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Big Shot: Plaxico Burress Returns in Style

Burress catches touchdown in first game action since 2008.

By Josh Alper
|  Monday, Aug 22, 2011  |  Updated 7:07 AM EDT
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No rust on a rainy night in Jersey.

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So much for easing Plaxico Burress back into the NFL.

After almost three years away from the game and days removed from his return from an ankle injury, the Jets used Burress like the key offensive piece they expect him to be on Sunday night against the Bengals from the first play of the game.

He played 29 of 31 plays in the first half in a steady rain and was targeted by Mark Sanchez often, including a pass on the very first play that was likely scripted moments after Burress signed with the team.

That decision paid off handsomely for the Jets in the short term as they cruised to a 27-7 victory. It also provided a sneak peek of what they hope will be a dynamic change to their offense in the long term.

Burress caught three passes for 66 yards, none of them going for less than 20 yards, including a vintage Burress touchdown just before halftime. Burress dove to corrall a 26-yard touchdown pass from Mark Sanchez on the kind of fade pattern that made him a force for the Steelers and Giants before his incarceration.

The fade Burress caught from Eli Manning against the Patriots obviously meant more on a grand scale than a touchdown against a Bengals team that might struggle to win a single game this season, but the way the play unfolded still felt very familiar.

Sanchez was under pressure from a Bengals blitz, Burress was covered by a single cornerback and his long arms turned a pass only he could catch into six points.

Burress is on the Jets to turn Sanchez passes into touchdowns, especially when the Jets get down close to the goalline. He did that on Sunday despite a slow integration to the offense thanks to his injury and the longer absence caused by that fateful night out on the town.

It looked, in fact, like Burress hadn't been away from the Jets or football at all before taking the field on Sunday night. Plax concurred with that view after the game.

"It just felt good to get back what I love to do so much,” Burress said. “To be honest, it feels like I never left. The ball hanging up there in the lights, I just trusted myself."

After Sunday night, a lot of other people are going to feel better about putting trust in Burress as well. The competition will get stiffer, starting with the Giants next week in what should be the buzziest preseason game in quite some time, but Burress showed the Jets exactly what they were looking for when they rolled the dice on a $3 million gamble this summer.

That's not bad for the second preseason game and very good for a Jets offense that needs the shot in the arm that Burress can provide.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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