Josh Brown has now kicked in the NFL for 10 seasons. He's kicked indoors and outdoors and in the NFC and AFC and for bad teams and for playoff teams and yet he had to admit after Sunday's 20-19 loss to the Cowboys at Paul Brown Stadium, he had never been through anything like his Bengals debut.
"Yeah, there were guys coming up to me I'd never even seen before," Brown said of the reaction on the sidelines to his four field goals. "You just never know what's going to happen. Mike (Nugent) could be ready to kick Monday."
Indeed, before this total stranger nearly lifted the Bengals personally into the second wild card spot by themselves, Nugent spent pregame kicking field goals lightly and there's a very real chance he could be ready to kick Thursday night in Philadelphia.
But it looks like the Bengals would be in good hands and feet with the 33-year-old Brown. He certainly didn't kick like he'd been on the couch all year with five touchbacks and a 52-yarder for his fourth field goal that gave the Bengals a 19-10 lead with 6:45 left in the third quarter.
"Every kick he had were ones we needed," said head coach Marvin Lewis. "The ones they brought out of the end zone had great hang time and height. He's a guy that had a winning effort today."
Brown had good debuts in Seattle and St. Louis, but …
"Not like that. Not five touchbacks. It was pretty special," Brown said. "I feel like I'm striking the ball well. I'm in a good frame of mind. I've got a good perspective on what I'm doing. It's like riding a bike. You get on it. You keep your head down and you keep going."
There was a light rain later in the game and it was a wet, heavy day, but no problem. Brown had been kicking in his hometown of Seattle three times a week before he surfaced at PBS Thursday morning for a kicking tryout with NFL veterans Neil Rackers and Billy Cundiff to see who would replace Nugent while he nursed a minor strained right calf.
As usual, Cundiff impressed with his booming kickoffs and Rackers still has a significant leg at age 36. But Brown was a comfortable middle way because the Cowboys don't have the feared return men of Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Then he not only ended up with a Cundiff-like five touchbacks, but he drilled a Rackers-like 52-yarder that had enough leg to be 62.
"They have a good operation here," Brown said of holder Kevin Huber and long snapper Clark Harris. "They've made it very easy on me. Good snapper, good holder and good offensive line. The guys in front of me have joked all week about protecting me. There is a good group of guys here, and it's unfortunate that we weren't able to pull this one out.
"These guys really made me feel comfortable this week. We've worked hard and got in a groove quickly. It has been a pretty easy transition."
The PBS swirling winds weren't a problem since Brown says he's relied on his past experiences on site for one regular-season game nine years ago and a preseason game this year. It was so smooth it can make one forget how rare a day like Sunday can be for a kicker, never mind one making his debut.
In his 37 games with the Bengals, Nugent has had at least four field goals in a game twice and the last time is another eerie similarity of that 20-19 loss to the Texans at PBS on Dec. 11, 2011. Brown's 52-yarder would have been Cincinnati's only 50-yarder in half of Lewis's 10 seasons. With Nugent's franchise-tying long of 55 yards two weeks ago already in the books, it's the first time since 1991 when Jim Breech and Lee Johnson did it that two Bengals have had 50-yard field goals in the same season.
"I've never been through anything like this before," said Brown, the star of the game, not even sure he's making the next trip.
NEWMAN'S REUNION: Bengals cornerback Terence Newman was also touched by the Cowboys tragedy. A nine-year Cowboy before he signed with the Bengals this offseason, Newman didn't know the late Jerry Brown, but he knows Josh Brent, the nose tackle charged with intoxication manslaughter in Brown's death after Saturday morning's car accident.
"Josh sat in front of me in meetings; we had a lot of dialogue going," Newman said. "It's a sad feeling for the whole Cowboys organization and fan base because those are two good friends. Now he's got to live with that the rest of his life.
"I know a lot of guys that are close to Josh. Josh is a good person. Soft-spoken guy, big teddy bear. You hate to see something like that happen to a guy that you know. I feel bad for the guy that passed and his family and supporters. I'm sure they'll move forward and honor him the way he should be honored. Jerry (Jones) is a standup owner. I'm sure they'll help out any way they can."
Jones is also the owner that cut Newman after last season as the Cowboys opted to go after Brandon Carr in free agency and traded up in the draft to get Morris Claiborne. But it was an amicable split. Before the game Newman spoke with Jones and his sons Stephen and Jerry Jr. that work for their father.
