Forget the kids. Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah taught everyone and anyone a lesson during the first half of Sunday's win over the Jets at Paul Brown Stadium. He made a bad play. Crushing. Devastating. For a lot of guys, they would have tried to check out of the Hotel California.
But he didn't and bounced back to help his team win.
"Just keep going. Don't (stink) afterward," is how Uzomah put it this week.
Uzomah has become one of those young veteran leaders that first-year head coach Zac Taylor wants to grow with (you can put youngsters like Joe Mixon, Sam Hubbard and Jessie Bates on that list) and Sunday in the second quarter he showed why. At the end of the first quarter he dropped a wide-open-walk-in touchdown pass from six yards out that would have put the Bengals up 14-3. After that they had to settle for only a 10-3 lead.
"I was pissed up through the kickoff," Uzomah said. "It's in the back of your mind."
Wide receiver Tyler Boyd ran over to him and said, "We still trust you, you'll catch it," and when Uzomah caught a stop route on the last drive of the half he went back to Boyd and said, "You're right." On the play before the two-minute warning, Uzomah made himself available for a scrambling Andy Dalton throwing across his body and they teamed up for a marvelous 16-yard play that had them breathing at the Jets 44. Uzomah made it possible with a toe-tapping catch on the sidelines.
"We practice that a lot. Scramble drill. Coach Casey emphasizes making money off the scramble drill and that's been a big M.O. for us the last three weeks," Uzomah said of tight ends coach James Casey after the first toe-tap catch of his career "in a game."
"I was still pissed," he said. "I kind of smiled. It's like, I caught that one, but not the (easy) one."
Then on Mixon's ensuing five-yard touchdown run, the 6-6, 260-pound Uzomah had the big block on Jets linebacker Tarell Basham, a 6-4, 266-pounder lined up at end. Mixon also got terrific down blocks to the left from right tackle Bobby Hart and right guard John Miller and Mixon cut off Hart and in between Uzomah driving Basham back.
"I knew the defensive end was going to try and come down inside and pinch down because it was short yardage," Uzomah said. "We broke out of the huddle quick, so I knew that was another indicator he'd come down tight. Coach Casey always emphasizes when you're down there tight, you're expecting them to pinch so I fired off the ball as fast as I could, as hard as I could, got a little bit of movement and felt him try to back door me. Joe was already past me, so I put on the brakes."
He got mad, but not mad enough to forget how his position coach prepared him all week. Somewhere in there is the lesson.
Taylor didn't have to see that second quarter. He saw it on some clips NFL Films provided for him to screen to make sure no sensitive info came out when Uzomah was wired for sound this year.
"C.J. plays with tremendous energy. I know that for a fact because I just watched 30 minutes of raw, uncut, mic'd-up footage of C.J.," Taylor said. "He really elevates everybody. He's happy for all of his teammates. He's one of those guys you love to have on your team and is very important to have in the program. He's someone you can rely on to do things the right way. He's a good mentor for the younger guys."0
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