BY GEOFF HOBSON
It took the Bengals only two games to realize their new starting strong safety, Chris Carter, is a guy they want around. Six days after recovering a fumble and intercepting a pass in his first Bengals' start, Carter signed a contract extension Saturday through the 2001 season.
Carter or the club wouldn't divulge numbers, but he clearly got a bump in pay for this year.
Monday is the last day teams can extend contracts and have money count against this year's salary cap.
"He's been around the ball and has played very well for us both on defense and on special teams," said Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn, who doubts other potential free agents will sign by Monday,
Carter, released by the Patriots just before the regular season, was surprised when the club approached him about a deal earlier this week.
"It was only two games, but I can see where it's beneficial for both sides," Carter said. " They can do what they have to do, and I don't have to sit around worrying about being a free agent."
Linebacker Marc Megna, a member of the Bengals practice squad, played last year in New England with Carter. And he has no idea why the Patriots cut him at the end of the exhibition season.
"All I know is that the guy is serious and comes here to work," Megna said. "Watch him practice. Watch him prepare. He's one of the best special teams players. He's a pro."
All Bengals secondary coach Ray Horton knows is that he was dying for a guy with Carter's experience when the Bengals picked him off waivers.
Last year when Horton had to replace Greg Myers at safety, the answer was rookie Cory Hall. But when Hall got a concussion against Pittsburgh two weeks ago, Horton was able to turn to the fourth-year Carter who had started 15 games for the Pats last season and shows no signs of giving the job back to the recovered Hall.
By the way, Tte Patriots are 23rd in the NFL in passing. .
Asked if he groaned when the Bengals chose him, Carter shrugged.
"I just was surprised it was Cincinnati because it wasn't a team I thought needed safeties," Carter said. "It's tough to move from anywhere and then to have to take a back seat. Now that I'm here, it's nice to be on a young team and one that you can see growing. I'm comfortable with the personnel and coaches."
The Patriots run a similar scheme, which is why Horton says Carter picked up the defense with ease. But it's not all that complicated to Carter.
"You do what you're supposed to do, you make sure you're in the right place when you're supposed to be and sometimes good things happen, sometimes they don't. Most of the time they do."
DILLON'S MOM THRILLED: Jerline Dillon admits she doesn't know much about football. But she does know it always seems like you get what you wish for. Which is exactly what happened when Corey Dillon took the field for the first time 25 years ago.
"I wished for a big baby boy who looked just like his Daddy and here he comes," Corey Dillon's Mom said from Seattle this week. "He was ten pounds, 15 ounces. A gift from God. When I see him on TV running, I think of him as still my baby."
It's been just as hectic for Jerline as it has been for her son after he broke the NFL's single-game rushing record this week. She can't go to the store or walk down the street without people stopping and talking.
"I need a secretary for all the calls," Jerline said. "I can't do my shopping. People who don't even know Corey will tell me to tell him they said hello. I'm so proud of him because he has been through so much and never gave up on his dream."
Corey's brothers, Charlie and Curtis, keep tell Jerline she has to quit watching "Days of Our Lives," and start learning some of this football stuff.
"I only know when he gets to the touchdown line," said Jerline, who watched the Broncos game on her satellite dish.
"We have about 10 to 12 people over to the house every week. His brothers and friends from the neighborhood. I knew he had some touchdowns, but I just can't believe it."
Jerline Dillon knows folks from all over, mainly from the 13 years she spent working at a hospital. She's retired now after her knees gave out a few years ago and she had another surgery on Aug. 17. So she can get to a game occasionally in Cincinnati and was three weeks early. She saw the game against the Dolphins.
"I bring him food," she said. "I cook and his brothers cook. He wanted some fried pork chops. He's a meat eater, No vegetables or anything like that. Just meat. I think I'll be bringing some more soon."
MATCHUPS: In his second start,Bengals LT John Jackson* ties to avenge the sack he allowed to *Browns RE* Keih McKenzie off the bench in the opener. Bngals DT John Copeland and DE Michael Bankston work n the man Cleveland likes to run behind in Brons LT Roman Oben. Just lie last week, Bengls CBs Tom Carter and Rodney Heath have to b concerned about yards after catch against Browns WRs Kevin Johnson and Dennis Northcutt. On the other side, BengalsWR Craig Yeast has to get pen vs. Browns CB Daylon McCuthcheon and Lewis Sanders. More numbers? Bengals RB orey Dillon tries to beat Browns SS Maquis Smith.* Bengals QB Akii Smith is looking to solve himself in a matchup with Bengals QB Akili Smith
JACKSON VS. MCKENZIE: McKenzie had a career day seven weeks ago with three sacks against Jackson and Rod Jones, but hasn't reached the quarterback since. Jackson received high marks for his work in the Denver game. The Bengals passed just 14 times, but Jackson made his mark with the Steelers with his fierce pride in not letting foes get to the quarterback's back in pass protection. Jackson is mindful of McKenzie's inside move, although in the fourth quarter when McKenzie knew the Bengals were passing every down, he blew around Jackson's outside for a sack.
