Updated: 8/21/10 3:30 a.m.
Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, fuming since Sunday night when his first team gave up two touchdowns in the first quarter, got a first-team effort from everyone when his unit kept the explosive Eagles out of the end zone in Friday night's 22-9 victory at Paul Brown Stadium.
After the first unit throttled Philadelphia on 167 yards in the first half and stopped the Eagles six out of seven times on third down, the backups picked off Michael Vick two times while also sacking him three times. They also intercepted Northwestern rookie Mike Kafka twice.
"He challenged us," said defensive tackle Domata Peko of Zimmer. "We weren't happy with how we played on defense in the first couple of games. He told us that last year was over and that we have to prove ourselves again. Don't believe what the papers say, stuff like that. Every year is a new challenge and we stepped up to the plate today and had a chip on our shoulders."
The Bengals even left a chip on at least one Eagle's shoulder. Cornerback Johnathan Joseph personalized Zimmer's message when he knocked wide receiver Jeremy Maclin out of the game with a shot to the shoulder on the sidelines.
WILSON LOOKS OUT: Indications in the Bengals locker room were that they had suffered their first major injury of the preseason. The fear is that safety Gibril Wilson suffered major knee damage on a play late in the second quarter and is out for the year.
Moments after Wilson left the locker room on crutches, agent Alvin Keels tweeted, "ACL/MCL for Gibril Wilson what a bummer. I felt he would really contribute this year. He will bounce back."
Tears in both the anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament are season-ending. That would appear to open a roster spot for a fourth safety behind Roy Williams, Chris Crocker and Chinedum Ndukwe, with the leading candidates Rico Murray, a guy that can also play cornerback, and Kyries Hebert, last year's special teams captain.
Running back Bernard Scott took a shot to the shoulder, but it looks like he's fine.
T.O. KOs EAGLES: For a guy who's got a flair for the dramatic, Friday night was just another day at the office for Bengals wide receiver Terrell Owens. His 43-yard catch on a bomb down the right sideline marked quarterback Carson Palmer's longest throw of the preseason and came against his old Philly mates.
Here's the stat: Last year Palmer threw five balls of 40 yards or more. Last year in Buffalo, Owens caught five passes of 40 yards or more.
"We're going to change that," Owens said.
Owens left the City of Brotherly Love with a lot of anger on both sides. But Friday night he made sure he not only talked to Eagles head coach Andy Reid, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, and receivers coach David Culley, but also the trainers.
"Those guys were instrumental in helping me get back to the Super Bowl. Trust me, there's a bond there," he said of the work they did on his tattered ankle after the 2004 season.
At 36, he's clearly enjoying the concept that he can run by a cornerback like Joselio Hanson, age 29, the backup for the absent Asante Samuel.
"For whatever reason, teams didn't show interest in bringing me in," Owens said. "Obviously my age being a factor. I'm trying to prove them wrong. I'm not of the norm."
This is the Owens that Palmer saw in California last month when they worked out together. But Palmer is hoping it will turn into a 49-yard TD pass during the regular season. Instead, on Friday, Owens got pushed out-of-bounds at the 6-yard line.
"That's one of his best qualities; just outrunning people to the ball," Palmer said. "I need to clean it up. Keep the ball another couple of yards inside because he can outrun that guy to the end zone and get an easy score out of it."
ANDRE SHOULDERS DEBUT: It is hard to get on right tackle Andre Smith when you realize that Friday night was the first time he wore shoulder pads since last year's playoff game. After getting on the field for the first time in more than seven months Tuesday, the Bengals were in shells and helmets, and they practiced Wednesday in shorts and a helmet.
Smith checked into the game in the second quarter on the Bengals' two-play touchdown drive and played into about the middle of the third. He said he got tired at times, but also said his foot felt fine in his first extensive action on it since the February surgery that put a pin in it to heal a break.
He gave up a sack to starting end Juqua Parker and also got bull-rushed a few times, which is a rarity for him because of his strength.
"I have to stay square," Smith said. "I just have to work on my technique. I've got to work on my pass sets, my footwork on run blocking. It could have gone better, but I'll get more work with the coaches. It was my third day of practicing."
So he's already ahead of his rookie year, when he broke his foot in his third practice.
