Bengals fumble momentum

BY GEOFF HOBSON

The Bengals' decision to pass the ball on the last play of the first half Sunday might not turn out to be as infamous as coach Sam Wyche's sweep call to running back James Brooks 13 years ago.

The one that failed to run out the clock and allowed the 49ers to win the game on the next and last play.

But since Miami's strip, recovery and touchdown run at the hands of quarterback Akili Smith turned Dick LeBeau's debut as coach from a heady 13-3 lead into another penalty-filled 31-16 loss, the story will have some legs.

With eight seconds left, Smith could have taken a knee at his own 37-yard line and the winless Bengals – left for dead in Baltimore last week _ would have gone into the locker room with a 13-3 lead over the 3-1 Dolphins.

But Smith dropped back to pass, Miami end Jason Taylor zoomed past left tackle Rod Jones and slapped the ball away from Smith before catching it and outracing him 29 yards with the game.

LeBeau said he wanted to show his players he trust them and never wants them to stop thinking about attacking.

"In hindsight, I wish I hadn't thrown the ball," LeBeau said. "There was, I think, about 20 seconds left, maybe under 20 to 18, and we were going to take our shot downfield. Maybe score or get the ball into field-goal range, and the worst thing that could happen, happened. But, still, we have to be able to withstand that."

Although offensive coordinator Ken Anderson called Sunday's plays, LeBeau took the blame.

"Kenny and I were talking together and I said, 'Run it,' on first down and see what we get," said LeBeau of a play running back Brandon Bennett rushed for five yards.

"I was watching the clock and it was solely my responsibility to throw the ball in that situation."

There was no grousing about the call in the locker room after the game. Smith said he, "loved that call," if that was LeBeau's point. Jones said he made a mistake in technique trying to block Taylor, but he liked where LeBeau was coming from.

"We have to make some changes around here and that's the only way we're going to make it," Jones said. "Put your head down and run hard. That's what he's trying to prove. We're going to be a team to be reckoned with and that's not going to quit. Just chipping away until we put it together for four quarters and get a win."

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Jones said he tried to block Taylor by taking away his bull rush.

"I thought I had him blocked," Jones said. "I tried a little thing where I tried to chop his hands. It wasn't a mental lapse. I was just playing hard and trying to mix it up."

Smith never saw Taylor. Receiver Peter Warrick had just come open and fellow receiver Craig Yeast was also about to come open, but Smith said he never had time to get it there.

"I'm looking down field. That's a blindside," Smith said. "I'm basically reading the strong side safety to see if he takes Yeast or P.Dub. I got hit from behind and the ball came out.

"I love that call," Smith said. "Who knows? If I had got the ball down field, we might have got a field goal."

Taylor, among the AFC sack leaders with four, was only thinking about outrunning Smith.

"We talked about all week how (Smith) holds the ball a little sloppy. I think the ball bounced off (end Trace Armstrong) and (Smith) had his hand down and somebody touched the ball and it just popped up and I caught it, and I knew if I got caught by the quarterback I'd never hear the end of it."

Jones may never hear the end of it from offensive line coach Paul Alexander.

"The only time he doesn't block him all day and it's only the play that turns the game," Alexander said. "Actually it was pretty smart to throw it up there because even if they interfere with you, you got a shot at a field goal. The odds of that catastrophe happening. . .

"Did you hear everybody boo after we ran it on the first down?" Alexander said. "We ran it on first down to make them think we were going to run it out and try to catch them sleeping. And we were."

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