Jerome Simpson’s heels-over-head touchdown still has the Bengals flipped out.
The fourth-year receiver pulled off the defining play of his career on Saturday, vaulting over an Arizona linebacker and landing on his feet in the end zone during a 23-16 victory. Teammates were awed by the way he stuck the landing and raised both arms like a triumphant gymnast.
His coach? Not so thrilled.
Marvin Lewis said Monday that Simpson could have taken a much easier and less risky route to the end zone. A bad landing could have left Cincinnati (9-6) in a bad way heading into a make-or-break game.
“You just have to be careful,” Lewis said. “There’s other ways to score. It’s him and a linebacker, so just cut back and score the easy way. For effect, it sure was big.”
The play helped the Bengals build a 23-0 lead. They barely held on, securing only their third winning record in the last 21 years. A win on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium over Baltimore (11-4) would clinch the final AFC wild-card berth.
Players got the day off on Monday, required only to come in and lift weights at some point. Video monitors mounted on walls around the locker room flashed a slideshow of the weekly schedule, along with inspirational sayings.
A photo of Simpson with arms raised in the end zone flashed on the monitors Monday with the inscription: “Make The Tough Plays.”
Simpson made the most fantastic one.
He got open, caught a pass and headed down the left sideline on a 19-yard play. When he reached the 2-yard line, he saw linebacker Daryl Washington headed for him, shoulder down to deliver a hit.
Instead of trying to avoid him, Simpson left his feet and tucked his head to somersault over the linebacker. Simpson landed on both feet simultaneously, crouched with the ball in his right hand. He put his left hand on the ground briefly to steady himself, then stood up and raised both arms in celebration.
The crowd of 41,273 gave its loudest ovation of the day. It got even louder when the move was replayed on the video board several times.
“To tell you the truth, it was just instinct,” Simpson said. “I just saw the guy. It seemed like he was going to hit me, and I didn’t want to get hit. I used my athletic ability and my jumping ability.
“I’ve jumped over a guy before, but never did a flip and landed it.”
Romo’s hand improving
The swelling is going down on Tony Romo’s bruised throwing hand, and the Dallas Cowboys quarterback could be ready to practice Wednesday.
Coach Jason Garrett says it looks as if Romo is getting better and that a number of different tests have confirmed the original diagnosis of nothing being broken in the quarterback’s right hand.
Asked Monday if Romo can grip a football, Garrett responded that the quarterback has a relatively firm handshake.
All indications are that Romo isn’t in danger of missing Sunday night’s game at the New York Giants that will determine who wins the NFC East and goes to the playoffs.
Cutler to lose pins
Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith says quarterback Jay Cutler will have pins removed from his surgically repaired right thumb today.
Cutler has not played since a win over the San Diego Chargers on Nov. 20, when he broke his thumb trying to help make a tackle following a late interception. The Bears (7-8) have since unraveled with five straight losses.
Peterson eyes 2012 return
The Minnesota Vikings expect star running back Adrian Peterson to be recovered from left knee surgery for two torn ligaments in time to start the 2012 season.
Peterson tore his ACL and MCL when he was hit in the side of the knee by Washington Redskins safety DeJon Gomes in Saturday’s 33-26 win at Washington. An MRI revealed the ligament tears and meniscus damage. Peterson will undergo surgery within the next seven to 10 days. He faces an eight-to-nine month recovery period.