Created on Thursday, 10 October 2013 Written by JOE KAY, AP Sports Writer
CINCINNATI (AP) — Huge drops of rain pelted the field, falling so hard that players had to blink to protect their eyes. The wind made the yellow uprights on the goal posts bob and weave.
In this Oct. 6, 2013 photo, Cincinnati Bengals punter Kevin Huber kicks a 57-yard punt in a driving rain late in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, in Cincinnati. The deluge was beginning. The game was on the line. Huber tried to block all of it out, and he delivered one of the most impressive kicks of his career. (AP Photo/Tom Uhlman)
Punt in these conditions? That's exactly what Kevin Huber had to do on Sunday. With a game on the line, no less.
"That was probably the heaviest (downpour) I've ever been in," the Bengals punter said. "That was pretty insane that it rained that hard for that long of a period."
He came up with one of the best punts of his career, sending the ball 57 yards in the air through the driving rain. His kicked pinned the New England Patriots for those final wet minutes of a 13-6 victory at Paul Brown Stadium.
The defense's performance was impressive, ending Tom Brady's streak of 52 consecutive games with a touchdown pass. Huber's kick was as good as anything the defense did.
"Oh, man, that was huge for us," defensive tackle Domata Peko said on Wednesday. "A big punt, and it came at the perfect time. We were going to give them a short field, but he booted that thing all the way down. That was amazing, man. It was up there forever."
That he got it off at all was impressive.
The Bengals had a fourth down at their 17-yard line coming out of the two-minute warning. A storm had just moved in at Paul Brown Stadium. Big raindrops came down so hard that players felt like they were being pelted with hail.
Huber jogged onto the field holding a towel, hoping to keep his hands dry so he didn't fumble the wet ball. He immediately realized that was wishful thinking.
"The second I took the towel away, I just got soaked anyway," Huber said. "I don't even know why I took it out with me."
The goal: Catch it cleanly and get it away without having it blocked or hitting it off the side of his foot. And try not to let the wind blow it down a few yards past the line of scrimmage. Every yard was vital at that point.
"The wind was a little bigger factor than the rain," Huber said. "If it was just a heavy, down-pouring rain, I would have been fine with that all day. But the wind definitely made it harder."
He got the snap and got it off so smoothly that the ball took off, cutting through the rain and wind as though it were a sunny day. Even punt returner Julian Edelman was surprised — he'd expected a much shorter kick and had to turn and run backward to catch up with it.
He grabbed it at the New England 26-yard line and was run out of bounds at the 35, leaving the Patriots with too far to go under the worst type of weather.
Even Huber was surprised the ball sailed that far.
"It was like a golf shot," he said. "Your best shot, you don't even feel it. It feels like you're just hitting through air. That's kind of what it felt like, just a real good, clean hit, a hard hit. I looked up and saw him turn around and start running, so I knew it was a good hit."
The Patriots had trouble completing passes in the downpour. Several passes were dropped, and Brady's desperation pass was picked off in the closing seconds.
"We punted just in time for them to get on offense and have all the rain," Huber said.
NOTES: DE Michael Johnson, who missed the game because of a concussion, sat out practice on Wednesday. CB Leon Hall missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, but returned to practice on a limited basis. Asked if he could play on Sunday at Buffalo (2-3), Hall said, "I hope so. Two weeks is long enough." ... RT Andre Smith also was limited in practice Wednesday by a sore shoulder.