EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- When Curtis Martin ran up the 200
steps from the Santa Monica beach during the spring, he had this in
When he asked for more work during training camp, he had this in
mind. When he asked for more carries in the preseason, he had this
in mind: a brilliant start to the season and a victory for the New
Martin had 29 carries for 196 yards and scored on a 24-yard run
and 3-yard catch, helping the Jets ruin the debut of 2003 No. 1
draft pick Carson Palmer with a 31-24 victory over the Cincinnati
Bengals on Sunday.
"I knew I was prepared," Martin said. "I knew that I was
ready. When you know you're ready, your confidence is higher."
It soared during the game, taking away the hype from Palmer, who
made his regular-season NFL debut. The Heisman Trophy winner
commanded the offense well and made few mistakes, going 18-of-27
for 248 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
But trailing 31-24 with two minutes remaining, Palmer made his
biggest miscue. From his 49, Palmer heaved a pass for Chad Johnson.
But rookie safety Erik Coleman stormed in and intercepted it,
sealing the victory.
"We came here expecting to win," Palmer said. "We had what we
needed. We had what we wanted. We had the ball with two minutes to
go in good field position and I turned it over. I can't make plays
like that for us to win."
Instead, Martin made all the plays. The 31-year-old Martin
looked better than he has in years, mainly because of his renewed
effort to turn around the way he started off the last two seasons.
He decided to climb those stairs in California, and asked coach
Herman Edwards for more work.
It worked against the Bengals. Martin ripped off long runs and
broke tackles, and that helped open up the offense. Chad Pennington
threw for two touchdowns, going 20-of-27 for 224 yards in the first
season-opening start of his career.
Last year, it took Martin four games to reach 196 yards. It was
his highest rushing total since 2000, when he had 203 yards against
"He looked about 19," said Santana Moss, who had four catches
for 55 yards. "Curtis looked fresh. He was rolling. His preseason
was so phenomenal this year, the way he went through camp and did
all he did."
Williams gave up a 46-yard touchdown pass from Pennington to
Jonathan Carter in the first quarter, and he struggled for most of
the game to keep up with the speedy Jets receivers.
"I was in position to make plays and I didn't," Williams said.
"I expected them to come at me. We were starting a rookie
cornerback in the NFL, and you are going to get tested."
The Bengals trailed 14-10 at halftime and hoped to get ahead
with the first possession of the third quarter. But Sam Cowart
stripped Rudi Johnson of the ball, and Donnie Abraham returned it
41 yards for a touchdown to put the Jets up 21-10.
Palmer led the Bengals back, and his 6-yard touchdown pass to
Kenny Watson cut the deficit to 21-17. After a field goal by Doug
Brien, Martin essentially put the game out of reach with his
24-yard score to make it 31-17.
Palmer tried to rally the Bengals. He threw a 53-yard touchdown
pass to Chad Johnson with a little over three minutes to go to
bring them within a touchdown. But his final effort was not enough.
"Our football team played to the end," coach Marvin Lewis
said. "We're going to correct the mistakes and move forward."
Things started badly for the Jets. Carter fumbled the opening
kickoff, and Reggie Myles recovered for the Bengals at the Jets 25.
Palmer completed his first NFL pass to Chad Johnson for 6 yards,
then converted a third down to set the Bengals up at the 9.
Rudi Johnson scored on a run on the next play to put the Bengals
up early. It was their only lead of the game, thanks largely in
part to a rejuvenated Martin.
"I feel as though I could go do it again right now," Martin
said. When reporters laughed, Martin had one more comeback: "I'm
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