BY GEOFF HOBSON
For the third straight game, the Bengals' defense allowed points on the game's first possession. On Sunday, it was the Broncos' effortless 12-play, 80-yard drive consuming the game's first 6:47 that put the Bengals into a 7-0 hole.
Denver quarterback Brian Griese got the score when he found backup fullback Detron Smith for a one-yard touchdown pass. It was Smith's first run or catch of the season in place of the injured Howard Griffith.
It was also Griese's 15th touchdown pass of the season, one more than he had in all of '99.
Seeking to slow down the NFL's sixth-best running game, the Bengals changed up their defensive line, but the unit offered no resistance on Denver's first drive.
Griese hurt the Bengals on two eight-yard scrambles and running back Mike Anderson ripped off 44 yards on six carries in the drive behind an offensive line that cleared out Cincinnati's front seven.
After 92 starts at end, John Copeland moves inside to tackle. Michael Bankston moves from left end to right and Vaughn Booker makes his first appearance since his fainting episode Sept. 17 in Jacksonville. Oliver Gibson, off a solid game against Steelers Pro Bowl center Dermontti Dawson, remains at tackle.
But the Bengals went into the game against the Broncos' relentless offensive line one defensive lineman short. Defensive line coach Tim Krumrie felt he had to deactivate tackle Tom Barndt to rest the injured shoulder that has nagged him since early in training camp.
The Bengals also deactivated fullback Nick Williams and cornerback Mark Roman. The Bengals had been alternating Roman and fellow rookie cornerback Robert Bean each game on the active list, but Bean is playing in the dime package and Roman is sitting for the second straight week.
The Bengals also like Bean's work on special teams. When the Bengals had to punt twice on their first series because of penalty, Bean downed the first kick on the Denver 4-yard line and the second on the Broncos' 8.