JETS 31

BENGALS 24 Curtis Martin ran here and dashed there, leaving Carson Palmer to watch the veteran running back ruin his NFL debut.

Martin ran for 196 yards and a touchdown and added another score on a three-yard touchdown reception to help the New York Jets beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 31-24, Sunday.

The game marked the regular season NFL debut for Palmer, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2003. The Heisman Trophy winner commanded the offense well and made very few mistakes, going 18 of 27 for 248 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

But Palmer could not do anything about Martin, who looked better than he has in years. The 31-year-old struggled early in the past two seasons, so the Jets made an effort to reverse the trend in the preseason, giving Martin more carries and more work in training camp.

"I knew I was prepared," Martin said. "I knew that I was ready. When you know you're ready, your confidence is higher."

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.

The Bengals trailed 14-10 at halftime and hoped to get ahead with the first possession of the third quarter. But Rudi Johnson fumbled and Donnie Abraham returned it 41 yards for a touchdown to put the Jets up 21-10.

Palmer rallied the Bengals, and his six-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 a 24-yard score to make it 31-17.

Palmer tried to energize the Bengals. He threw a 53-yard touchdown pass to Chad Johnson with a little more than three minutes to go to bring them within a touchdown. With one final chance from around midfield, Palmer lofted a pass for Peter Warrick, but rookie safety Erik Coleman intercepted it to seal the victory.

"We came here expecting to win," Palmer said.

Jets' Curtis Martin breaks away from Bengals' Tory James to gain a big chunk of his 196 rushing yards in season opener.