* BENGALS CB TERENCE NEWMAN VS. BUCS WR MIKE EVANS*
There are 15 years between Newman and Evans, the hottest receiver in the NFL who two weeks ago at age 21 became the youngest receiver to record a 200-yard game. But the Bengals are getting blanket play from a guy that by now should be wrapped in a blanket on Sundays.
At age 36 the 5-10, 197-pound Newman just seems to keep getting better as he gets ready to face the newest phenom. The 6-5, 231-pound Evans leads the NFL in November with 505 yards and six touchdowns, but finds himself Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) working against the league's stingiest pass defense in Tampa.
The Bengals have allowed the fewest touchdown passes in the league this season (11), have racked up the third best defensive passer rating (76.2), and just refuse to give up the long ball. In the last five games they've allowed a wide receiver one pass longer than 25 yards, none in the last three games.
Now here comes Evans with 12 catches of at least 25 yards this season, second only to the Colts' T.Y. Hilton and tied with Peyton Manning's Emmanuel Sanders. The word out of Tampa is he's a clone of the man opposite him in Vincent Jackson. Not a speed merchant, but a great leaper who can snatch balls out of the air.
Enter Newman on his day off this week surfacing at Paul Brown Stadium at 8 p.m. to watch film. But not just of Evans.
"I'm watching everybody," Newman said. "They've got a rookie. They've got a vet (Jackson). They've got a vet in the slot (Louis Murphy). They've got some big, tall receivers that go up and get the ball. It's about being smart and making them dictate where you want them to go with the ball. We have our work cut out. Good receivers. Smart quarterback. Good backs. We just have to study."
If you want to know why Newman is still playing at a high level after all these years, there you have it. Film study. Experience. Pragmatism. And he had already been in the cold tub taking care of the other major food group. Durability.
He sat the New Orleans game two weeks ago with some knee fluid for his only miss of the season, but came back to lead a clinic against the Texans. He covered their best wide receiver six times, Andre Johnson, and according to profootballfocus.com, didn't allow a catch. Texans quarterback Ryan Mallett went his way 12 times and got three completions for basically nothing.
"Our line pressured the quarterback and he threw some balls he wasn't set on," Newman said. "Our D-line made our job a lot easier."
There are also times Newman has saved the day. According to PFF, Newman hasn't allowed a pass of 25 yards this season and the Bengals' top three corners have allowed only a total of six at least that long.
"I credit our D-line and our coaches for putting us in position to make plays," Newman said. "You can pretty much plug anybody into this the way our D-line is playing the way we're coached to do things."
The reason Newman is watching every receiver this week is that he could be on anybody. For years the Bengals have felt comfortable leaving their cornerbacks on one side and letting them cover which ever receiver lines up there. Whether defensive coordinator Paul Guenther chooses to play his regulars, Newman, Leon Hall and Adam Jones, or the kids, Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard, they get that guy on the other side and that's it.
"I feel good about all of our corners and not having to flip them," Guenther said after the Houston victory. "They know how to play the guy, understand the routes, the formations, what the route is going to be by formation and you play your techniques. We just prefer to leave them. We feel, whether its Terence, Leon, (Jones), Dre or Dennard we feel good about those guys. If a guy comes out to your side you're going to cover him. Do whatever you're supposed to do in the coverage."
But Newman is clearly something special in a pretty special group. PFF charts him physical enough to lead all NFL corners allowing the fewest yards after the catch and deft enough to be ranked 26th in coverage out of 112 corn
His teammates say he's got the body of a guy closer to Evans' age. Say 25 or 26. The Bengals have a decision to make as Newman's contract nears an and. Extend a 37-year-old corner? Or go with one of the kids? Newman is just enjoying acting like a kid. Sure, he'd play until 40 at a position so many are done by 30.
"Hopefully I've got a couple of years left. I'm still having fun," he said. "If my body doesn't break down before then, I would definitely like to."
But when it comes to stacking up this season against his two Pro Bowls in Dallas, Newman defers.
"I don't ever judge it that way. As long as we win games, that's how I judge it," Newman said. "If we're winning games, I would like to assume that the players are doing what they're supposed to be doing and what they're coached to do. I'm just happy we're in the positon we're in with five games left where we can do some pretty impressive things."
Newman has enough experience to know you need more than experience. Just ask him if he can use all those years against the phenom.
"I'll tell you Sunday," he said.