Boomer Esiason still has the hot hand and now Ickey Woods has the hot feet.
Esiason threw 3 touchdown passes in the first half and Woods ran for a career-high 139 yards and 2 touchdowns Sunday as the Bengals remained the NFL’s only unbeaten team with a 36-19 victory over the New York Jets.
“In the course of a good year, you’ve got to overcome a lot of hurdles,” said Bengal Coach Sam Wyche, who saw his team overcome a 9-0 deficit. “They come in all sizes and shapes. Right now, there’s not one we haven’t seen that we haven’t handled.”
The Bengals (6-0) fell behind when Esiason was sacked in the end zone for a safety by Marty Lyons on Cincinnati’s first play from scrimmage. Stanley Wilson fumbled on the Bengals’ next play and Lyons recovered on the Cincinnati 7-yard line. Roger Vick’s 1-yard scoring run gave the Jets a 9-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
The Jets (3-2-1) blocked a 34-yard field goal attempt by Jim Breech to thwart Cincinnati’s first drive before Esiason took over.
Esiason, the league’s top-ranked passer, burned the Jets’ secondary with touchdown pass plays that covered 60 and 8 yards to Eddie Brown and 38 yards to Tim McGee to dig the Bengals out of their hole. The Bengals led at halftime, 19-12.
Esiason completed 10 of 20 passes for 220 yards without an interception.
“They just kept coming and kept coming and kept coming,” Lyons said. “They caught us in some bad defenses and hit us where our pursuit wasn’t. And Boomer’s got the hot hand.”
Woods replaced Wilson after the fumble and ran 30 times for 139 yards and 2 touchdowns in the second half. It was the first time the rookie gained more than 100 yards in his pro career.
“When Stanley had the early fumble, we decided to give Ickey a shot and get Stanley out and let him regain his composure,” Wyche said. “Once you’ve got a guy with hot feet and he’s working, you don’t take him out.”
The Jets took advantage of another mistake to tie the game at the start of the third quarter. Woods fumbled a handoff from Esiason and Troy Benson recovered on the Cincinnati 18. Ken O’Brien then threw an 11-yard scoring pass to Al Toon to make it 19-19.
Cincinnati went to its ground game to take the lead for good. Woods carried 4 times for 42 yards in a 75-yard drive, including a 5-yard scoring run that gave the Bengals a 26-19 lead.
The Bengals clinched the win by taking 7 1/2 minutes for an 89-yard drive that ended with Woods’ 17-yard touchdown run with 3:02 left.
“Our offensive line was just blowing them out of there, blowing them off the ball,” Woods said. “I give all the credit to the line.”
Cincinnati equaled its best start in history and took a 2-game lead in the AFC Central Division. The Bengals were 6-0 in 1975, the last season they were coached by Paul Brown, the team’s founder and general manager.