09-29-2000-UNKNOWN

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Bengals President Mike Brown, impressed with how Dick LeBeau has taken command of a shell-shocked 0-3 team, backs his new coach when it comes to the threat of jobs.

Brown said during Friday's practice that the club is prepared to dip into the practice squad or look elsewhere if the struggles continue.

"I think that's good," said Brown of LeBeau's threat. "When you suffer what we've been suffering through, you try another way. We have players who have ability who are backups. There are even players on the practice squad who are worth looking at. And if the guys we have don't get the job done, we'll look at somebody else or someone to bring in from elsewhere." . . .more

Brown, 65, finds himself working with a guy who is his Ohio contemporary. He grew up in Massillon and Cleveland while LeBeau, 63, grew up London. The two have known each other since 1959, when LeBeau was a rookie cut by Brown's father, Paul, coach of the Cleveland Browns.

"Dick has stepped in well," Brown said. "He's handled a difficult situation as well as you could want. He's a great guy to work with and I didn't expect anything different. He's always had a nice demeanor and still says what's on his mind."

Brown knows the play of his team is very much on the minds of the fans, so he's not surprised the second game ever at Paul Brown Stadium won't fill the 65,000-seat stadium. Estimates are in the 50,000-plus range.

"It almost has to be unprecedented to score seven points in three games in the modern NFL," Brown said.

"When you wallow around in the fashion we have, that's to be expected," Brown said of the crowd. "We have to go out there and show we can be a competitive team. Then we have to go out there and prove we can be a winning team. Then we have to prove we're eventually a playoff team. All those things are required to win the public's favor and we haven't done any of them."

NUMBERS' GAME: In honor of Dick LeBeau's first game as Bengals' head coach, you'll find numbers like 62 and 52. That first one is LeBeau's career interceptions, 62. The second one is the combined career interceptions of the four starting cornerbacks in Sunday's game, 52. . . .more

62 _ LeBeau's career interceptions.

52 _ Career interceptions by the Bengals and Dolphins starting cornerbacks.

26 _ Career catches by the five Bengals receivers.

171 _ NFL-record consecutive games LeBeau played at cornernback.

181 _ Total games played by the Bengals and Dolphins starting cornerbacks.

14 _ Years LeBeau played with one team, the Detroit Lions.

14 – Teams the starting secondaries on both teams have played for.

28 _ Years LeBeau has spent as a coach in the NFL.

38 _ Years the Dolphins' defensive staff has spent in the NFL.

41 _ Full seasons LeBeau has spent in the NFL as a player and coach.

45 _ Full seasons the Dolphins' 11 defensive starters have been in the NFL.

32 _ Full seasons the Bengals' offensive starters have been in the NFL.

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KEY MATCHUPS:*Bengals RG Mike Goff vs. Dolphins DT Tim Bowens as the Bengals next-to-worst running game in the NFL takes on the Dolphins' 11th best run defense. Bengals RT Willie Anderson vs. Dauphins DE Trace Armstrong * as Anderson tries to stop Armstrong's streak of sacks in four straight games. *Bengals WR Craig Yeast vs. Dolphins nickel CB Jerry Wilson as the Bengals hope to exploit problems in the slot.**

Bengals RB Corey Dillon vs. Dolphins MLB Scott Galyonas Dillon tries to find his footing against the replacement for injured Pro Bowler Zach Thomas. . . .more

GOFF VS. BOWENS:** OK, OK, try to forget that Bowens is the tackle in the 1994 first-round that panned out instead of Dan Wilkinson. Bowens is a tough 320-pounder who has never missed a game and he's now a three-down player because they have him working on the pass rush. Goff has struggled since he got the job with the release of Brian DeMarco, so are Scott Rehberg or Jamain Stephens in the wings? The emergence of Kenny Mixon, a second-round pick from '98, has made it tough to double Bowens.

ANDERSON VS. ARMSTRONG:Anderson can thank Armstrong, president of the NFL Players Association, for helping him get his six-year, $30.6 million extension. Now he has to block Armstrong, the AFC's sack leader with 6.5. Armstrong, who turns 35 next week, still makes his money by playing with furious tenacity, which is helped by the fact he usually plays only on third down. His 88.5 career sacks are seventh on the active list.

YEAST VS. WILSON: Yeast, arguably the Bengals' biggest playmaker in the early going, should be back after sitting out last week with a tight calf. Miami has few weaknesses on defense, but other teams have had success gunning for Wilson when he gets matched up in the slot.

DILLON VS. GALYON: Dillon has got a heap of pent-up frustration with just 82 yards on 41 carries. Pro Bowl middle linebacker Zach Thomas probably isn't going to play, which promotes Galyon into the middle even though he usually plays outside on passing downs. The Bengals cut a break that they won't see Thomas pursuing from sideline-to-sideline, but first they have to get Dillon past the line. The Dolphins haven't given up a rushing touchdown and the Bengals haven't scored one.

INJURY UPDATE: Bengals LT Rod Jones (shin) has been downgraded to questionable, but he still figures to start. If he's not ready at game time, John Jackson would get his first Bengals start and 162nd of his career. . .Pro Bowl KR Tremain Mack has a high ankle sprain and if they think it's going to distract him, like it has on his two fumbles in as many weeks, rookie RB Curtis Keaton could get time on kickoffs in a rotation with WR Damon Griffin and CB Rodney Heath. . . MLB Armegis Spearman (shoulder), OLB Takeo Spikes (hip) and DT Glen Steele (concussion) are all probable. Spikes, who leads the Bengals with 38 tackles, practiced for the first time this week Friday.

FRIDAY's INACTIVES: The Bengals sat down MLB Brian Simmons, C Rich Braham, RB Michael Basnight and DE Vaughn Booker, all who can't play because of injury. The Dolphins won't dress four of their injured players in RB Thurman Thomas, WR Tony Martin, DT Daryl Gardener, and CB Ray Hill.

THIS AND THAT: Yes, Bengals rookie WR Peter Warrick has been practicing with a No. 9 Bengals jersey the last two days for the nostalgia thing with Florida State. But he has to wear No. 80 in the game because that's the number he wore Opening Day and because the NFL now wants wide receivers to wear numbers in the 80s. Tampa Bay wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson's No. 19 got grandfathered in. . .

How important is a good start? The Dolphins have the best September record in the NFL since 1990 at 29-10 and haven't finished lower than 8-8. The Bengals, who haven't reached .500 since going 9-7 in 1990, are 9-31 in September since '90.

WEATHER CALL: The weather gurus at Channel 12-WKRC are calling for sunny skies Sunday with temperatures at about 75 degrees for the 4:05 p.m. kickoff.

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