Update: 8:55 p.m.
At 34, Terence Newman is the old man on these Young Man Bengals that sent 21 players with three years of experience or less into Sunday's 27-10 victory over Jacksonville. And yet his contributions during this one long pulled muscle of a season in the secondary are near the top of the list helping get the kids to 3-1 at the quarter pole.
He's Davy Crockett at The Alamo, Clint Eastwood in a spaghetti western, Martin Kaymer at the Ryder Cup. Newman is the last man standing, the one lone cornerback—veteran or rookie—that hasn't missed a game in the preseason or regular season.
And he's got a new lease on a career left for dead on the waiver wire. Ever since the Cowboys cut him back in the spring, nine years after Dallas took him with the fifth pick out of Kansas State, Newman's first NFL defensive coordinator, Cincinnati's Mike Zimmer wanted him. It finally happened a month after he was released and two weeks before the draft and you wonder where the Bengals would be without Newman and Adam Jones, their starters the last two games with their best cover corner (Leon Hall) and most versatile (Nate Clements) shelved along with Jason Allen.
"He's always been a tough kid who practiced hard, always smart. He's smarter now than he was," Zimmer said Monday. "He's seen a lot more stuff than when I first had him. He talks to me about certain things. Splits. Alignments. Different receivers. He's a little bit of a calming influence, too. Honestly, the corners throughout the year have played pretty well. Adam Joes probably played his best game yesterday."
Both Newman and Jones played all but one of the 60 snaps Sunday and according to profootballfocus.com Newman rediscovered "his top form," and "were targeted six times yielding only two catches and knocking down two passes aimed for Cecil Shorts."
"That's why you have six or seven former first-rounders on this team," Newman said. "Somebody goes down somebody has to step up. I think that's definitely one of the advantages of having a secondary like this. If one guy goes down another guy is able to step up."
Zimmer says Newman has had a tendency to duck inside in the running game and get caught when the play goes outside, but he said it didn't happen Sunday when the Bengals held the NFL's second-leading rusher, Jags running back Maurice Jones-Drew to his fewest yards in two years with 38 on 13 carries. In fact, Zimmer says he's been impressed with Newman's coverage on and off the field.
"He actually got after a lot of the guys on defense on the sidelines after they scored that touchdown," Zimmer said of Jacksonville's only touchdown. "He was very vocal, which actually was kind of good to see."
That's probably because Newman thinks the Bengals have something good going here.
"Zim's been on us pretty hard because we haven't been playing up to the potential the guys on this team are able to play to. All week he's been just pretty much down our throats and wanting us to hustle to the ball, finish plays, finish games," Newman said. "Honestly, you would have never thought we had won the game last week when we came in the meeting on Monday. He was pretty mad.
"We have a lot of work to do still. We're fortunate to win three games. At the same time I think last night's game was just scratching the surface of how good this defense can be. We've missed some guys in the first couple of games. Carlos (Dunlap) wasn't playing. Pat (Sims) hasn't played yet. There are some key (guys) that are missing on this defense. I think we can do really well over here. I like to say this isn't a sprint, it's a marathon."
Newman has put in the miles. He's been around, 136 games worth, and lived through the media frying pan of Big D to go to two Pro Bowls and four playoff berths. So he knows what a postseason run looks like.
"You want to keep building week in and week out and once December gets here, that's when you want to be saying, 'Hey, this is really a good football team. This is a really good defense, this is a really good offense,' " Newman said. "Right now it's perfect timing to have some mistakes and being able to go back and still get the victory, but the next month, month and half, it's going to be one of those times where you have to say and know you're a good football team, good defense."
Head coach Marvin Lewis's three playoff runs have petered out in December and one of the reasons is injury, which happen to any and every team. It's just when and who?
In '09 the Bengals lost four defensive starters down the stretch in tackles Domata Peko and Pat Sims, safety Chris Crocker and SAM backer Rey Maualuga, and in '11 Crocker, Maualuga and Dunlap weren't at full speed, and Sims, their best run-stopper, was out again.
But this time it looks like it could be flipped and if the Bengals can weather this spate of injuries, they may be flexing their muscles in December and have everybody back.
Waiting to come off the bench for the defense is Sims (PUP and could be back for the Oct. 21 game against Pittsburgh), defensive end/SAM backer Dontay Moch (who came off an NFL suspension Monday with a week-long roster exemption as the Bengals figure out where to put his 3.5 preseason sacks) and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (the club's first-round pick who should be ready the first game after the bye on Nov. 4).
Plus, Hall, Clements and Allen figure to be back this week or next.
"You've got quarters in seasons and quarters in games and you have to finish," Newman said. "The second quarter is going to be just as tough, if not tougher. The third quarter is going to be tougher than the second and the fourth is going to be the most difficult. As long as we can maintain and stay healthy I think we'll definitely be OK because we all know the talent level that's on this team and we know what we can do. The biggest thing is going out and doing it."
