The last time Marvin Jones played a Rex Ryan defense, he made Bengals history.
You know the Bengals must be 5-0 because the media has arrived complete with notepads and sedatives and is proceeding to psychoanalyze them as if they are being prepped to rescue Matt Damon from Mars.
And we were doing some of that analyzing, too. Guys like cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, who once went unbeaten in a galaxy, galaxy far, far away at Alabama, patiently hears the questions. But he feels the answers. Maybe because he has seen them before.
"There's something brewing. There's something going on," Kirkpatrick said this week. "This is a different team. I haven't played on this team. This is my first time playing on this team. It's not like the other teams. I don't know what it is. So many people can say a lot different things about what it is, but I just know it's a different team. It's a different environment . We bonded. And the bond has grown over the four years I've been here. I just see something great happening now."
There are 53 guys, 44 of them have been to the playoffs with this team and 17 of those have been to four straight with them, so you're going to get a lot of different reactions, mindsets, and vibes. And they have handled success over the long haul. The problem, of course, is the one-and-done in the playoffs.
Beyond the veteran leaders, there may not be two better guys to take the temperature of the locker room than Kirkpatrick and safety George Iloka, emerging leaders of the next generation.
"Everybody was asking me last week if it was a statement win. I don't think it's a statement win," Iloka said. "We've been good since I've been here and we've won a lot of "statement games," quote unquote.
"People know we can win in the regular season and we can win by a lot and we can win a lot of games back to back," Iloka said. "That's nothing new. We're just 5-0 as of right now. The real test will come at the end of the year when it starts getting cold, down in December and January and hopefully February."
That seems to be the takeaway. A team that used to be seduced by success is has traded the banquet circuit for the blue collar.
"Back to normal," Kirkpatrick said in the wake of Seattle Sunday. "Like I said last week. We don't need to change anything that we do around here. Wednesday we know we come in here, we'll make adjustments and we'll go out there today and apply them on the field. Thursday we're going to do the same things we always do on Thursday . Clean it up. Nobody needs to go crazy because the stress is this, or we have to do so much of this to be here. Let's keep doing what we've been doing because at the end of the day it's working."
Maybe the can't-stand-success narrative is a bit overdone. Here's a nucleus in 2012 that was staring at 3-5 and won seven out of eight to make the playoffs. Here's a team that hasn't lost two straight in nearly two years, and here's a team that last year always seemed to be digging itself out of holes because of injuries. It may have been the most agonizing 10-win season ever because no one ever seemed happy after the 3-0 start followed a blowout in New England and a tie to Carolina.
"It was a great win. Yeah, we were a little more happy after the game because of the way it happened,' said Iloka of the 20-point rally. "But we're not walking around here like we've got banners up. It was good to get the win. Let's go get another one."
Veteran defensive lineman Wallace Gilberry had some similar thoughts.
"Each game is a different game. True enough we're one of the undefeated teams in the league, but who's to say we can't go up to Buffalo and get beat by 30?" Gilberry asked. "You can't focus on it. You can't even think about it. All you can do is go out there today, implement this game plan, go out here tomorrow, polish up the game plan, go out here Friday and Saturday and smooth out the game plan and then Sunday hopefully execute it to best of your ability."
ENCORE FOR MARV? When Marvin Jones became the first Bengals receiver to ever catch four touchdowns in a game, he did it against four different defensive backs deployed by Jets head coach Rex Ryan back on Oct. 27, 2013 in that 49-9 rout that the Rexster himself recently called "a (butt) whipping."
Ryan tees it up again against the Bengals Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) as head coach of the Bills and he's still looking for DBs. He's got two better cornerbacks in Buffalo than he did that day at Paul Brown Stadium in rookie Ronald Darby and Stephon Gilmore. In fact, they're the best tandem the Bengals have faced this season. According to Profootballfocus.com, they rate No. 2 and No. 4, respectively, in coverage among NFL corners.
But he doesn't have starting safety Aaron Williams and that's a problem if you take a look at how the Bengals used Jones against a Jets defense that was ranked fourth in the league:
Jones went after New York's first-rounder on the first TD, cornerback Dee Milliner, on a nine-yard back-shoulder, and did the same thing to cornerback Darrin Walls, a 2012 free agent from Notre Dame, from six yards out. Then with 16 seconds left in the half, Jones got position on veteran safety Dawan Landry on the sideline in the end zone and Andy Dalton sidearmed it over Walls and into Jones's window just before he fell out of bounds for a 14-yarder. On the fourth record breaker, Jones simply broke the tackle of safety Jaiquawn Jarrett, a 2012 free agent of Temple, for a six-yard TD.
The Bills, ranked in the middle of the defensive ranking as they try to adjust to Ryan's scheme, seem to have a lot more talent in this secondary. Darby is a second-rounder and Gilmore is a first-rounder. They have a nine-year veteran safety in Corey Graham, backup safety Duke Williams is a fourth-rounder from 2013 and backup safety Bacarri Rambo is a second-year free agent out of Georgia.
But Ryan likes to leave his DBs one-on-one so they can blitz and that has caused problems for him against the Bengals when they've had multiple weapons.
With the Chad Johnson-T.J. Houshmandzadeh-Chris Henry trio working against Ryan as the Ravens defensive coordinator, the Bengals win five out of six games from 2005-2007. When the Bengals had no speed to pair opposite the declining Johnson on the outside, Ryan beat them with the blitz three straight times with the Jets from 2009-10. Then it was back to the three-headed monster and problems with Jones, A.J. Green, and Mohamed Sanu in 2013.
Those three receivers pride themselves on those one-on-one matchups. This season all three are averaging at least 15.1 yards per catch on at least 14 catches.
"It's a Rex Ryan defense. He's got a lot of exotic (looks)," Jones said after Thursday's practice. "That's just what he does. He asks his corners to play one-on-one. That's just what it is. Pretty much most of the games we've had one- on-one coverages, we wouldn't mind it if they kept doing it."
*INJURY UPDATE: *With the Bengals staring at a bye week after Sunday's game in Buffalo (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12), they look to be on the verge of having everybody available.
Only slot cornerback Leon Hall (back) was limited during Thursday's practice. The six starters who either sat out Wednesday's practice or were limited went full: wide receiver Marvin Jones (foot), cornerbacks Adam Jones (groin) and Dre Kirkpatrick (hip), as well as right guard Kevin Zeitler (elbow) and Andre Smith (elbow) and left tackle Andrew Whitworth (rest). Also backup wide receiver Brandon Tate (illness) went full.
The Bills quarterback situation is still anyone's guess. Tyrod Taylor, a running QB working on a sprained knee, went limited for the second staight day and Ryan said E.J. Manuel took the majority of snaps. So did wide receiver Sammy Watkins (calf) and running back LeSean McCoy (hamstring). McCoy and Watkins haven't played the last two weeks. Watkins says he's playing, but McCoy might have to wait another week and that's got them extremely thin at running back.
Rookie running back Karlos Williams (concussion) hasn't practiced this week and that hurts the Bills. Williams, who didn't play last week, joined O.J. Simpson and Elbert Dubenion as the only Bills to score in the first four games of a season and he's only the fifth rookie in the last 55 years to score a touchdown in each of his first four games.