Bengals, Jets heading in opposite directions
Chad Ochocinco toned it down a bit for a change.
The chatty Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver is never at a loss for words, but he couldn't bring himself to stir things up the way he usually does.
''It's hard to give you the good stuff when we're 2-8, so I have to be sort of in the humbling spirit right now,'' Ochocinco said Tuesday on a conference call with New York reporters.
That's a far cry from last season when Ochocinco playfully popped off before the regular-season finale between the Bengals and Jets, declaring that New York cornerback Darrelle Revis couldn't cover him ''in a brown paper bag on a corner of a Manhattan street inside a phone booth.''
Well, Revis did shut him down. And, he did it again the following week in the playoffs as the Jets beat the Bengals in consecutive games. The teams, facing each other again Thursday night, have gone in opposite directions since.
The Jets are tied for the best record in the NFL at 8-2, while the Bengals are mired in a seven-game skid.
So, Chad, what happened?
''Oh, my God, man. I mean, where do I start?'' he said. ''It's been nothing like we expected. One minute, we're doing well one quarter, the next quarter, we're flat. ... It's always something different each week, and we've yet to play a complete game.''
The same might be said of the Jets, who are winning despite some flaws.
''They are kind of doing what we did last year,'' Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer said, ''pulling games out at the end and making plays to win games at the end.''
New York became the first team to win consecutive overtime games on the road and followed that up with a stunning 30-27 win over Houston with 10 seconds left after blowing a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter.
''I think the most important thing is that we've won them,'' quarterback Mark Sanchez said. ''These are the same games during this stretch of last year that we lost.''
He's right. At this time last season, the Jets were 4-6 and a playoff appearance seemed unlikely. Meanwhile, the Bengals were 7-3 and on their way to an AFC North title.
The Jets got things turned around and soared all the way to the AFC championship game. Big things were expected again this season - coach Rex Ryan has predicted a Super Bowl - and so far, so good.
''I'll tell you, it's been one incredible season so far,'' running back LaDainian Tomlinson said. ''To go through a stretch like this: two overtime games and then to come back in the last few seconds to win another game, it's been pretty exciting.''
The Jets wouldn't mind not having to sweat out a win, though.
''I would like to have one of those games where we blow the team out and you're over there with your hat on and you're just talking and telling jokes,'' Tomlinson said. ''I would love a couple of those games.''
The Jets thought they were on their way to one of those when they took a 23-7 lead over the Texans early in final quarter. But the defense let Houston back in it, and New York was suddenly down 27-23.
Then came the big comeback, capped by Santonio Holmes' touchdown catch, as the offense bailed out the defense.
''There's no panic,'' defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said. ''We're not flinching. We believe in what we do, and we checked the sky today and it isn't falling.''
The Bengals thought they were going to cruise against the Buffalo Bills last Sunday, but were outscored 35-0 in the second half and lost 49-31.
''In a game of Madden, a video game, if you're up 31-14 or whatever the score was at halftime, it's impossible to come back,'' Ochocinco said. ''For it to happen in real life is unbelievable.''
The Bengals have been decimated by injuries to their secondary, so much so that they considered putting a wide receiver in at cornerback in the closing minutes against the Bills.
Even Palmer was walking around with a protective boot on his left foot Tuesday, held out of practice in what he termed a precaution.
The running game, which helped carry Cincinnati to the playoffs last season, has stalled with Cedric Benson. The passing game has picked up, especially with Terrell Owens playing alongside his buddy, Ochocinco. While the two have tried to remain positive, Owens said the Bengals are ''terrible'' after the loss Sunday.
''That team, where are they closer to?'' Ryan said. ''The team that won two games or closer to the team that was in the playoffs last year? I think they're closer to the team that was in the playoffs, but we don't need them to get well this week.''
While Ochocinco downplayed a revenge factor in playing the Jets this season - ''Last year's team is gone'' - Palmer acknowledged that, yeah, the Bengals have a little extra motivation against New York this time around.
''The last two games last year were games that just kind of stuck with you all offseason,'' Palmer said. ''Obviously, this season hasn't unfolded the way we anticipated, but it's a game that has been marked on our schedules all offseason.''
AP Sports Writer Joe Kay in Cincinnati contributed to this story.