"They're really good friends of mine. I told them I love those guys," Newman said. "They told me they were happy with the way I'd been playing lately. They were pretty much in my corner."
And Newman and his fellow defensive backs put together another good effort Sunday, save for the one quick touchdown drive that cut the Bengals lead to 19-17 with 6:35 left in the game. Before that drive, Dez Bryant, the hottest receiver in the NFL, had just two catches for 14 yards, and quarterback Tony Romo's longest ball to his top two wide receivers, Bryant and Miles Austin, heading into the fourth quarter was 11 yards.
But after defensive tackle Geno Atkins forced a hold on right tackle Doug Free, Romo focused on the middle of the field. He erased a first-and-20 with a 23-yarder to backup receiver Kevin Ogletree, converted a third-and-10 from the Bengals 42 with a 15-yarder in front of rookie WILL backer Emmanuel Lamur to wide receiver Miles Austin, and then drilled a 27-yard rope for a touchdown to Bryant just past the outstretched hand of cornerback Leon Hall at about the 10, and then he bulled through Cover 2 for the score.
Newman wasn't on the field for the score as he worked out a cramp and Hall moved to his side for a play that Newman said was a good call by defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.
"Football is a game of inches and they've been losing games by inches," Newman said. "They got that one by inches."
Hall said it was "so close, yet so far," but it was safety Reggie Nelson that took the blame.
"I've got to break down," Nelson said. "When he comes inside I've got to throttle down and break on that ball. It's my fault. Totally. I've got to break on the ball a little faster. Our corners and defense did a good of containing Romo and Dez and all their other athletes, but we've got to finish strong."
Newman appeared to end the winning field goal drive on the second snap when he blanketed wide receiver Dwayne Harris at about the Cowboys 35, but he couldn't get both hands on an interception as it hit his arm.
"I couldn't get my other arm up. I think he had it going in, but I only got one arm on it, so I just tried to cradle it and get it next to my body," Newman said. "But I couldn't come up with it."
"They played well. They got a turnover on defense. They made some stops late in the game. They got a little momentum going their way, dinking and dunking in the last series to secure a field goal," Newman said of his former teammates. "One of the big things on tape is they do a lot of double moves on the outside. We understood they're going to try and make a couple of chunk plays, or a lot of their passing game is the tight end making some plays and checkdowns out of the backfield and a lot of hitches and slant and goes, stop and goes on the outside. We just wanted to limit part of that. I thought we did a pretty good job containing (Bryant) and Witten and Miles Austin, another big part of their offense.
"Their quarterback, you really can't practice for the things that he does, as far as scrambling and making plays out of the pocket. It's tough to simulate. I thought our defensive line did an excellent job trying to corral him and getting him down to the ground and making him backtrack."
The Bengals sacked Romo three times and the Bengals Radio Network had them getting 13 hits on him.
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Nelson was the victim of a controversial call in the third quarter when he was called for a head hit on a defenseless receiver when he dislodged the ball from Bryant on the sidelines. But the ref that threw the flag apparently only saw Bryant's head snap back because replays clearly showed Nelson with the perfect hit with his shoulder pads on Bryant's chest.
"I thought Reggie did a good job and that's all you can do," Lewis said. "Most likely it'll be something on their teaching reel. Reggie was on their teaching reel last year of how to do it, and I thought that was picture perfect."
The Bengals dodged the bullet because despite the penalty, they forced a punt. But it was costly in another way. After the refs met to discuss it, the Bengals had to call their second timeout of the half when it appeared the Cowboys hurried up.
"We had to substitute," Lewis said.
Then the Bengals lost their last timeout with 14:29 left in the game when middle linebacker Rey Maualuga was shaken up but they didn't get an injury timeout.
"He was injured. We've got to make the decision. We can't come off that late," Lewis said.
» Atkins got his 10.5th sack, making him just the third Bengal since 1983 with double-digit sacks. Outside linebacker Alfred Williams had 10 in 1992 and left end Robert Geathers 10.5 in 2006.
» Right end Michael Johnson has a shot to reach double digits after picking up a half-sack that gives him 8.5. He injured his foot on the play late in the half but gutted it out in the second half and said after the game he'll be OK.