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Bengals down at half again

10-6-02, 3 p.m.


INDIANAPOLIS _ The tape is stuck on rewind. There seems to be no forward or play or record so far in the Bengals' 2002 season as they fell behind to the Colts, 21-7, at halftime Sunday here at the RCA Dome

Jon Kitna, the Bengals third starting quarterback in three weeks, did give life to the offense when he generated their first offensive touchdown in the first half and second of the season when running back Corey Dillon capped a 13-play drive that took 7:10 off the clock on a two-yard touchdown smash up the middle with 46 seconds left in the half.

The Bengals simplified their running game this week by cutting down the number of plays and it seemed to work with Dillon pounding out 54 yards on 13 carries in the half, and his first touchdown of the season. It was also the Bengals' first touchdown on seven drives into the red zone.

Kitna did a good job getting rid of the ball quickly, Levi Jones did a good job at left tackle in his first NFL start, and Kitna took no sacks in completing 10 of 13 passes for 61 yards.

But the script held up in other areas. Offensive penalties and a huge special teams gaffe made their weekly appearances, and they have now been outscored, 99-17, in the first half this season.

With the Colts leading, 14-0, in the middle of the second quarter, Bengals punt returner Peter Warrick committed two cardinal sins on one kick and probably won't get put back there again Sunday. Not only did he try to catch a punt inside the 10-yard line when he should have caught it, but he also fumbled it and the Colts, with the fourth best punt and kick coverage teams in the NFL, took over on the Bengals 4.

Colts quarterback Peyton

Manning took just a minute to hit wide receiver Marvin Harrison on a three-yard touchdown pass off his lethal play-action fake for the 21-0 lead.

On the Bengals' first four series, they managed just two first downs, with their longest drive lasting just 2:46. Dillon, started one drive with a 15-yard burst and then rolled for seven more, but it got called back on two holding calls, on center Rich Braham and left guard Matt O'Dwyer.

Another drive got blown up when rookie tight end Matt Schobel moved too early on a third-and-inches play for a false start.

The Bengals couldn't generate any pass rush on Manning, who hit 11 of 18 passes for 94 yards in the first half, and he made them pay on the third series on third and inches when he pulled off a play-action fake and had all the time in the world to hit Harrison for a 30-yard play in front of cornerback Jeff Burris at the Bengals 11.

From there, on third-and-10, the Bengals itched for a blitz and Manning ran right by everybody up the middle on a quarterback draw for a touchdown that gave Indy the lead at 7-0 with 4:25 left in the first quarter.

The Bengals' defense opened strong against the NFL's 10th most prolific offense with two three-and-outs. Cornerback Artrell Hawkins went step-for-step with Harrison on an incompletion deep down the middle, defensive end Reinard Wilson caved in a part of the line to hurry Manning on another play, and linebackers Takeo Spikes and Brian Simmons combined to haul down running back Edgerrin James for a three-yard catch on a third-and-long.

James, bidding for his 11th straight 100-yard home game, had just 35 yards at the half on 13 carries.

The Bengals came out a bit brisker with Kitna, but all they could manage on his first two drives was a 14-yard pass to Chad Johnson. Dillon had nowhere to go on his first two series with two yards on two carries.

With Jones starting at left tackle in place of the injured Richmond Webb, the defensive coaches promoted another draft pick when sixth-rounder Marquand Manuel got the nod at strong safety. The move came in the wake of last week's three confused, long touchdown passes against Tampa Bay.

Incumbent strong safety JoJuan Armour is nicked with shoulder problems , but apparently could have played because he dressed for the game.

Wide receiver Danny Farmer (knee) thought he could have played for the first time in three games, but coach Dick LeBeau's game-time decision was to make him inactive.

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