Bengals huddle up

Updated: 10-7-03, 6:30 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Some Bengals spent part of their day off Tuesday with members of the Mercy Franciscan at St. John's Young Men's Program on a day the NFL held its "Hometown Huddle," in which each team participates in a United Way project in its community. The young men, ages 12-17, live in Over-the-Rhine or other lower income communities of Cincinnati.

The players and their guests were to receive a behind-the-scenes tour of Newport Aquarium Tuesday afternoon and then a dinner at Dewey's Pizza. Khalid Abdullah, Brandon Bennett, Jeremi Johnson, Riall Johnson, Levi Jones, Dwayne Levels, Mark Roman, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh were scheduled to take part in the day at Newport on the Levee.

"This has been a great opportunity for our young men, many of whom don't have male influences in their lives, to interact with professional, focused men who are dedicated to their careers. It's important for them to realize that in order to achieve your goals, you have to stay focused and overcome any obstacles that may arise," said Ericka Copeland, executive director of Mercy Franciscan at St. John.

Eric Ball, the Bengals director of player relations, planned to join Tuesday's group.

"We're very fortunate to have loyal fans here in Cincinnati and we understand the importance of giving back to the community," Ball said. "We're proud to participate in the Hometown Huddle with United Way. Hopefully, our participation will inspire others to become more engaged in the community."

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BETTER BYE:** Yes, the Bengals go into a bye week with none or one victory for the fifth time since 1996. But the numbers suggest there is no comparison to last year's 0-6 stop at the bye to the 1-4 break this season.

When the Bengals took off last season, they not only had no wins, but they were getting beat an average of 30-8.5, had a turnover differential of minus-10, had allowed 20 sacks, had registered seven sacks in six games, and were giving up 342 yards per game while getting 266.

This year, they have won a game and are getting outscored an average of 21-15. They have allowed 11 sacks in five games while registering eight, and are minus-four in turnovers. They are averaging 292 yards per game while giving up 300, which is 12th in the league in total defense.

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SECOND GUESS DEPT.:** So, you think Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis should have tried to drive for a field goal with the wind and 23 seconds left in regulation and the ball on the Bengals 21 in a 16-16 game?

Quarterback Jon Kitna said no way in a hostile stadium against a prevent defense, and his coach agreed.

"I'm glad someone asked that," said Lewis of the first question at Monday's news conference. "We had one time out left. (In the 20 games per year I've coached in), I have never seen anybody do that. (If) somebody (were to) move the ball over 40 yards for a field goal with one time out in that situation, I would want to commend them.

"We had momentum in the fourth quarter," Lewis said. "We had moved the ball. First of all, I felt really comfortable that we were going to win the toss. And I told the guys on the sideline that we were going to have to go into the wind, so get ready to do that. I would not change (the call). From our 21-yard line, that is how many yards (40) we would have had to make. It would have been more yards than we made all day in one play. The chances of that aren't very good."

Lewis corrected the officials on one call, a hold on the newest Bengal, running back Kenny Watson, during a punt. Lewis said it was on somebody else, but wouldn't say which player.

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TUESDAY STAT CHECK:** Bills wide receiver Eric Moulds' last catch of Sunday's game, a leaping 28-yarder in overtime that set up Buffalo's winning touchdown, vaulted him past Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson for the AFC reception yardage lead. Moulds had a 28-yard edge on Johnson, 457-429, but Johnson has done it on three fewer catches (30-27). Then on Monday night, the Colts' Marvin Harrison went past them both and goes into Week Six as the AFC leader with 468 yards. . .

Harrison, Pittsburgh's Hines Ward, and Tennessee's Derrick Mason lead the AFC with 33 catches and Cincinnati's Peter Warrick is tied for fifth with 29. . .

Corey Dillon, who is expected to play in 13 days against the Ravens, still leads the team in rushing with 164 yards even though he has missed virtually the last seven quarters with a groin injury. . .Rudi Johnson is next at 120 as the Bengals are ranked fifth worst in the league in rushing yards per game (76.8) and fourth worst in rushing per attempt at 2.9. . .

Bengals defensive end Duane Clemons is one sack off the NFL lead of five shared by the Jets' Shaun Ellis, the Rams' Leonard Little, and the Panthers' Mike Rucker. . .

How tough is it being in the same conference with the Chiefs' Dante Hall? Warrick returned a punt 30 yards Sunday and dropped from third to fourth in AFC punt returns with a 11.5-yard average. Hall leads the NFL with a 21.6 average that includes two touchdowns. Warrick also trails the Raiders' Phillip Buchanon (12) and New England's Troy Brown (1

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