggling with accuracy issues. Tee Higgins, fresh off the back of 15 targets in Week 7, was the most impressive of the Bengals receivers. His excellent route-running was on show all day, and he made two phenomenal plays to put his team in the driving seat. There was the deep ball from Burrow in the third quarter, but my pick of his catches was this brilliant one-handed effort in the second quarter on a third down play.

 

 

Where Ja’Marr Chase has rightfully grabbed all the headlines, Higgins and Tyler Boyd have been their usual no-nonsense hardworking selves this season. Boyd, held to just one touchdown on the season so far (that coming back in Week 3 against the Steelers), finally saw a look from Burrow in the red zone to put Cincinnati 11 points ahead midway through the fourth quarter. It should have been enough to seal the win.

 

 

It was a frustrating day for Chase, however, who completed just 33% of his targets as he saw tighter man coverage and was hampered by his inaccurate quarterback. The favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year still managed to find the end zone thanks to staying alive on a broken play-fake with just 3:21 remaining in the first half.

 

 

He also flashed his determination and quick moves, showing just why he is so exciting to watch and has taken the league by storm this year.

 

 

New York Jets

 

Quarterback

 

Mike White: 37/45, 405 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT, 2 sacks | 5 carries, -1 yard | 2 PT

Josh Johnson: 2/4, 17 yards

 

Forever etched into the modern-day folklore of this spectacularly poor New York Jets team will be “The Mike White Game”. For much of the first half, Mike White looked exactly the opposite of a bounced-around, unheralded late-round draft pick who can do a decent job on the practice squad but looks completely lost in the live-action of an NFL football game. He started the game 11-of-11, standing in the pocket and hitting his receivers at will, checking down at perfect times for his backs, too. White showed proficiency to move out of the pocket and throw on the run to extend drives nicely. As the game progressed, most importantly, he came alive in the red zone to throw for three touchdowns and win the Jets only their second game of the season. This sensational back-shoulder fade from White for Braxton Berrios to haul in the touchdown is as good a throw and catch as you will see all season.

 

 

His ability to keep alert to pressure in the pocket, scan the field quickly, and progress through his reads was remarkably impressive for a guy making his first start in the league at the position. Driving his team forward to erase an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter has made him the stuff of legends for Jets fans. White stayed calm through the second half and showed tremendous composure to find Tyler Kroft on second and long for the go-ahead score.

 

 

And this play is what every first-time starter dreams of the night before his debut – throwing the winning touchdown pass then getting up to haul in the two-point conversion yourself on a trick play from one of your receivers. Amazing! How can you not be romantic about football?!

 

 

It wasn’t all roses for White, who did turn the ball over twice on back-to-back drives in the first half. Against a more cutthroat team, he would not have recovered from that. The first interception was a tipped ball early in the game that could have set the tone for an altogether different afternoon.

 

 

His second interception was an odd, pass fumble that bounced off the helmet of his running back and looped into the hands of Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt.

 

 

Where does Mike White go from here?! And on a final note, White did leave the field for a series to check on an undisclosed injury but was able to come back onto the field after a couple of plays. It isn’t expected to be anything to be concerned about.

 

Running Backs

 

Michael Carter: 15 carries, 77 yards, TD | 14 targets, 9 receptions, 95 yards

Ty Johnson: 4 carries, 15 yards | 6 targets, 5 receptions, 71 yards, TD

La’Michael Perine: 1 carry, 3 yards

 

The bread and butter for this offense were the check-downs and short passes for the running backs out of the backfield. Michael Carter showed out on his best day as a rookie. More than doubling his best fantasy score of the season, Carter took advantage of a whopping 14 targets in the passing game as Saleh simplified the playbook and schemed the running backs to work on yards after the catch, much like the philosophy his former colleague in San Francisco, Kyle Shanahan is renowned for. Carter was patient with the ball, waiting for lanes and holes before scampering through them with his plus speed.

 

 

One of the things I loved about Carter’s performance was the character he showed every time the play finished. He bounced back up, got to the huddle, and ran hard and fast for his team once again. He showed terrific balance between the tackles and a burst out of the backfield after catching the ball. He’s showing he’s ready to be this team’s workhorse back. He totaled 172 yards on 29 touches by the end of the game. Nice!

 

 

Ty Johnson also saw 10 touches in this game, running well and nipping in for a lovely touchdown after an impressive run down the sideline, in which he used his nifty, delicate feet to stay inbounds and reach out over the pylon for the score.

 

 

With both running backs combining for 20 targets in the passing game, you might want to think about the waiver wire earlier than usual this week given this production.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

Jamison Crowder: 9 targets, 8 receptions, 84 yards, Fumble (Lost)

Elijah Moore: 6 targets, 6 receptions, 67 yards | 1 carry, 4 yards

Denzel Mims: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 30 yards

Keelan Cole: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 25 yards

Tyler Kroft: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 20 yards, TD

Braxton Berrios: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 13 yards, TD

Jeff Smith: 1 target, 1 reception, 10 yards | 1 carry, -1 yard

Ryan Griffen: 1 target, 1 reception, 7 yards

 

Signs of life from this Jets receiving room could not have come at a more timely, if not somewhat surprising, moment. It was been a tale of the ugly, bizarre and inexplainable so far with only veteran Jamison Crowder carving out a regular role wince coming back off the IR. Crowder was White’s main look out of the slot, and despite a costly fumble in the first half, he still continued to draw plenty of targets over the middle.

It was Keelan Cole who stole the headlines, however, with this fantastic one-handed grab at the corner of the end zone. Unfortunately, the play was called back but it was an impressive effort from the former Jacksonville man.

 

 

The Jets fans didn’t have to wait long to see the referees raise two hands to signal a touchdown, with Braxton Berrios nabbing that delightful pass with a bit of “toe drag swag” to bring the Jets within three points at the half. This proved crucial going into the second half.

 

Finally, rookie receiver Elijah Moore was featured more heavily in the passing game and showed some real highlights in his perfect 6-of-6 for 67 yards performance. That was a season-high in both catches and yards for Moore, who was expected to feature more prominently after being selected in the second round of the NFL Draft. Time will tell if this was just an increase in targets due to the absence of Corey Davis, or whether Moore is starting to force the coaches hands with his performances at practice and on the field. He showed great hustle today to save a touchdown for his team.

 

On a final note, Denzel Mims left the game with a finger injury and did not return in the second half after coming up slow on a red zone target.

 

Benjamin Haller (@benjaminhaller1 on Twitter)

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