10-21-01, 4:00 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
The Bears blew away the numbers and took the Bengals with them in a 24-0 rout for Cincinnati's first loss of the season at Paul Brown Stadium.
Bears rookie running back Anthony Thomas, who had carried just 25 times all years, ripped the Bengals up the middle for the bulk of his 188 yards on 22 carries.
Chicago, which came in averaging less than 80 rush yards per game, crushed the Bengals up front. Cincinnati had few answers in the passing game, either, against an offense that came into the game as the third worst in the NFL and finished with more than 400 yards.
With running back Corey Dillon gaining just 30 yards on his 16 carries and quarterback Jon Kitna struggling through a dreadful passing 19-for-46 passing day for 244 yards, the 4-1 Bears decisively ended the Bengals' five-game home winning streak while dropping Cincinnati to 3-3.
Instead, the Bengals suffered their first PBS shutout before 63,408.
The closest thing to a score came when Bengals kicker Neil Rackers hooked a 39-yard field goal try to the left in the first minute of the fourth quarter and the Bengals couldn't punch in a score from their 2 late in the game.
Bears quarterback Jim Miller mixed in the pass against the Bengals' undermanned secondary, finishing 23 of 30 for 232 yards even though he lost No. 1 target Marcus Robinson in the second quarter with a knee injury after he caught five balls for 50 yards.
Miller led the Bears to their second touchdown in the middle of the third quarter in a drive highlighted by rookie receiver David Terrell's 41-yard catch.
Terrell was working on Bengals rookie cornerback Bo Jennings just four days after Jennings joined the club from the Detroit practice squad. He was signed because of the season-ending injury to Rodney Heath and pressed into service when Robert Bean injured his groin in the second quarter.
Miller finished off the drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass over the middle to wide receiver Marty Booker.
The Bengals' running game took a blow when right tackle Willie Anderson went to the bench early in the
second quarter with a mild concussion, returned briefly in the second half, but couldn't finish.
It could have been 13-0 at the half, but Paul Edinger's 44-yard field goal at the gun got waved off because of an unnecessary roughness call on Bears tackle Blake Brockermeyer.
Kitna struggled against a stiff blitz from the Bears' linebackers. He hit just seven of his first 16 throws for 94 yards and got sacked twice after not getting sacked last week against the Browns.
A stunning turn of events early in the second quarter took the Bengals from a possible 7-3 lead to a 10-0 deficit.
On the first play of the second quarter, the Bengals had a first-and-goal from the Chicago 6 after Kitna converted three straight third-and-long passes to receiver Darnay Scott, tight end Marco Battaglia, and to running back Brandon Bennett, which came when Kitna beat a blitz.
But from the Chicago 6, Kitna lost nine yards when he slipped out of the pocket getting chased by Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher. Then on the next play, Kitna had to jump to tip a high shot-gun snap to himself and when he re-loaded, he tried to hit wide receiver Peter Warrick in double coverage.
Bears cornerback R.W. McQuarters jumped in front of Warrick to intercept and returned it to midfield. Three plays later the Bears had the 10-0 lead three minutes into the first half when quarterback Jim Miller hit Fred Baxter on a one-yard flip.
The big play came on Thomas' 46-yard run up the middle, a common sight early as Bears center Olin Kreutz dominated the middle. Thomas had 75 yards rushing on his first three carries for an offense averaging less than 80 rush yards per game.
The Bears came into Paul Brown Stadium with the third worst offense in the NFL, but they had their way early against the Bengals.
The Bears took a 3-0 lead with 4:29 left in the first quarter on Edinger's 48-yard field goal. Miller hit five of his first nine passes for 44 yards, but missed a chance to cash a touchdown when receiver Marty Booker fumbled trying to switch hands after a 10-yard catch and cornerback Mark Roman picked up the fumble at his own 2.
But the play ended up contributing to the game's first score when the Bengals could go nowhere, punter Nick Harris got off a 29-yard punt from his own end zone and Edinger rescued the Bears with his 48-yarder after a three-and-out.
With the Bengals preparing for the Bears' multiple receiver sets, their pass rush took a hit before Sunday's first snap.
Left end Vaughn Booker couldn't answer the bell with a nagging sprained ankle and went on the inactive list to become the second defensive line starter on the shelf.
Bernard Whittington, who started in place of tackle Tony Williams last Sunday, moved over to replace Booker. Glen Steele comes off the bench to make his third NFL start in Williams' spot.
The Bengals came into Sunday's game with 13 sacks, already half of last year's total, with a strategy of rolling all their linemen through a rotation to keep them fresh. But the Booker and Williams injuries could impact the plan on a day temperatures were to reach the 70s.
They activated end Jevon Langford for the first time since the opener and dressed rookie tackle Mario Monds for the second straight week. Monds, the 330-pounder out of the University of Cincinnati, has yet to take a snap.
Steele, a fourth-year player, is coming off last week's 24-14 win against Cleveland in which he got a game ball for recovering a fumble and making a stop on third-and-one.
Like Steele, Roman made his third career start and first this season in wake of last week's season-ending injury to Rodney Heath.
The Bengals' defense expected to get an emotional lift with the return of linebacker Takeo Spikes. Spikes, who missed last week's game because of his father's death, prepared for the game by taping a picture of his father on the side of his locker.
Wide receiver Chad Johnson (collarbone) was also on the inactive list with Ron Dugans now expected to get the bulk of the snaps as the third receiver. Danny Farmer, looking for his first catch of the season, also expects to see time opposite Scott on the outside when Warrick slides into the slot.