KICKING KICKED: Mike Nugent, one of the two Bengals kicking candidates, knows exactly where the kicking derby now stands.
"I think it's a wide-open game until some day they say, 'You're the starter.' " Nugent said.
He couldn't be more right. Dave Rayner pushed his only field goal attempt of the night to the left from 34 yards out. As if to sum up Nugent's luck, after finally recovering from a groin injury his first and only field-goal try of the preseason came on the final play of the first half from 59 yards.
Oh yeah. Short and left.
And for the second straight week a penalty cost him a chance to impress the coaches from 50 yards and beyond. On Friday night, guard Nate Livings moved before the snap of a 52-yard try early in the second quarter and head coach Marvin Lewis opted to then punt. Nugent is remaining philosophical.
"It was clearly the last play of the half," said Nugent of his attempt. "Especially in the preseason, it's a good time to see if you've got it. I hit it very solid but I knew hit it left."
But the best news of the night for him is that his groin seemed to get through it OK ("It feels good now," he said) and he's ready to push on.
Rayner is 4-for-6 in the derby with misses from 44 and 34 while Nugent is looking for his first kick under 59 yards.
HAT TRICK: Three interceptions just don't happen very often. A Bengal has done it just twice in real games in the last 20 years with cornerbacks Deltha O'Neal and Leon Hall logging hat tricks in 2005 and 2008, respectively.
Cornerback Morgan Trent did it Friday night, all in the second half, pilfering Vick twice and Kafka. It's been a while for Trent, too. The last time he got three in one game is when he was a junior in high school playing for St. Mary's of Orchard Lake, Mich. He says he did it in the old Silverdome against Brother Rice.
Trent has lost the No. 3 job to Adam Jones and there had been some concern about Trent's early struggles. But he's smart with good speed and size and he always seems to show up. Like Friday night. On the first snap of the second half he praised SAM linebacker Michael Johnson's drop into coverage. Trent said Johnson re-routed wide receiver Riley Cooper and made the man-to-man coverage easier. Then on the second pick he said Vick simply "threw me the ball. The receiver ran a zone and he sat down but the quarterback thought he was going to keep going."
"It's a matter of knocking the rust off," Trent said, "and continuing to compete out there. That's all there really is to it."
ADAM JONES MAKES IMPACT: Bengals cornerback Adam Jones knew he was going to get a free play.
"I saw the flag," said Jones of the handkerchief that fluttered to the ground. "I figured let's see what happens."
Jones got the chance to catch first-half punts and when he settled under this one midway through the second quarter and called a fair catch, he was shocked when backup free safety Quintin Demps waved his hands in his face and then when Jones caught it Demps reached in and knocked the ball away. But Jones stayed with it and picked up the loose ball and headed left for a 22-yard return.
"That was the return that was called," Jones said. "To the left. My goal is to set them up, then go back the other way."
Jones also added a 41-yard kick return late in the first half.
"It was a middle wedge and I like that one because it's almost like a punt return," Jones said. "I like trying to pick up the crowd intensity. They'll be a little quiet out there. "
PARDON THE INTERCEPTIONS: It looked like quarterback Carson Palmer wasn't pleased with Chad Ochocinco's route on his first interception, a ball on which Eagles cornerback Dimitri Patterson easily grabbed in front of The Ocho at the Eagles 31, but Palmer said it was his bad.
"It was my fault. There was just a miscommunication between the two of us," Palmer said. "I just need to give him another second to let him get to where he's going to end up. I'll look at it. It's still cloudy, thinking about the way it happened. I just need to do a better job of letting him get to the spot that he's going to get to, so he can have a chance to make a play on the ball."
Then on the second pick, The Ocho got drilled by middle linebacker Stewart Bradley over the middle on a short pass where Bradley seemed to hit his helmet on The Ocho's but there was no helmet-to-helmet call. The ball popped loose out of The Ocho's chest and bounced to safety Quintin Mikell at the Bengals 42.
"Chad catches that ball 99.9 percent of the time," Palmer said. "He's caught a ton of those routes over his career and gotten down and avoided the hit. When you're forced into tight windows and you have to take shots, it's a difficult thing to see the ball in to make the play and then absorb a hit, I think, from three guys. I have all the confidence in the world in Chad and he can run any route. Especially that route he's great at. We have a good amount of time to keep sharpening things up."