Elam — as in Jets safety Abram Elam — was a popular four-letter word on the Jets' defensive side of the ball on Sunday afternoon.
The second-year safety from Kent State got his first career start in place of both Erik Coleman and Eric Smith and made a team-high eight tackles.
"I thought Elam had done a good job and had been doing particularly a good job in the running game," head coach Eric Mangini said Monday.
"It was great and I'm thankful that the coaching staff has the faith in me to give me the playing time," Elam said. "I just wanted to get out there and help the team the best way I could. I just know that you have to be ready at all times, so I go in each week preparing as if I was starting."
Ultimately, the momentous occasion for the Florida native was short-lived.
"It was kind of mixed emotions," he explained. "It was my first start, it was something that I had been preparing my whole life for so it was big. But at the same time it was a loss."
Elam got his first taste of the Bengals in the first quarter when he stuffed running back DeDe Dorsey on the Jets 8-yard line. On the next play, it was Abram again with the big stop, corralling Kenny Watson at the 2.
These two stops were vital at the time as the Bengals were stuck with nothing more than a field goal two snaps later despite being in the red zone for seven plays.
"I think our defense came out playing very well. We put ourselves in good situations early because our coaches had a good game plan going," said Elam, who had six solo tackles in the first half. "We were confident going in and we had to make those types of plays to stop that offense."
Elam helped contain the league's most productive receiving tandem in Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. These two had previously averaged 16.6 catches and 216.6 yards per game and combined for 10 touchdowns.
On Sunday however, the Jets secondary held the duo to seven catches and 145 yards and one third-quarter touchdown to Houshmandzadeh.
"We knew that they were their big two and we knew that going in," said Elam. "They are two great receivers and they proved it over the years, so we knew what we had to do to go out and neutralize them."
Elam's eight tackles were tough to ignore. Thanks to the CBS sideline audio, the league now knows the punch that Elam packs.
"I like to play physical — it's one of the strongest traits I have," he said. "I just want to use that aspect to help the team. If being that physical player is what they need, then I will do it as much as possible to help this team."
The former high school quarterback became a little overly physical in the fourth quarter.
With the Jets trailing by one with less than 10 minutes to go, the Bengals marched to the Jets 28. Following a 1-yard rush, Elam appeared to attempt to strip the ball from Kenny Watson and was called for unnecessary roughness. Instead of third-and-2 from the 27, the Bengals found themselves first-and-10 at the 14.
"I was trying to make a play but I guess I ended up giving a little too much. It hurt the ballclub, but it's stuff you have to learn from. I knew that was a crucial time in the game and it hurt us. I just feel unfortunate and it's something I'm going to have to learn from."
Despite the late-game blunder, Elam is confident about his football future.
"I feel like I can play in this league and I just want to better myself to help this ballclub win games. I still have a ways to go as a player but I want to continue to improve," he said. "When my number was called, I was ready. I felt prepared and I'm glad I worked so hard to be ready for this occasion."