In the Cincinnati Bengals' only two games in the month of November, kicking conditions were so bad for punter Kevin Huber that occasionally when he would shoot a ball into the swirling winds above him, the kick would get tangled up in them and barely travel the distance he had pictured when he was letting his leg fly.
It happened often at Baltimore at the start of the month. His six kicks traveled a season-low 37.2 yards on average, with the longest going 49 yards. The next week at home inside Paul Brown Stadium, amid similar gusty conditions, he managed things better, but still struggled to knife through the winds.
Huber knows that as he moves forward through the final four games of the season, he'll be dealing with the kind of weather that will make his job increasingly more difficult. Each of the Bengals' remaining games take place in the Ohio Valley region, where weather this time of year can never be predicted. Three of those games take place in Cincinnati, and the fourth occurs at Pittsburgh.
Take this weekend for example. Despite temperatures getting well into the 60s Wednesday and Thursday, the weather forecast for Sunday is calling for temperatures that will hover right around freezing and potential snow, sleet or wintry mix precipitation to sweep through around game time. The slick weather could make grip and kicking more difficult than it was say, last weekend when Huber was punting in sunny, 70-degree weather at San Diego.
With such nice conditions in last week's win against the Chargers, Huber drove four punts deep downfield for 222 yards combined. His 55.5 yards per punt average was his highest of the season, and his 75-yard first-quarter punt was the longest of his career (it was also the second-longest in the NFL this season). He routinely flipped field position for the Bengals early in the game, helping keep them ahead even when the offense wasn't performing at its best and most efficient.
Huber's kicking success led him to be given honorable mention status in ESPN's Punter of the Week Awards that are handed out by ESPN Stats & Info's Mark Simon.
As we get going with Wednesday's Morning Stripes, we take a look at the adjustments Huber is hoping to make through the rest of the season:
Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com has the Huber story. Here, Huber and special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons discuss how they aren't expecting 75-yard punts the rest of the way. Colder balls mean shorter kicks. Shorter kicks means angles and height becomes even more important.
With a fairly quiet day on the Bengals beat -- Tuesdays typically are -- we switch over to Indianapolis, where ESPN NFL Nation Colts reporter Mike Wells has an interesting read on Cincinnati's upcoming opponent. Sacks have been an issue for the Colts the past two years and it doesn't appear they will be getting fixed anytime soon. Against the Titans on Sunday, quarterback Andrew Luck was sacked five times, bringing his total for the year to 29. Last season, he was brought down 41 times behind the line of scrimmage. For a defensive line like Cincinnati's, which feasts regularly on quarterbacks, you have to imagine the goal this week will be to keep punishing Luck and add to that sack total.
Stepping off the field, the Cincinnati Enquirer has this photo essay from an NFL Play 60 event four Bengals (Wallace Gilberry, Giovani Bernard, Cedric Peerman and Marvin Jones) took part in at a local elementary school Tuesday.
In downtown, another group of players, including Huber, was participating in a service event called "Share on the Square." This is from ABC affiliate WPCO-TV. For the last four years, Bengals players have gone to Fountain Square the day after "Cyber Monday" to encourage people to give back as part of "Giving Tuesday." This year, the players were raising donations for Lighthouse Youth Services, an organization that provides residential, educational and mental health support for homeless youth and children living in foster care in Cincinnati.