BY GEOFF HOBSON
The Bengals are fewer than 4,000 tickets shy of a sellout at Paul Brown Stadium for Sunday's 1 p.m. game against the Titans.
After what he called an "excellent," walk-up for last Sunday's Miami game, Bengals ticket manager Paul Kelly said Tuesday that "if some of those people who purchase on game day could buy tickets earlier in the week, it could get us a sellout in time to beat the TV blackout."
The game will be televised on Channel 12 in Cincinnati if it's sold out by Thursday at 1 p.m.
Tickets can be ordered by phone from the Bengals ticket office at 621-8383, on bengals.com, by phone at TicketMaster at 562-4949, or at TicketMaster outlets in Greater Cincinnati Thriftway Stores and select Kroger stores outside the metro area.
Tickets can be bought at the ticket office at the team's Paul Brown Stadium office near Gate E on the southeast side. Hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
BENGALS TAKE OFFENSE:The reaction ranging from the dean of the offense in eight-year tight end Tony McGee to rookie receiver Peter Warrick was an endorsement of offensive coordinator Ken Anderson's debut as playcaller in Sunday's 31-16 loss to Miami.
McGee liked how many times Anderson deployed the one-back-double- tight-end set. Warrick liked how Anderson spread the ball to running back Corey Dillon on the ground (110 yards), to running back Brandon Bennett in the air (five catches) and to the tight ends (eight catches). And, of course, to himself on a nine-yard pass for his first NFL touchdown.
"I needed that," said Warrick, the first receiver taken in the last draft. "With Sylvester Morris and Travis Taylor catching some, I felt like the only rookie receiver that didn't have a touchdown."
McGee had six catches, his most in 51 games, but what he liked was how the double tight formation set up the run.
"I would expect to see more of that formation," McGee said. "It keeps them off balance. They don't really know if you're going to run or pass. It's just not a run formation. It opens it up for the backs out of the backfield and we like the matchups we have on the linebackers. But the big thing out of that formation is we got the run going and when you can run you can do so many more things."
Anderson thinks the double tights give him more flexibility as well as more power to run the ball. He had no problems with throwing two passes on the first series of the third quarter and the Bengals trailing, 17-13, because, "the passes were wide open. If we hit them, we've got the first down."
SACK REACT: Bengals President Mike Brown understood the thinking on that final pass play of the first half that resulted in a sack of Akili Smith and the game-turning touchdown. He knew where new coach Dick LeBeau was coming from.
"I can remember other plays we just did the wrong thing, yet in this case you could do something like that a thousand times and it wouldn't blow up like this," Brown said. "I know they wanted to put in the minds of the players that we can do it and we aren't going to just leave the field and not try. For us it was a learning experience and we're doing a lot of that this season."
Brown was encouraged by LeBeau's debut, but he's also looking for wins and hopes the Bengals can match last week's intensity.
"We were very spirited all week and came into the game playing with a lot of emotion and that was good to see," Brown said. "And for one half they played the best they have all season. That's how we thought we were going to look most of the time when we started the year. Now we have to work on carrying it for 60 minutes."
ARMOUR ACTIVATED: Former Miami of Ohio linebacker JoJuan Armour was activated off the practice sad Monday and replaced running back Michael Basnight. Basnight, who broke the navicular bone in his right wrist in the July 29 intrasquad scrimmage, was placed on season-ending injured reserve when the club was told his earliest return would be in December. The Bengals replaced Armour, now a safety, on the practice squad by re-signing receiver/cornerback Sirr Parker. The Bengals like what Armour's speed can do for them on special teams.
RACKERS FINDS GROOVE: Now rookie kicker Neil Rackers finally feels like part of the team. After going 41 days without a field goal, Rackers hit his first three in the regular-season against the Dolphins when he cashed from 23, 38 and 34 yards.
But maybe the biggest sign he's finally getting used to the NFL came after he hit the first two. That's when he lined up a 47-yard field goal with 4:24 left in the first half as he tried to give the Bengals a 16-0 lead.
Guard Mike Goff was called for a false start and Rackers never got the chance to kick it, but, "that's when I was the most relaxed. I got out there and for the first time it felt like it did back in college. The goal posts were as wide as they could be."
By the way, Goff says the official blew the call. He never moved.
"(Holder Daniel Pope) called the cadence and (tackle) Rod Jones and I went down (into a stance) at the same time," Goff said. "Then their cornerback started pointing at me saying I moved and he threw the flag. I'm supposed to move into a stance."
Rackers' only NFL point coming into the game was the extra point on the Bengals' lone touchdown in the first three games back on Sept. 10. Since then, the Bengals went 10 quarters without a score as Rackers had a try blocked from 42 and misses from 44 and 47.
"I kept telling people I wasn't going to change a thing and I didn't," Rackers said. "There's more of a comfort zone with (Pope) and (snapper) Brad St. Louis. We're still learning each other. (LeBeau) just told me all week not to think so much and just to kick it."
PICKENS DAY-TO-DAY: An MRI confirmed Monday Titans receiver Carl Pickens has a strained hamstring and is listed as day-to-day for Sunday's game against the Bengals. But the Bengals know Pickens would play on crutches if he had to against his old team.
Pickens, the Bengals' all-time leader in receptions and ill will, left Cincinnati on such bitter terms at the end of last season that the Bengals crafted a clause in their contracts because of him that is currently in arbitration.
But he still has fans in the locker room.
"I have a lot of respect for Pick," said Bengals cornerback Rodney Heath. "He gave me some advice about agents and people around and stuff like that. . . I don't think he talks that much (during a game). He might be trying to talk to the (Bengals') owners or something knowing Pick." . . .more
"Practicing against him is one thing. Going against him in a game is for real," Heath said. "I'm not going to change my game. My game is to line up and press him. . .You can cover him, but when the ball is thrown, he tries to outfight you for it, so I know he'll be in a dogfight if I get to go up against him."
After pocketing $8 million of a five-year $23.2 million contract from the Bengals last season, Pickens ripped management and former coach Bruce Coslet and the Bengals felt they had to cut him. Now when a player signs a contract, the Bengals want a loyalty clause attached to the signing bonus, otherwise known as "The Carl Pickens Clause."
Pickens has just seven catches in four games, but he's averaging nearly 25 yards per catch.
LINE OF THE DAY: Warrick has 15 catches for nearly 15 yards per catch. When asked if he's getting open, he said, "Like 7-11. It will come. We've just got to get everybody seeing eye-to-eye."
INJURY REPORT: RT Willie Anderson is questionable with a strained right knee. . . .NT Oliver Gibson is probable with a left knee strain. . . .MLB Armegis Spearman is probable with a right shoulder strain. . .Warrick got an ankle examined and is fine. . .Expect DE Vaughn Booker to miss his third straight game after passing out Sept. 17 during the 13-0 loss in Jacksonville. He arrived at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota today, but Bengals trainer Paul Sparling said he isn't expected back until Thursday because of additional tests. But the club is upbeat this will be the final clearance. . .
Speaking of Sparling, here's a twist. He's probable to return for a few hours to the training room Tuesday. He missed his first Bengals game in 20 years Sunday after undergoing an emergency appendectomy. . .