Since Clark Harris arrived to help rescue the AFC North title in a snap in October 2009, he has been gold Jerry gold.
Depending on whom you ask, Harris's streak of 683 straight playable snaps—that began after Brad St. Louis's struggles—is intact despite the snafu on the goal line in Pittsburgh last Sunday night. A gust of wind floated the snap ever so slightly away from punter Kevin Huber's target and he dropped it on the one-inch line to set up Pittsburgh's first score.
Huber blamed himself because he was able to get his hands on it.
"(The snap) moved quite a bit, but that's something I have to adjust to," Huber said Tuesday. "I can't make that excuse because I still got my hands on it. I have to watch the ball all the way in and catch the ball."
But on Wednesday, Harris took the blame as well.
"They don't handle the ball, it's partially my fault. You can't put all the blame on anybody," Harris said before Wednesday's practice. "If it hit him dead in his numbers, that's one thing. But he had to move, so it's both of us. It's no one individual … he had to move, so it was a bad snap in my opinion."
The arbiter is special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons. He considers the streak alive. But …
"Give him an asterisk," Simmons said. "Anytime a snap doesn't happen, there's more than one reason. The wind made it tough on both guys, but you have to make plays."
Harris says if he just gets 20 minutes with new punter Shawn Powell, there won't be a bad snap. That already happened Wednesday, so Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium (1 p.m., tickets still available) against the Vikings should be OK.
"Twenty minutes and we'll be (snapping) just like nothing," Harris said. "The only thing with him is that he's a right-footed punter. My aim point is usually at Kevin's left hip. I just have to change my aim point to his right hip. Other than that, we just have to get a couple of snaps in and get the little bit of work that we need to make everything smooth and flawless."
Like Huber, Harris is saying nothing publicly about the hit ("I have an opinion"), but unlike Huber he'll be out there against the NFL's top two punt return teams in the last two games. A couple of horrific plays in 13 minutes can foul up a solid year of 13 games. The Bengals came into Sunday night sixth in punt coverage and in the wake of Antonio Brown's 67-yard punt return for a touchdown they are now 18th.
"We saw what happened (Sunday) night. We've just got to come back. I feel like we're one of the best in the league," Harris said. "We've just got to get back to that. We've got to get back to what we do. We had a bad week, that's all there is to it. We just have to move on and get back to being a great team as we usually are.
"A couple of plays, two plays, three plays? That's all it takes to kind of screw up your stats a little bit, but we're not worried about that. We gave them 14 points. We can't do that on special teams. Special teams has to be getting us 14 points, not giving up 14 points."
ZIM TACKLES TACKLING: One of the constant characteristics of a Mize Zimmer defense is sure tackling and it has been everything but in the last two weeks. Zimmer's not sure why, but he has seen more missed tackles throughout the league on tape as the weather has turned colder.
He says it has nothing to do with the limits on padded practices since the Bengals already have 18 games and scrimmages under their belts. But he's emphasizing it this week, particularly in team drills.
"Most of the tackles you miss are open-field tackles. Or you're not in the right position. It's not because guys don't want to or aren't good enough athletes," Zimmer said after Wednesday's practice. "They either get in bad position on the ball carrier or they're late getting there.
"These guys are all good tacklers. Sometimes it's the guys you're going against. Antonio Brown is pretty good. Quick guys. Tackling is a lot about, 'I got this shoulder, he's got that shoulder.' And the one-on-ones is knowing where your help is and being in the right position and being close. It's a lot easier to miss a tackle from here to the door than if I'm from me to you. I can make that tackle in the phone booth."
WHIT TAKE: The Bengals are trying to sell out Sunday and left guard Andrew Whitworth is an interested observer.
"It's always been interesting at times as far as that stuff goes," he said before Wednesday's practice. "All we can do is continue to put a winner on the field and try to prove who we are and people will come and support us more and more and hopefully that continues to grow."
TV SWITCH: Instead of airing Steelers-Packers, Cincinnati's Channel 12 is going with the game for more impact for the Bengals: Pats at Ravens, 4:25 p.m. on Sunday.
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