10-28-03, 7:45 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Bengals outside linebacker Brian Simmons is honored to be the AFC Defensive Player of the Week, but with his team a game out of first place in the AFC North he's not thinking about how to frame it.
"I hope we win so many games this year," said Simmons Tuesday, "that this becomes an insignificant thing. It's nice, but it was even nicer to get the win."
Simmons had a hand in three turnovers on the doorstep of his own red zone during Sunday's 27-24 victory over the Seahawks to became Cincinnati's first AFC Defensive Player of the Week since cornerback Artrell Hawkins took an interception 102 yards for the game's first touchdown in a 38-3 win at Houston Nov. 3 last year.
Simmons, who worked in the middle of the defense since the Bengals took him in the first round of the 1998 draft, admitted there have been some rough spots in his transition to the outside this season. But generating four turnovers in the last two weeks seems to indicate thing are better.
"In the last couple of games, I've settled down a little bit," Simmons said. "I'm still getting adjusted because it's not only a new position, but it's a new scheme. I think we're starting to come together as a group and I'm feeling better over there."
In the fourth quarter Sunday, Simmons made his second interception of the year and later deflected a pass that led to an interception by cornerback Jeff Burris, each time preserving the Bengals' final margin. Simmons intercepted a Matt Hasselbeck pass deflected by defensive tackle Oliver
Gibson at the Cincinnati 35 with just under six minutes to play. Four minutes later and Seattle set up with a first down at the Bengals 35, Simmons blitzed and tipped a Hasselbeck pass at the line of scrimmage that Burris intercepted to end Seattle's last, best hope.
In the second quarter, Simmons forced and recovered a fumble by Seahawks wide receiver Darrell Jackson at the Cincinnati 25 to keep the score tied and setting up the offense's 75-yard touchdown drive for the Bengals' 14-7 lead.
Simmons has always felt his best spot has been on the outside, since that's where he led North Carolina's assault on the NCAA defensive statistics. Head coach Marvin Lewis and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier feel they can capitalize on Simmons' athleticism in space, and he did come up with the final play on a blitz from the outside.
"I don't know if I would have done that from the middle or not, or if I'm blitzing more," Simmons said. "I do know that I think we're doing a good job of keeping offenses off-balanced with a good mix of blitzes from all the linebackers. It's pretty well spread around."
Simmons had seven tackles (five solo) Sunday, and for the third straight game he finished as the team leader in total tackles for the season with 54 tackles and 36 solos. Plus, he leads the team in fumble recoveries with two.