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Veteran Martin Spoils Palmer's Bengal Debut

The Jet running back scores twice and rushes for 196 yards as New York defeats Cincinnati, 31-24. Ex-Trojan has two touchdown passes.

September 13, 2004|From Associated Press

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — When Curtis Martin ran up the 200 steps from the Santa Monica beach during the spring, he had this in mind.

When he asked for more work during training camp, he had this in mind. When he asked for more carries in the exhibition season, he had this in mind: a brilliant start to the season and a victory for the New York Jets.

Martin had 29 carries for 196 yards and scored on a 24-yard run and three-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. " When you know you're ready, your confidence is higher."

It soared in the game, taking away the hype from Palmer, who made his regular-season NFL debut. The Heisman Trophy winner from USC commanded the offense well and made few mistakes, going 18 for 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. Martin, 31, looked better than he has in years, mainly because of his renewed effort to turn around his slow starts of 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 for 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 Indianapolis.

"He looked about 19," said Jet receiver Santana Moss, who had four catches for 55 yards.

"I feel as though I could go do it again right now," Martin said.

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.

"Our football team played to the end," Bengal Coach Marvin Lewis said. "We're going to correct the mistakes and move forward."

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