TEZ GETS MORE WORK: In just his third game as an outside backer, rookie Vontaze Burfict added the nickel package to his dossier and played all but two snaps from scrimmage in racking up a team-high eight tackles as well as his first career NFL sack.
Zimmer says he's learning every snap and that included the lone touchdown the Bengals allowed Sunday when tight end Marcedes Lewis got behind Burfict for a two-yard catch thrown over his helmet. Burfict never turned and was looking for a push-off call on Lewis.
"I think he went with the wrong hand. He kind of went with the back hand instead of the front hand," Zimmer said. "He lost sight of the ball. It's a typical play everyone runs on the goal line."
Burfict said after the game he was upset with himself and the reason he approached the official was because "he called me over and I said, 'Sir?' And he told me why he didn't call it."
MORE SNAPS: Safety Chris Crocker ended up playing an impressive one-third of the 60 snaps in his first bit of action in eight months, but Lewis and Zimmer aren't quite sure what his role is going to be and it sounds like it's going to be based on injury and opponent. Crocker's surgically-repaired knee appeared to react pretty well. The instant he could, Jags offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski went after Crocker and isolated No. 1 pick Justin Blackmon on him with a sideline route, but Crocker covered him step for step.
With Nate Clements down, run-stopper Taylor Mays got the bulk of the snaps at safety opposite Reggie Nelson, logging 95 percent of the snaps against a strong running team.
FAKERY: Special teams leader Dan Skuta wasn't all that surprised personal protector Cedric Peerman called his own number on the fake fourth-and-one punt that led to Cincinnati's go-ahead touchdown in the second quarter when Peerman simply ran around the wide-open perimeter on the right for a career-long 48-yard run.
"I think it was a screwup on their part because they were taking a pretty big chance on fourth-and one," Skuta said of the Jags punt coverage. "(Special teams coach Darrin Simmons) is talking with Ced on the side about that and he's telling him to do it if gets the right look. So we've got to be listening to Ced."
FUMBLE PIE: After setting an NFL record to begin a career with 589 straight touches without a fumble, running back BenJarvus Green Ellis now has three in his last 30. After having the skein snapped in Washington the week before, BJGE fumbled on his 22nd touch after the first fumble on Sunday when it was poked away on the goal line and recovered for a touchback in the end zone in the middle of the third quarter. Then seven snaps later he fell on his own fumble.
But the Bengals are going to keep giving him work. He's got 82 carries this season, just 99 away from the 181 he carried last season.
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Some stats to mull as the Bengals come off September at 3-1.
They are 15-21 in October under head coach Marvin Lewis and while that is his worst month, quarterback Andy Dalton is 4-0 in October after he was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month last year when he engineered three fourth-quarter comebacks.
October seems to be the swing month for Lewis. If his teams are going to make the playoffs, they've needed a winning record this month.
Last year the Bengals secured a Wild Card berth when they put the perfect October on top of a 1-2 September. And in the years they won the AFC North, the Bengals went 3-2 in '05 to go along with a 3-2 September and 3-1 in '09 after a 2-1 September. When they didn't make it in '06 after a 3-0 September, the Bengals went 1-3 and when they went into October 2010 at 2-1, they went 0-4 and fell out of the race.
» Now that the Bengals are preparing for their third rookie quarterback in four weeks with the arrival of Miami's Ryan Tannehill this Sunday, Cincinnati's record against rookie quarterbacks under Lewis is 11-9 after wins against Cleveland's Brandon Weeden and Washington's Robert Griffin III.
» Newman on the defensive line: "Oh man. Those guys are animals. Don't leave small children around them. Those guys are animals. It's also fun watching those guys with the passion they play with."
» Clements, one of those guys that was down Sunday (calf), didn't make the trip and he couldn't stand watching it on TV. Here's a 12-year vet with 162 games in the pocket and he's watching it like a 12-year-old.
"That's not for me," he said. "I was anxious. All nervous. Yelling at the TV. I was just yelling. Excitement when A.J. (Green) scored. Defense got some key stops."
Clements felt like Newman or Crocker would get the team's first interception of the season.
"My gut feeling," he said. "I was watching Terence on film the week of preparation and his footwork was good. I was thinking that Crocker would be one to come in and get a pick or something. I was happy for him."
Crocker got the pick in the middle of the fourth quarter, his first in nearly three years and in his first game since the Bengals cut him April 6.
» Lewis said the club will evaluate Crocker's role on a week-to-week basis.
» He didn't back down from his postgame assertion that Clements and Hall have "a great opportunity" to be back this week.
» Clements would only say he's continuing to rehab, but it's the first time he's been around the locker room in a week.
» Hall went out to the practice field with Bengals director of rehab Nick Cosgray on Monday as he tries to return for the first time in two weeks.