CINCINNATI -- Jerome Simpson pulled off the defining play of his career thus far on Saturday, doing a flip over an Arizona Cardinals linebacker and landing on his feet in the end zone during a 23-16 victory. Teammates were awed by how 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.
"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."
The Bengals drafted Simpson in the second round in 2008 out of Coastal Carolina, enamored with his speed and leaping ability. He had a tough time learning the offense and started only four games in his first three seasons. The team has, however, seen glimpses of his potential.
"With Jerome's athleticism -- we've spoken about it many, many times," Lewis said. "And (the flip) was another display -- a public display -- of it. He's got incredible athletic tools."
Simpson's performance on the field has been inconsistent. He had a season-high eight catches for 152 yards in a loss at Baltimore on Nov. 20, then a total of six catches for 67 yards in the next four games combined.
"He played very hard" on Saturday, Lewis said. "So I'm proud of him for how he continues to keep playing. He went in there and blocked hard. We just keep pushing him to be as consistent as he can be in all phases of the game."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press