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Another game, another gaffe

12-15-02, 2:15 a.m.


This is why even some Bengals say privately they lack discipline.

This is why even some Bengals say if Mike Brown is going to go get a new head coach after the season, he better get a cross between a drill sergeant and dictator.

This is why.

On Sunday, they lost a 15-14 lead in the third quarter when they had 12 men on the field for a punt return and it disgusted a locker room that has had enough.

Free safety Cory Hall, who tried to get off the field, said it was "high school, college,. pee wee." Middle linebacker Brian Simmons said it was stupid. Quarterback Jon Kitna wondered, "It should never happen. We are professionals. It should never happen. Maybe we didn't prepare hard enough throughout the week."

After the Bengals held the Jags on fourth-and-six from the Bengals 43, but the too-many-men penalty gave Jacksonville a fourth-and-one from

the 38 in a sequence that resulted in Jimmy Smith's 26-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Mark Brunell that put the Jaguars ahead for good with 4:48 left in the third quarter.

Hall thought the call was "defense stay." But since the Bengals were receiving close to their goal line, they had their double return team of cornerback Jeff Burris and wide receiver Danny Farmer back to receive. But when Farmer came on the field, Hall didn't because of a lack of communication with an unnamed player. Hall wasn't the culprit even though he was the guy trying to get off the field. Burris said Hall is usually on that type of return.

"I thought the 'defense stay' was called," Hall said. "'Defense stay' is where the defense simply stays on the field and no return man comes in from the sidelines. I was the corner on one side and I was looking for the signal from coach. I didn't see it so I thought I was supposed to stay."

And this is after the Bengals lost a fourth-quarter lead in Pittsburgh on a fumbled punt. This is after they blew a fourth-quarter lead against Baltimore on a blocked punt for a touchdown. This is after a 17-16 half-time lead got wiped out on a punt return in Carolina.

"We have no margin for error," Kitna said. "When we commit an error that is not forced — that doesn't happen by something the defense does to us — something bad always happens. It's like the worst thing that can happen will happen."

Naturally, the Jags made it on fourth-and-one. Then, moments later, Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin went for it on fourth-and-six from the 26 in a move Hall said, "Showed no respect. They felt like they could do anything to us."

And they did. Smith blew past cornerback Jeff Burris straight down the right sideline when he saw himself in single coverage.

"I was anticipating a slant considering the field position and kind of set too far inside," Burris said. "He's a hell of a receiver. He's not where he's at for nothing."

"I consider myself as one of the best receivers," said Smith, who finished two yards shy of his fourth 100-yard game against the Bengals. "If I get one guy on me, the ball should come my way.

"Teams are playing a lot of (single coverage) on us. They have every reason to match their defensive backs one-on-one against me because we really haven't been effective (against) one-on-one coverage."

Brunell: "We had a couple different options depending on the coverage. We got the coverage that was ideal for Jimmy to get the ball and he ran a nice route. It was actually called an option (on the other side). It was what we call a three-step option route to Bobby (Shaw) on the left side, so we were very fortunate once again."

The Bengals weren't so lucky with a defense that has struggled all year. Last year at this time, the Bengals had allowed three touchdown passes longer than 20 yards. Smith's catch was the 11th scoring catch of 20 yards or longer. They have now allowed 416 points and are on pace to give up a franchise-high 475 points, eight away from the third most of all-time set by the 1980 New Orleans Saints.

Somehow, it was fitting that the defense didn't know if it should stay on the field or not. The mental mistakes have seemed to be the most killing.

"I don't know about that," Simmons said. "We're 1-13. All of (the mistakes) add up to being 1-13. Physical, mental, spiritual, emotional."

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