Bengals, 'Hawks trading punches

10-26-03, 3 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

The Bengals and Seahawks played to a 17-17 do-over in the first half Sunday as the teams rolled to a crowd-pleasing 469 yards at overcast but dry Paul Brown Stadium.

With a fumble forced by linebacker Brian Simmons and a leaping, juggling interception by cornerback Tory James, the Bengals had a 2-0 edge in turnovers that they cashed for 10 points.

Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna threw for 100 yards and one touchdown on 8 of 12 passing, but looked to have thrown for another for 12 yards into the left corner of the end zone when wide receiver Peter Warrick beat nickel back Willie Williams with 1:02 left in the half. Warrick appeared to catch the ball and get both feet in the end zone before losing control, but the Bengals had to settle for Shayne Graham's 30-yard field goal that gave them a 17-14 lead.

But the Bengals couldn't contain Seahawks quarterback Matt Hassellbeck in his 188-yard half or in the last minute of the half, and his perfect over-the-shoulder throw to wide receiver Koren Robinson went for 29 yards down the left sideline despite James' tight coverage and set up Josh Brown's tying 27-yard field goal on the last play of the half.

The news of the day came early when Bengals running back Corey Dillon was involved in a car accident on the way to Sunday's game and was unhurt, but deactivated for kickoff. The Bengals confirmed Dillon and his family were unhurt in the wreck, which initial reports said happened near Interstate 275 and Interstate 71 near their Montgomery-area home.

With Dillon delayed, the Bengals didn't have a chance to check on the condition of his injured groin and Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was faced with a quick decision because his inactive list had to be filed by 11:30 a.m.

All indications are the move had nothing to do with Dillon's outburst last week in which he expressed unhappiness as a Bengal and wouldn't mind a trade.

For the second time in three games, Rudi Johnson started in his spot, and he had the crowd chanting, "Rudi, Rudi," when the Bengals got on the board on their first drive when they stunned Seattle with two runs of 33 yards.

The first was Kitna's 15-yard scramble on third-and-14, and on the next play Johnson ripped off an

18-yarder for the Bengals' longest touchdown run of the season. Johnson, who converted a 16-yarder in his other start against Buffalo, broke up the middle and then froze Seattle strong safety Reggie Tongue with a move at the 5-yard line before tying the game at seven with 5:33 left in the first quarter.

Johnson finished the half with 37 yards on 10 carries.

Simmons came up with his second fumble recovery in as many weeks to blunt what looked to be Seattle's go-ahead scoring drive early in the second quarter when he ripped ball from wide receiver Darrell Jackson at the Bengals 25 early in the second quarter. Warrick then pulled off one of the most electrifying runs of his career when he took a reverse pitch from Kitna.

Kitna got a block on rookie free safety Ken Hamlin and when Hamlin tried to get a hand on his ankle, Warrick jetted through the tackles and broke outside for a 50-yard run. Three plays later on third-and-three, Kitna rolled right and found rookie wide receiver Kelley Washington working in front of Williams in the corner of the end zone for Washington's first NFL touchdown, and ensuing "Squirrel Dance," to celebrate the Bengals 14-7 lead with 10:39 left in the half.

Warrick and Washington were the only Bengal receivers with more than one catch in the first half, and they only had two each against what appeared to be Seattle's Cover 2 defense that took away the long ball.

The Bengals couldn't hold their 14-7 lead because Seattle running back Shaun Alexander became intent on showing the crowd why he is a Northern Kentucky prep legend. He gained all 72 yards of Seattle's tying touchdown drive, including runs of 23, 18, and nine through gaping holes supplied by left tackle Walter Jones and left guard Steve Hutchinson. He also caught two passes for 18 yards, and that's how he got the final two yards of the drive when he outraced middle linebacker Kevin Hardy to the flat.

The Bengals had problems trying to stop Seattle's West Coast offense on the perimeter. Alexander was their leading receiver with four catches for 27 yards, as well as their leading rusher with 70 yards on 14 carries. Hasselbeck wheeled them down the field in 50 seconds at the end of the half and finished 13 of 22 passing.

The Bengals fell behind for the second straight week on the opening drive, this time when Hasselbeck took advantage of a blown coverage and hit tight end Itula Mili wide open at least five yards behind the Bengals seconday in the end zone for a 46-yard touchdown less than five minutes into the game.

On third-and-11, the Bengals' defensive line did a good job flushing Hasselbeck out of the pocket and just when it appeared Hasselbeck was going to tuck the ball, he stood up and saw Mili behind Hardy and free safety Kevin Kaesvihran.

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