Back to basics?

12-04-01, 8:35 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Even though all his tight ends are gone, quarterback Jon Kitna sees the Bengals going with a spread offense only as a changeup at this late date in the season.

But in an effort to cut down the mistakes of an offense that has scored the fewest points in the NFL with less than 14 a game, Kitna wouldn't mind a streamlined game plan with fewer, but familiar plays.

"It might not always be the most sophisticated way of attacking things, but it gives us a chance to be more efficient," Kitna said. "When we do a lot of things, we have far too many errors. As a quarterback, if you don't know where everybody is going to be, where they're supposed to be on a play, that creates some hesitation at times."

After the offense gained 30 yards in the second and third quarters and half of the fourth in Sunday's overtime loss to Tampa Bay, Kitna threw his first touchdown pass in 10 quarters as the Bengals rolled up 100 yards in the last 4:16 they had the ball in regulation. Yes, the Buccaneers played soft with a 10-point lead and then a seven-point lead.

But Kitna also noticed how the Bengals clicked with fairly basic

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plays they have run since training camp.

Still, Kitna and offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski know they can't get too simple.

"We had a couple of new plays in that drive, too," Bratkowksi said, pointing to the six-yard touchdown pass to Corey Dillon that had been installed last week.

Kitna: "It's a fine line. If you get too simple, then all of a sudden you get backed into a corner."

Kitna isn't sure of the reasons for the errors ("I don't know if guys need to spend more time in the playbook"), but he is certain the Bengals can't use a spread offense as a steady diet even though it had results in the last two drives.

"You have to commit to it like St,. Louis has done and we're not at that stage," Kitna said. "It's a good changeup because it puts some pressure on the defense and in this day of free agency, when you start getting into the third and fourth and fifth defensive backs out there, that's when you're starting to work against guys who are probably kind of fringe players on the other team and you can do some things. But it can't be an end all."

Kitna thinks the spread helped a little bit against the Bucs, but he also thinks the attitude changed.

"What happened is that finally guys got that sense of urgency about themselves," Kitna said, "and that sense of urgency needs to be there the whole game."

THIS AND THAT: DE Reinard Wilson moved a sack closer to his career high Tuesday without taking a snap. Wilson was given the sack originally given to defensive tackle Oliver Gibson on Tampa Bay's last offensive play before the Bengals tying touchdown drive.

That gave Wilson a two-sack game and five for the season, one off his career-high of six in 1998. He's a half sack off the lead of middle linebacker Brian Simmons, helping put the Bengals on a pace for 44 this season and their most since 1992. . .

After activating TE Kirk McMullen from the practice squad Tuesday, the Bengals signed rookie long snapper and defensive tackle Randy Chevrier to the practice squad. Chevrier, out of McGill of Quebec,

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long snapped in eight games for the Cowboys this season before getting released. The 6-2, 290-pound Chevrier, who received an invitation to try out for Canada's national bobsled team two years ago, got drafted by the Jaguars in the seventh round before getting released. . .

The Bengals play the Jags next and Jacksonville comes off Monday night's loss to the Packers hurting. QB Mark Brunell reinjured a leg strain and may not play. RB Fred Taylor and starting LBs Kevin Hardy and T.J. Slaughter are also expected to be out.

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