Updated: 5 p.m.
Defensive tackle Domata Peko has played in 100 Bengals games, so he knows exactly what Sunday's game against the Broncos at Paul Brown Stadium (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) means for his 3-4 team. And he believes they've responded this week.
"This week of practice has been awesome. Everyone has been practicing their tails off. It's probably the best practice week we've had," Peko said before Friday morning's practice. "We've got our backs against the wall. We've got to win this one; it's a huge game for us."
Peko says the picture is pretty clear. The hour glass is just about full.
"We can't lose four in a row. Especially another AFC game. We've got to get this game," he said. "We all know that in here. That's why practices have been so intense."
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis wouldn't comment on this week's practices, but he knows his guys can read the standings.
"It's an important week, so we have to have a sense of urgency no question about it. Our guys know that. They know it's an important, important game," Lewis said aftter Friday's practice.
"The sense of urgency, that's what you have to have at this point in the season regardless of where you are. We're in the second half of the season for us. We need to have that sense of urgency because this is where you get defined. Whether you're a playoff team or not this is how you're defined going forward."
MOCH SEASON ENDS: The Dontay Moch mystery continues with his migraine headaches and Friday it took a sad turn when the Bengals ended his season by putting him on the reserve/non-football illness list.
He missed every day of practice this week, as did wide receiver Marvin Jones (knee), who was also declared out of Sunday's game. Everybody else went full, even wide receiver Andrew Hawkins (knee), surfacing suddenly on the report Friday.
Moch, a third-round pick last year out of Nevada who has evolved into a defensive end/SAM backer, has played just one game in the NFL. The Bengals replaced him on the roster with a guy they think has a bright future in rookie WILL backer Emmanuel Lamur, a free agent out of Kansas State that has been on the practice squad all season.
The 6-4, 232-pound Lamur is a former safety that can run and impressed the Bengals with his instincts during the preseason.
It's going to be an interesting call for Sunday's active list. It could come down to Lamur and first-round pick Dre Kirkpatrick, a cornerback looking to make his own NFL debut. The Bengals could decide to go with Lamur as one of seven linebackers in a game they need to be stout at outside backer and safety because of Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning's efforts to get defenses into mismatches with personnel groups.
The Bengals chose not to activate defensive tackle Pat Sims from the physically unable to perform list (PUP) and Lewis wouldn't say if Kirkpatrick is going to play.
What's next for Moch is unclear. He's been frustrated at every turn trying to get on the field. Last year he lost the first six weeks when he injured his foot in the first quarter of the preseason. Then the headaches sidelined him without playing a rookie snap.
This year he lost the first month of the season when he ran afoul of the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances and he couldn't build on his team-leading 3.5 sacks in the preseason. The only regular-season game he played came when he took a handful of snaps at end in Cleveland Oct. 14.
"It's a shame. The frustration is hopefully not leading to the issues. They're trying to figure out why," Lewis said. "The thing is we don't know what brings on the headaches. It's something he's going through. We don't have a great solution for it right now, but we obviously we can't count on the guy until it's resolved."
Lewis is wondering about a lot of things. It didn't appear to be a factor in Moch's college career, but he wonders if there might have been something there under the surface. And he wonders if the stress of not playing is related to the migraines.
"It's been an issue. When he was injured, it didn't seem to be an issue," Lewis said. "When he was gone through suspension it supposedly wasn't. That's kind of the telltale sign.
"He has an issue and when it crops up they're able to control it. We keep having to control it with different things. The doctors continue to search for the right treatments."
NO SIMS: Lewis said after practice that the Bengals won't activate defensive tackle Pat Sims from the physically unable to perform list (PUP) but that he looked good in his first week back to practice. Since it was Sims's first week in shoulder pads all year, Lewis wondered how fair it would be for him to play.
NO MORE: Save those Lewis sound bites from Wednesday. He says we'll never hear the likes of them again.
After he challenged quarterback Andy Dalton and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga during a news conference to take control of the team by being a little nastier, Lewis didn't like the way his remarks were interpreted. He even challenged a headline that came out of it because he felt it said he was being critical of them.
"Shame on me for saying anything," Lewis said Friday. "Don't worry. I will never say anything again because too much has been made of it that way. It's not critical of anybody. It wasn't to be critical. It was actually to say there's a belief in those guys to move forward and we have great confidence in them to move forward and bring their teammates with them."
Asked how they've responded, Lewis smiled and said, "I'll never comment again."
Lewis said he was simply trying to focus on raising the standard of play and practice and called on the young guys that he believes are the core of the next group of leaders.
"There has to be a standard you have to continue to make sure everybody is getting to that meets your standards," Lewis said. "Now that we have guys in position that know what they're doing, now it's bring everybody else up to your level as much as you can because at some point as coaches we're out of the mix.
"They have to take the bull by the horns and get going. Last year we were relying on the O-line and D-line to be the energy. Now they're trying to pass the baton. They still have to carry it but we need to move above that. We need to do more special things and the only way to do that is to have more mature and special players. We're asking young guys to mature in a hurry."
WEATHER UPDATE: An updated report from the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio is calling for a light wind out of the north at eight miles per hour Sunday with a game-time temperature of 48 degrees under mostly sunny skies.