Bears dominate first half

10-21-01, 2:15 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

A stunning turn of events early in Sunday's second quarter took the Bengals from a possible 7-3 lead to a 10-0 deficit to the Bears at Paul Brown Stadium.

The Bears walked all over the Bengals' home-field advantage, holding running back Corey Dillon to five yards on his first nine carries in the game's first 25 minutes. The running game took a blow when right tackle Willie Anderson went to the bench early in the second quarter with a mild concussion and was replaced by John Jackson.

On the first play of the second quarter, the Bengals had a first-and-goal from the Chicago 6 after quarterback Jon 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 running back Anthony 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 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.

With throwing underneath passes to his wide receivers and getting big runs from Thomas, they took a 3-0 lead with 4:29 left in the first quarter on Paul 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

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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.

The Bengals appeared to be flirting with a second straight sellout as long lines stretched from the ticket office about an hour before the game.

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