Updated: 7:30 p.m. After one of the more shattering losses in his nine seasons, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis handled his players with kid gloves but was hard on himself during Monday's postmortem following the last-play loss to the Texans.
"I thought our players played extremely hard; extremely, extremely hard," Lewis said. "I'm disappointed I didn't put them in the right positions to win the football game. It's my job to get them in the right spots and help them through the critical points of the game to give us an opportunity to win. That's the thing I was disappointed in. It's my job to put them in those situations and I didn't get it done."
ZIM REFLECTIVE: Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer also tried to be upbeat with his players after Texans rookie quarterback T.J. Yates commandeered Sunday's game with fourth-quarter drives totaling 163 yards. During Monday's meeting he reminded them how he lost wife Vikki suddenly two seasons ago.
"This is not the first time I've been beaten on the last play of the game. It won't be the last I'm sure," Zimmer said. "Like I told the players today, on Oct. 8, 2009 my wife passed away. I found out the world is still going to be going tomorrow, so today the sun came up, everyone kept going, and so will we."
On Yates's two-yard touchdown pass on a play that began with six seconds left, Zimmer didn't hesitate dropping into an eight-man Cover 2 zone with three rushers.
"I know they had no timeouts and they had to throw the ball into the end zone," he said. "Their past tendencies have been to empty out the backfield and have five wide receivers. So you have to make a decision at that point. Do you want to play five one-on-ones or cover five guys with eight guys?"
Zimmer was concerned that playing man-to-man would allow Yates to make a quick throw and that man coverage would make it easier for the offense to run a pick play. Wide receiver Kevin Walter caught the winner on a shallow crossing route just in front of the goal line, but Zimmer was really worried about tight end Owen Daniels after he had put 100 yards on the Bengals defense.
"I was concerned about him. I told (my players) to make sure we had 81 covered … we actually overplayed 81 a little bit and the guy slipped in."
MISSING BOBBIE: Right guard Bobbie Williams told Joe Kay of the Associated Press on Monday that his ankle has a clean break but he won't know if he needs surgery until he visits Cincinnati foot specialist Jim Amis on Tuesday.
The Bengals placed Williams on season-ending injured reserve Monday after he got it rolled up on during back-to-back plays in the second quarter and Lewis said he'll look at both veteran Mike McGlynn and rookie Clint Boling before making the call for Sunday's 1 p.m. game in St. Louis. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth and center Kyle Cook talked Monday about how much the man that has started 118 of a possible 125 Bengals games the past eight seasons has meant to the offensive line. Here is a guy that was on the field for Carson Palmer's first fourth-quarter comeback in 2004 and Andy Dalton's second seven years later.
"He's meant a lot to me, too," Cook said. "Who would have thought after three years with three games left in the season it would be the last play I play next to him possibly? It's tough. Besides the four games he missed this year, we've played (41) games next to each other, plus preseason."
Williams had missed only three games to an appendectomy in '06 before serving a four-game NFL suspension at the beginning of this season for violating the NFL's policy on physical enhancers. At 35, he's on the last year of his deal and may not be back.
"Bobbie thinks he has some good years in him and I think he does," Cook said. "Whether it's here or somewhere else, I wish him the best. I hope he comes back, but it's out of my hands and probably out of his hands too."
Williams told Kay he'll be healed in time for the start of next season, his 13th in the league. Wherever that is.
"It feels weird. Besides missing three games for the emergency appendectomy … I guess that was kind of out of my hands and this is out of my hands too," Williams said. "One of those things where the man upstairs' plan is bigger than mine. I'll just let the plan work out, listen to the doctors and do what it takes to get back."
The Bengals gave off vibes they were going to go younger at right guard until the games started. It began with the selection of Georgia's Boling in the fourth round and then starting him in the first three games during Williams's suspension.
But Boling got lifted early in that third game and McGlynn, picked off waivers from the Eagles on Cutdown day even though he started at center for the defending NFC East champs, came on and then started the fourth game, a win over the undefeated Bills. And it was McGlynn that replaced Williams on Sunday.
"Mike hasn't taken a lot of snaps at guard in practice, because generally it is the other guys who are taking those snaps," Lewis said. "He comes into the game with a great knowledge of things and some experience. As the week goes on this week in practice, we'll get an opportunity to see him and (Clint) Boling both. We'll give both an opportunity there.
"It's probably been a good thing for Clint to keep working and get stronger and get used to playing in the NFL against the big people, week-in and week-out. He's got to see that and practice against it. It'll be a good shot in the arm again for him to get an opportunity to get out there and play, just like he started the year."
Williams's tough, optimistic mindset that has rubbed off on his linemates for eight years was on display as he walked off the field into the locker room Sunday. He eschewed a cart and instead pumped up the fans.
"It hurt but I was still like let me judge it and see if I can still go," Williams said. "It was giving me a little extra pain, so I was like, 'I'll let the doctors check it out.' "
Yes, that stuff does matter.
"We'll miss just what he means to us," Whitworth said. "The energy, the passion that he brings every day. And the time he has put in here, he's one of the reasons this team is where it is (this season)."
Even though his season is over, Williams's optimism is still bubbling.
"I think this team is right here still fighting with the same spirit, with the same vigor. I mean, we fought yesterday," Williams said. "We could have done some things better to secure that win, but we let it get away from us. We'll be prepared to come out this week to fight some more and we will expect to win."
SANTA VISIT: A group of Bengals visited Cincinnati Chiildren's Hospital on Monday to deliver presents: Boling, Cedric Peerman, Chris Pressley, Andrew Hawkins, Mike Nugent, Chase Coffman, John Bowie, Jeromy Myles, Bernard Scott and Jim Develin.