12-15-03, 6:30 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Marvin Lewis; turnover lesson was never clearer than in Sunday's 41-38 victory at Paul Brown Stadium over San Francisco.
The Bengals became the first NFL team to give up 500 yards (502) and win since Dec. 1 of last season. They gave up their most points ever in a victory, passing the 36-33 win over Buffalo in 1986 and the 34-33 win over Baltimore in 1980.
They won because Niners running back Kevan Barlow fumbled the ball twice to linebacker Brian Simmons in the red zone (one was forced by tackle Tony Williams, the other by safety Mark Roman), and because the Bengals cashed the other for their first defensive touchdown of the season, a 10-yard fumble return by middle linebacker Kevin Hardy that gave them a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
The Bengals also won because they didn't have a turnover for the sixth game this season. In their eight victories, they have two turnovers. The team that hasn't been plus in turnovers since 1996 is plus-5 after a plus-3 Sunday.
"They show us charts all the time," said right tackle Willie Anderson of Lewis and offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski. "They've got all the categories of what the teams that have made the playoffs over the last five to seven years average. Teams that score 23 points a game and average one turnover a game. That's who makes it."
TERRELL ON TERREL: Bengals rookie cornerback Terrell Roberts found himself covering Pro Bowl receiver Terrell Owens after cornerback Artrell Hawkins went down with a bruised quad on the third play of the game. The secondary struggled. Cornerback Jeff Burris appeared to get benched after giving up two touchdown bombs in the second quarter and Kevin Kaesviharn moved to his spot from safety while Marquand Manuel came in to play safety.
Roberts, who had a game-high 12 tackles, made the defensive play of the game off a corner blitz early in the second quarter. He stripped the ball from 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia and it turned into middle linebacker Kevin Hardy's first NFL touchdown.
"I was unblocked. I should have made the play," Roberts said. "I wasn't trying for just the sack. When I saw the ball, I wanted to get that."
Owens had eight catches for 127 yards, but 58 came on a touchdown against Burris.
It was Hardy's first score since college, eight years ago at Illinois. But he gave up the ball to a kid in the stands.
"I thought about that after," he said. "But it probably meant a lot to him."