8-4-01, 10:10 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
CHICAGO _ The first half of the Bengals' new season flashed the same disturbing elements that marked last year's 4-12 run as Cincinnati fell behind the Bears, 13-3.
And the second half didn't start out much better on special teams.
The Bengals couldn't cash a 15-yard penalty on the second half's opening kickoff when returner Curtis Keaton couldn't cover a kick quick enough to prevent it from rolling into the end zone. And they couldn't cover Will Brice's 64-yard punt before it went into the end zone.
"We can do better," said Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau at half time. "Most of what they got in the first half, we gave them. We had 30 yards in penalties on their touchdown drive and we dropped the ball on offense to set up a field goal."
Unabale to adjust to the Bears' packages of blitzes and stunts that pressured quarterback Jon Kitna all first half, the new offense looked much like the unit that scored a franchise-low 185 points last season. Before the hurryup offense commenced with 47 seconds left in the half, the Bengals had managed just three first downs and whiffed on their first four third-down tries.
Then the defense, which played well most of the half, lost its cool late in the half. Defensive tackle Glen Steele was given a 15-yard penalty for going after backup quarterback Cade McNown's knees and then middle linebacker Brian Simmons was flagged for taunting in the face of Bears tackle Chris Brown.
That led McNown's six-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Dez White late in the half.
Kitna did heat up on his fifth series, finding rookie wide receiver
Chad Johnson on passes of 12 and 25 yards. Johnson, relieving veteran Darnay Scott in the two-receiver set, set up Neil Rackers' 47-yard field goal with 8:28 left in the second quarter.
"For a guy playing his first half in the NFL, Chad had a good effort," LeBeau said. "He made a couple of good plays."
Kitna also found Johnson for a 16-yard leaper over the middle, but he finished his stint just 8-for-16 for 65 yards.
In the third quarter, Bengals quarterback Scott Mitchell hit one of his first three passes behind the second offensive line as running back Michael Basnight did the bulk of the damage on Cincinnati's best drive of the third quarter with runs of 14, six and five yards.
But when the Bengals nosed past the Bears' 30, Basnight got stuffed on 4rth-and-1.
Chicago took a 3-0 first-quarter lead courtesy of a turnover as the Bengals managed just one first down on their first 13 plays.
The Bears' defense came out twisting and stunting and the Bengals had trouble picking it up in the passing game.
On the first two series, Kitna was immediately flushed out of out the pocket on third-and-long once up the middle and once from the right and only his mobility saved a sack.
Kitna completed two of his first six passes for 12 yards, but deserved a better fate. He hit tight end Tony McGee on third down over the middle, but McGee lost the first down when he dropped the ball on middle linebacker Brian Urlacher's hit.
But it was a mistake in the running game that led to the game's first score. Running back Brandon Bennett allowed Khari Samuel to strip the ball out of his arm in a fumble recovered by linebacker Bryan Robinson at the Bengals' 25. That led to Paul Edinger's 44-yard field goal despite free safety Chris Carter's pop on running back Marlon Barnes that jarred the ball loose out of bounds.
On the third-and-long play before Rackers' field goal, Kitna was again chased from the pocket instantly and he had to throw the pass away.
The Bengals' first-team defense played pretty much into the middle of the second quarter and pretty much held up. Right outside linebacker Takeo Spikes led one charge on 3rd-and-one, standing up 230-pound Skip Hicks for no gain.
Playing for the second-team defense, Steele batted two passes at the line of scrimmage.
Bengals Pro Bowl running back Corey Dillon didn't play and head coach Dick LeBeau, after not playing Dillon in last week's intrasquad scrimmage, has reasons that are twofold for holding off Dillon until as late as the Aug. 25 home opener against the Bills. He has indicated he doesn't want to beat up the offense's meal ticket, but he does want to take a long look at veteran backups such as Bennett, Curtis Keaton and Michael Basnight, as well as fourth-round pick Rudi Johnson, a tight roster fight.
In the first half Saturday night, Bennett ran it three times for 19 yards and Keaton had 10 yards on four carries.
There's a good chance Dillon won't play this Friday in Detroit because the Silverdome Astroturf has been extremely unkind to the Bengals in recent preseasons. It's where the NFL Draft's overall No. 1 pick, Ki-Jana Carter, ripped up a knee ACL on the third carry of his career in 1995.
Bengals rookie tight end Sean Brewer didn't play after pulling a hamstring in Wednesday night's practice, which could have limited the number of formations for offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski.
With Marco Battaglia out with a knee cartilage tear, the Bengals were down to basically two tight ends in Tony McGee and Kirk McMullen, a first-year player who has yet to take a snap in an NFL regular-season game. Still, the Bengals have want to see if Brad St. Louis, who is used mainly as a long snapper, can play significant amount of time from scrimmage.