Updated: 4:50 p.m.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said at his Monday news conference that it is too early to make a call on cornerback Adam Jones's hamstring, tweaked during his 63-yard punt return in Sunday's 34-12 victory over Seattle on the first time he touched the ball in 371 days.
With wide receiver Brandon Tate scoring his first NFL punt return touchdown later in the game to go along with his two kick returns last year, the Bengals have a pair of powder kegs in the return game. Five years ago for the Titans, Jones led the NFL in punt returns with a 12.9-yard average with three touchdowns and special teams coach Darrin Simmons said Monday in no way does Jones want to miss Sunday's game in Tennessee.
But Simmons wouldn't give the kick or punt job to either one Monday, indicating he prefers to let opposing coaches guess.
"Take it on a play-by-by basis," Simmons said. "Think I'm going to tell you that?"
Simmons didn't want there to be any question about Jones pulling up when he got chased out of bounds by punter John Ryan. Simmons has watched Jones run on the side every day for the last three months and said, "Trust me, it's not because he got tired. He's been running over there more than anybody on this team. If anybody is in shape, he's the one in shape."
» Running back Cedric Benson, off his one-game suspension, showed up Monday but the Bengals don't have to put him on the roster until Wednesday with a two-day exemption from the NFL. Which means someone has to get cut. With Jones's hamstring questionable, it's interesting to see how the Bengals will handle the numbers at cornerback.
» Remember when Bengaldom dreaded the very act of the Bengals going into halftime because that meant they would have to come back out to play a second half that hadn't always been kind to them?
But head coach Marvin Lewis has his second half team with the 5-2 Bengals on pace to shatter their scoring bests after halftime and in the fourth quarter over his previous eight seasons. Sunday's 17-point fourth-quarter explosion fueled by wide receiver Brandon Tate's 56-yard punt return and safety Reggie Nelson's 75-yard interception return for touchdowns has the Bengals on pace to score 249 second-half points, easily beating the 197 supplied by the 2004 team.
And their projection to score 176 points in the fourth quarter alone is more than what the Bengals have scored in the entire second half in the past three seasons.
It also projects to their second-most points in a season under Lewis with 391, only behind the 2005 AFC North champs that rolled up 421. And the defense is on pace to allow its fewest points ever in a 16-game season with 281.
That projects to a huge 249-135 edge over foes after halftime this season, a category the Bengals have won just three times (2007, 2005 and 2004) in the past eight years. Plus they're on pace to outscore foes in the fourth quarter, 176-98. In the two seasons the Bengals won the last quarter, '04 and '06, their biggest pad was four points.
The defensive touchdowns and the big punt returns that have set up scores have a lot to do with it. The Bengals defense is working on a streak of three straight games with a touchdown for the first time since they did it in losses to Pittsburgh and Denver and a win over Cleveland Oct. 10-23, 1983. And Tate has now climbed to fifth in NFL punt returns with a 12.3-yard average.
The Bengals' decision to let Seattle quarterback Tarvaris Jackson beat them instead of running back Marshawn Lynch was an easy one and it worked in the 34-12 win Seattle scored just one touchdown. But the Seahawks' 350 yards passing knocked the Bengals down from second to fifth in the NFL defensive rankings.
But in the all-important points category the Bengals are fourth in giving up just 17.6 per game, which computes to 281 for the season and would tie for the fifth-best average allowed in club history with the 1975 club that went 11-3.
The 281 would also be their fewest points allowed since the NFL went to a 16-game season in 1978, when the Bengals allowed 284 in a 4-12 season that still stands.