Posted: 7:10 a.m.
Lost in The Ochoness of Thursday night was the resiliency of Bengals rookie punter Kevin Huber.
Not only was he in just his second NFL game. Not only had he never held for Chad Ochocinco until moments before the fateful PAT. Not only had he not kicked off since high school.
But he also ended up punting to win the game with two minutes left.
His 48-yarder induced a Patriots holding penalty to seal New England's fate at its 18-yard line, capping a very solid, unperturbed night of six punts for a net of 41.5 yards. Prepping for a returner that popped a 75-yarder the week before, Huber and his coverage held Julian Edelman to nine yards on two tries. Patrick Chung was even worse at two for six yards.
Of course, that can get lost on a night that ended in the Foxboro visiting locker room with the The Ocho showing Ron Borges of *The Boston Herald *pictures of himself with international soccer stars on his iPhone.
But it was the kind of punting the Bengals expect from Huber in key situations and it was as big a reason they won a 7-6 game as the defense. On two of the punts, the Pats started from inside the 6, three times inside the 20, and five times inside the 50.
"I wanted to finish better than I started last week," Huber said Saturday. "I started slower. Now I've got to put two halves together."
Special teams coach Darrin Simmons said he thought Huber kicked better than he did in New Orleans, but Simmons is also getting some good coverage play from guys like rookie end Michael Johnson and wide receiver Maurice Purify. Six different special-teamers made tackles Thursday according to the press-box stats.
"It seems like now every quarterback out of Kent State has a slash with Josh Cribbs being the first one," Simmons said of Edelman. "Punt cover was fine. Kevin punted better than he did last week. He got a lot better hang time. I think we covered better. Often times you see players between Week 1 and Week 2 in the preseason usually take huge steps.
"We were out of position and not in the proper field lanes against New Orleans and it cost us. Those same players who were out of position last week were back in position this week. That was truly good to see. It shows they can (take) learning stuff on the tape and then translating it. That was a huge positive."
The Bengals drafted Huber in the fifth round as much for his maturity as for his leg and he showed both Thursday night. If the Bengals had a holder that was used to holding for his left foot, Huber would have been kicking the PAT instead of Ocho.
"I held a couple for him when he was kicking into the net. He was actually acting real seriously," Huber said. "I told him to watch my hand. When my hand moves (he moves). We watched the film and right when my hand moved, he moved, so it was really good timing. He got real good height on the ball, so it didn't have a chance of getting blocked."
That's what Simmons was worried about. After letting Ochocinco kick one day in practice last year when Shayne Graham was hurt, Simmons knew he could kick. He just didn't know if would come off fast enough. The Bengals try for 1.28 seconds from the snap to the kick.
"He was 1.33. To be about 500ths of a second slower than Shayne, that's outstanding," Simmons said. "It's not the kick that concerned me. It was the timing."
Graham gave the Ocho an A for style, in large part because he hadn't done any of this in practice yet this year.
Simmons admitted the kickoff to the nine-yard line may have been more impressive.
"He doesn't miss a beat," Simmons said with a smile. "I look out there and the referee hands him the ball and he squeezes the corners of the ball. He's kneeing his toe into the ground. He doesn't miss a beat."
He almost missed it, though. When head coach Marvin Lewis told Simmons to take Ochocinco out of the halftime locker room to get him ready to kick off, Simmons went through the whole deal. How the ref would give him the ball. How he'd get himself lined up. How the ref at the other end would wave him to go.
"We almost got a penalty for delay," Simmons said. "He needed to go. I'm yelling at him, 'Chad, go.' "
Huber had kicked off in high school, so when he got the assignment after The Ocho's PAT, he said he simply went back to the way he stepped back then. He got it to the 10. A few minutes later, after halftime, The Ocho bested him by about a yard even though he had a crow hop just before he hit it.
"Once I saw him hit the PAT, I wasn't surprised," said Huber of the decision to have The Ocho kick off. "He's got a strong leg and he's athletic enough to get the job done."
Huber is still getting used to holding for Graham and they've been working on it since April. Now he'll have to get used to the new kicker the club brings in Sunday to give Graham a rest this Thursday night against the Rams at home. But he's already had good practice adjusting with The Ocho.
"I was just trying to get it down fast in case he was going to be coming fast," he said. "I had heard he had done well in practice, so I was expecting a good kick."
On Saturday, about the only thing Simmons could do was shake his head after finding his emergency kicker.
"It adds to my book at the end of my career," he said.