EX-MU QB Smith shines in Jets’ victory over Bengals

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Brad Smith’s left shoe popped off and he just kept running.

There was no way the New York Jets’ Mr. Do-It-All was going to slow down. Not with a clear path to the end zone ahead.

“I was running and trying to stick my shoe back on,” Smith said with a big grin, “but after a while, I just said, ‘Forget it.’”

Who needs two anyway, right?

Smith’s one-shoed, 89-yard kickoff return Thursday night sparked New York to a 26-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals that sent the Jets to the secondbest start in team history. The versatile wide receiver, a converted University of Missouri quarterback, also had a 53-yard touchdown run.

“He’s a phenomenal athlete,” coach Rex Ryan said. “Everything we ask him to do, he does.”

With or without all of his footwear.

“I think all that running in the backyard with no shoes on with my brother,” Smith said, “that helped.”

Hours after New England beat Detroit to improve to 9-2, New York matched the Patriots with its fourth straight victory to set up a meaty Monday night matchup Dec. 6 in Foxborough, Mass., for first place in the AFC East.

“The NFL couldn’t have scripted it better,” Jets safety Jim Leonhard said.

New York’s impressive start is eclipsed only by the 1986 squad that won 10 of its first 11. And the Jets did it by overcoming a sluggish first half and sending the struggling Bengals (2-9) to their eighth straight loss.

It looked as though New York was headed for yet another frenzied finish. The Jets had consecutive road overtime victories followed by a nail-biter Sunday, when they scored the winning touchdown with 10 seconds left against Houston.

But it took New York only two plays to go ahead after halftime in this one. Mark Sanchez hit Santonio Holmes for 16 yards, then Smith used superb blocks by Dustin Keller and D’Brickashaw Ferguson to speed down the left sideline untouched for a 53-yard TD run.

“I would’ve felt sick if I didn’t score because of how well it was executed,” Smith said.

Early in the fourth quarter, Smith took a kickoff, got a few big blocks and made a nice cutback before losing his shoe midway through the return.

“You want to be a catalyst when you’re on the field,” Smith said. “That’s what it’s really about that when you’re down a little bit, just being able to be a spark.”

Smith had three carries for 55 yards, a catch for 23 yards and the long kickoff return, accounting for 200 all-purpose yards.

About the only thing he didn’t do was throw a pass.

“I know,” Smith said, smiling. “Now that would’ve been sweet.”


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