10-21-01, 2:55 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
The Bears blew away their season trends, not to mention the Bengals in a first half they mauled Cincinnati's 3-0 record at Paul Brown Stadium.
With running back Corey Dillon gaining just five yards on nine carries and Chicago racking up nearly 50 more yards than their weekly rushing average with 126, the Bears took a 10-0 half-time lead.
It could have been 13-0, 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.
Who would have thought that if both Dillon and the Bears' Anthony Thomas had nine carries that it would be Thomas (with just 25 carries this season) with 110 yards?
Bears quarterback Jim Miller also had success with underneath routes to his receivers with 13 of 17 passing for 107 yards. Receiver Marcus Robinson had five catches for 50 yards before getting shelved for the game in the second quarter with a serious knee injury.
The Bengals also lost cornerback Robert Bean with a groin injury in the second half.
Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna struggled against a stiff blitz from the Bears' linebackers. He hit just seven of 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.
The running game took a blow when right tackle Willie Anderson went to the bench early in the second quarter with a mild concussion, but he returned in the second half.
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.