COPELAND, BANKSTON VS. OBEN: Copeland gets his second straight start at tackle after 92 career starts at end. The Bengals have been gouged on the run in the last five games in which they've allowed at least 142 yards in the past four. Browns running back Errict Rhett is out for the year, but the Bengals are worried about the speed rookie running back Travis Prentice flashed them for 5.8 yards per his eight carries. They want to stop Prentice with penetration from the line before he gets to the outside.
CARTER, HEATH VS. JOHNSON, NORTHCUTT: WR David Patten hurt the Bengals with a 65-yarder on the first play of the game, but he also had a big seven-catch, 113-yard day vs. the Ravens. He might not play because of a toe injury. Johnson is suffering through the sophomore jinx (10.3 yards per catch) after a season he led all rookies with catches, yards and touchdowns. Northcutt is a rookie with one 80-yard day to his credit. They all can run after the catch and have to go down on the first hit.
YEAST VS. MCCUTCHEON, SANDERS: Last time, the Browns double covered receiver Peter Warrick and Ron Dugans couldn't get much done one-on-one vs. McCutcheon or Sanders. In fact, Sanders, a fourth-round pick, had his break-out game against Cincinnati when he got in front of Dugans for an interception in the end zone. With Corey Fuller returning to the form he had playing for the Vikings, Clevleand's cornerbacks have held up well in allowing just four touchdown passes.
DILLON VS. MARQUIS SMITH: Dillon's record day came courtesy of long runs after he beat the safeties and the Browns have the NFL's fourth weakest defense vs. the run. The Bengals are 6-0 when Dillon rushes for at least 125 yards, with two of those games coming against Cleveland last year. **
SMITH VS. SMITH:** If the Browns change their scheme and stuff eight in the box to stop Dillon, Smith has to deliver on the same field he won his first and only 60-minute NFL game 384 days ago. In his nine starts since, he's thrown just two touchdown passes and led five touchdown drives.
BY THE NUMBERS: All the numbers you need for this weekend, including 0. That's the number of points the Bengals have scored on the road this season.
30 _ Points the Browns have scored in three home games.
0 _ Points the Bengals have scored on the road this season.
1-19 _ Bengals October road record against non-expansion teams since 1991.
11-3 _ Bengals record when running back Corey Dillon carries at least 22 times.
16 _ Yards Bengals rookie Peter Warrick needs to become Cincinnati's all-time rushing receiver.
4.5 _ Yards per rush Bengals have allowed in last five games.
5.2 _ Dillon's yards per rush this season.
835 _ Akili Smith's passing yards. <>
750 _ Combined rushing yards for Dillon and Warrick.
4,000 _ The yard-mark Dillon passed last Sunday, joining James Brooks and Pete Johnson as the only 4,000-yard Bengals with 4,060. That's 1,361 behind Johnson and 2,387 behind Brooks. **
FOLEY EMERGES:** Just a few plays before making the biggest defensive play of last week's victory, Bengals linebacker Steve Foley pleaded for the line and secondary to give him an extra second and he promised he would sack Denver quarterback Brian Griese.
And with 5:51 left in the game, Foley not only did, but forced a fumble. When it comes to Bengals linebackers, Takeo Spikes and Brian Simmons, first-round picks in 1998, dominate the pub (-licity). But there was another backer drafted that year who is making a name for himself.
"When I first saw Foley, I thought 'Oh my God, look how big he is. He's a linebacker?'" Spikes said. "Guys like that are why people ask me if I'm a strong safety. I don't mind him getting some of the ink. I only want some."
Foley, a third-round pick, is playing the way linebackers coach Mark Duffner thought he could after two seasons of inconsistency.
"It's matter of maturity," Duffner said. "He knows he can be successful. He's had a taste of it. He's a big guy who can cover people all day. The guy can run."
The 6-3, 260-pound Foley led the nation in sacks with 18.5 in 1997 for Northeast Louisiana as a defensive end who pretty much lined up wherever his coaches saw a mismatch and just let him get to the quarterback.
"The big thing for me this year is I'm on the field on third down now," said Foley, who moves from strong-side backer to end on passing downs. "Your production is going to go up and you get a better feel on the pass rush.
" I know when people talk about the building blocks of this team, it's Takeo and Brian and my name's not mentioned. I'm not looking for that, but if it does start to get mentioned, that means we're reaching our goal of having the best linebacking corps in the league."
FRIDAY'S INACTIVES: Bengals: MLB Brian Simmons, C Rich Braham, SS-LB JoJuan Armour, WR Damon Griffin; Browns: LB Lenoy Jones, LB Doug Colman, WR Darrin Chiaverini, , DE Arnold Miller.
The Bengals will make a game-time call on defensive tackle Tom Barndt (shoulder) to see if he'll dress. **
WEATHER CALL:** Cleveland radio station WTAM-AM 1100 is calling for partly sunny skies with a high of 52 degrees for Sunday.