Notes: Special teams look to rebound; Another rookie QB matchup


Darrin Simmons

Updated: 2:30 p.m.

Game 142 of special teams coach Darrin Simmons's Bengals career was pure misery last Sunday in Pittsburgh. But he knows Game 143 this Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium against the Texans (1 p.m.-WLW-AM 700) has nothing to do with that one so he just went to bed Sunday night before watching the tape Monday morning.

"I've been in this business long enough to know you're going to have those days," Simmons said. "It's never acceptable. The thing you can't let it do is define you. You can't let it define your season. You can't let it define anything you do. You can't wallow in sorrow. We're still in the mix. We've got the Houston Texans coming up."

And yes, he knows that Texans wide receiver Jacoby Jones is coming to town with the NFL's ninth-best punt return average, just like Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown when he finished off Sunday's rout with a 60-yard punt return touchdown.

Of course:

The first one against the Bengals since Jones did it in Houston three years ago.

"Thanks for reminding me. Don't worry. I knew that," Simmons said. "You didn't have to remind me. I remember them. I remember them all. The good plays and the bad plays. It's easier to remember the bad plays."

Brown's return was a bad play against a good cover team, which came into Sunday ranked fourth and came out ranked seventh. Guys like running back Brian Leonard, linebacker Vincent Rey, and cornerback Kelly Jennings got caught leaning into the middle and Brown jetted around the right edge and didn't get touched.

Simmons was also miffed punter Kevin Huber kicked it down the middle of the field.

"We have to be sound on every play. The returners in this league are too good. The other two punt returns he has in the game he has five yards but if you get out of position on one play this guy has an innate ability to find out," Simmons said. "We were in good position early on and then right at the very end we had a couple of guys leaning in when they really didn't have to and stay in their leverage position."

At least Simmons could explain that one. It seems no one, including kicker Mike Nugent, could figure out why the clock expired before he hit a 28-yard field goal that was wiped out. One observer said the referees were trying to hash out the play before and didn't set the play clock properly, but Simmons wasn't sure about that.

"I don't have an answer for that one. I didn't feel anything was slow," Simmons said. "It was a definitive. Marvin (Lewis) gave the signal to do field goal early. There was no hesitation. It was a little funny. I don't know.

"I know sometimes it takes the referees a while because they have to shuffle the K-ball in. Sometimes it takes longer than others. I don't know if it was the case on this play. Regardless you still have to get the ball off; we still have to get the kick off."

Simmons does know how the ensuing 33-yarder got blocked up the middle. It validated one of the golden rules of special teams.

"Bad things happen on re-kicks. I've said that a million times," Simmons said. "(Nugent) was a little slower. We didn't protect it very good. We gave up some penetration we shouldn't give up and he was a little slow. It was a twofold problem on it. If we have one of those two correct on the play, we're probably OK but you can't have both of them on the same play, which we haven't had all year."

Simmons also said he continues to evaluate returner Brandon Tate, but it doesn't sound like he's going to replace him right now after his fumbled kickoff led to a Steelers touchdown.

"That's something we'll keep looking at throughout the week, Simmons said. "Obviously you can never put the ball on the ground. Ever. Can't ever fumble. I thought he did do some good things (Sunday). He was aggressive getting the ball up the field, which I like."

But it's not the first time Simmons has talked to Tate about ball security. And now, "he's a marked man," so he'll have to be even more aware of it.

Special teams had been a major reason for the Bengals success, winning the field position battle in 10 of the previous 11 games while appearing in the top 10 in several categories like punt coverage, touchbacks and field-goal percentage. So Simmons isn't looking to shake it up a lot.

"No different than if a quarterback throws an interception," Simmons said. "Do you change him? No.

"You have to focus on the things you have to improve on and you have to make sure everybody understands how those things get rectified. You just don't push them under the table. They're still there. I know that's the old bland answer. We're 12 weeks into the season. They should be fixed by now. We have to bring those things to light and look at how critical each play we play is because it could be a game-changer and it could be in the first quarter or the second quarter or the fourth quarter."

  • SLANTS AND SCREENS

» The Bengals, 9-7 against rookie quarterbacks under head coach Marvin Lewis, get another shot at one in Sunday's 1 p.m. game at Paul Brown Stadium against Houston's T.J. Yates.

Yates, a fifth-rounder from North Carolina, won his first NFL start against the Falcons last Sunday in Houston. When Andy Dalton, the Bengals' own rookie quarterback, led a win over Jacksonville and Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert back on Oct. 9, it marked the first time since Akili Smith beat Cleveland's Tim Couch 12 years ago that the Bengals played in a game with starting rookie QBs.

Now it happens again within 63 days.

There are other intriguing matchups sketched out in the Bengals weekly release that came out Tuesday:

» The third-ranked Texans run offense goes against the sixth-best Bengals run defense.

» Both offensive lines are in the top five in allowing the fewest sacks in the NFL. Houston is third (19) and the Bengals fourth with 20.

» The club also announced Sunday's game isn't sold out, meaning it won't be on local TV but can be heard on the Bengals Radio Network Triple Cast on WLW-AM 700, ESPN-1530 AM and WEBN-FM 102.7.

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