Talk about the Bengals defense losing
The special teams torch has been passed from Skuta and Miles to Vinny Rey and
Like last year, with Josh Brown booting the Bengals into the playoffs and the Steelers out of the playoffs with a last-second field goal. Or Bengals punter
"It's still the Steelers; it's still us," says special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons. "That means tough, close. It's field position. That means the offense not turning it over, the defense not giving up big plays and it means the kicking game being solid."
Simmons has been Marvin Lewis's man for all 11 seasons and if there's one thing the kids find out quickly, special teams is important around here. Williams, the third-round pick out of Georgia who is about to become the first rookie to lead the Bengals special teams in tackles since CFL veteran Kyries Hebert in 2008, said this week that he blocked three punts in college while playing every snap on defense.
"Ask Rex," Williams says with a big smile. "Capital One Bowl last year. Early. Yeah, maybe I did get past him."
Williams is looking for Nebraska rookie running
"No, it wasn't me. I wasn't on that team," Burkhead says. "It was a big momentum-changer, no question about it."
"My main thing I still wanted to be a factor on special teams as I was working my way up," Williams says. "It always gives you a chance to make another play."
Last year the Bengals led the NFL in a compilation of the 10 major special teams stats and despite the loss of Skuta and Miles, special teams has been a big factor in the 9-4 record. Late punts by Kevin Huber against Buffalo and Detroit set up winning field goals by
And special teams will be key in the next three games. Pittsburgh's Brown is 11th in the NFL in punt returns, the Vikings are second in both punt and kick returns and the Ravens are first and sixth, respectively.
"We're a different (special) teams than we were the second week of the season," says DiManche, undrafted out of Southern Illinois in the tradition of Skuta (Grand Valley) and Miles (Massachusetts). "Unfortunately, we've had some guys go down and guys have had to step up. With each rep, our special teams have become better for it. I'm just trying to get better with each game."
The strategy on Brown sounds easy, but it's not. In Week 2 he popped a 40-yard punt return on the Bengals, the longest they've allowed this season.
"Try to keep leverage on the ball. Try to keep him in front of us. Get as many hats as possible to the ball and wrap him up," DiManche says. "He's elusive, he's quick. He's one of the best of the best. I really like playing against him. Last time he got out on us a little bit and we're going to try and be more consistent."
Simmons has been able to turn to veterans like Rey (tied for second with DiManche with 10 tackles) and Peerman (Huber's personal protector to go with eight tackles) to help develop the young guys.
"Jayson and Shawn have really embraced it and have really come on," Simmons says. "They know what it means and they want to contribute."
There may be someone else in the wings, but Simmons won't say. Wide receiver
"We'll see," Simmons says.
It looked like he was trying to pass the torch.