Bengals take lead

10-14-01, 1:30 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

The Bengals scored their first points of the season in the first quarter Sunday and took a 3-0 lead over the Browns when Neil Rackers ended the game's first drive with a 27-yard field goal.

Rackers, who had missed his last four tries, didn't get a chance earlier in the drive when the Bengals opted to go for it on fourth-and-seven from the Cleveland 31. The Bengals came up two yards short on a pass to wide receiver Ron Dugans, but Browns safety Percy Ellsworth kept the drive alive on the play when he hit Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna hit in the head after the pass.

Bengals running back Corey Dillon picked up 18 yards on his first three carries, but lost four yards on his next two.

Bengals linebacker Takeo Spikes missed the first game of his career Sunday to be with his family after the death of his father.

Jimmie Spikes lost a 10-month battle with brain cancer Friday and Spikes returned home to Sandersville, Ga., this weekend.

Spikes, who had made 52 straight starts, was replaced by Adrian Ross in the lineup against the Browns at right outside linebacker. Ross had a quadricep injury after last Sunday's game in Pittsburgh and missed practice Wednesday and Thursday, but worked Friday. He's starting his 16th game in four seasons after making four starts last year at middle linebacker.

"Takeo chose to be with his family today and we certainly understand that," said Bengals President Mike Brown. "Families are more important than football. I wasn't playing, but I knew what I went through when my Dad died."

Brown has missed only one game in Bengals' history, a preseason game in Detroit

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in 1991. He stayed in Cincinnati to be with his ailing father and Paul Brown died three days later.

If Ross had trouble with his quad, the Bengals are going to be extremely thin with just five active linebackers.

Middle linebacker Brian Simmons could be forced to move to right outside and be replaced by Canute Curtis in the middle.

The fifth backer is rookie Riall Johnson, a sixth-round pick whom the Bengals are hoping to give more seasoning before he gets a bigger role. One option could be JoJuan Armour, who made his first NFL start at strong safety Sunday. Armour is a converted linebacker who made the switch in the offseason.

The absence of Spikes comes at a difficult time for a Bengals' defense that is reeling from two straight poor efforts against the run. Last week in Pittsburgh, Jerome Bettis and the Steelers rolled up 274 yards on the ground, the biggest rushing day against the Bengals since 1972.

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