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Bengals defense saves best for last again

11-10-03, 6:30 a.m.


Yes, the Texans set a franchise record for scoring their most points. And they got their longest run from scrimmage on Domanick Davis' 51-yarder Sunday against the Bengals' defense in Cincinnati's 34-27 victory.

But like they did when they allowed Seattle 459 yards two weeks ago in a 27-24 victory over Seattle, the Bengals came up with clutch plays on defense to preserve the victory.

And they came from two free-agent veterans added in May and June for their experience and past productivity. Strong safety Rogers Beckett's blitz and sack of Texans quarterback David Carr on third down from the Bengals 8 held Houston to a field goal with 1:33 left in the third quarter and gave the Bengals only a 27-24 deficit.

Then with 2:32 left in the game and Cincinnati leading, 34-27, defensive end Duane Clemons came clean on a stunt with tackle John Thornton and tipped Carr's pass that ended up in the hands of Bengals rookie cornerback Terrell Roberts at the Houston 18.

"The bottom line is the score and we won," said safety Kevin Kaesviharn. It doesn't matter if it's 68-52 or 10-3."

Kaesviharn was a key guy Sunday. Because Beckett was hurting with an abdominal strain, he made his first start ever at strong safety. Then when cornerback Jeff Burris went down in the first series of the third quarter with an undisclosed injury, he moved to corner for the first time since last year.

"Like riding a bike," said Kaesviharn, who admitted he was rusty and gave the Texans' speedy receivers some chances deep that they couldn't convert. "Those are like foul balls in baseball."

How tough is Beckett? After hurting himself while making a team-high 11 tackles last week, he told the coaches it only hurt when he tackled someone. So they took him out of the regular lineup, but went with him on passing downs. They had tried that same blitz twice in the game, but each time left tackle Chester Pitts picked him up.

"And he did his business both times with me. Told me not to come in there again," Beckett said. "The third time I tried to disguise it a little longer and I don't know who he picked up that time."

GREAT PICKUP: The Bengals stunned the world by picking up kicker Shayne Graham off waivers five days before the season and he still hasn't missed from less than 54 yards. On Sunday, he hit his 12th and 13th straight from inside 54, both 40-yarders and the last one coming with 2:32 left to give the Bengals their margin of victory.

But his biggest contribution came right after the Bengals took a 31-27 lead early in the fourth quarter, when as the last man on the kickoff he upended J.J. Moses at the final instant for what appeared to be a touchdown saver at the Texans 39.

"I just wanted to make sure that I got the right leverage and got my head across," Graham said. "I didn't want him to leave me grabbing for air. I've done that before. Thankfully things worked well to get the angle.

"It was very reassuring to look back and see him on the ground and then walking back to the sideline."

Moses rolled up 186 yards on seven kicks and what do you think NFL leader Dante Hall is thinking as he comes in with the Chiefs Sunday?


FOLEY RETURN:** Former Bengals linebacker Steve Foley said he wanted to make a big play against his former mates Sunday, and he did make a nice special teams tackle. But the closest thing he came to a big play was Bengals wide receiver Peter Warrick's reverse off a reverse for a vintage Florida State run of 20 yards. He put on the brakes to his left before heading back right, leaving Foley and free safety Marlon McCree in the lurch.

"I don't know what the atmosphere is like over there. I don't know how guys are going about it day-to-day," Foley said, "but just by looking, I think I saw some guys that were more in tune and more into it later in the game. In the latter parts of the game, they kept their heads together and made plays. If anything, that's the difference that I saw." 
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