Defense didn't rest

BY GEOFF HOBSON

JACKSONVILLE _ A lot of people saw this game going a lot of different ways, all in the direction of the Jaguars either by run or pass.

But how many people had it going this way? The Bengals' no-respect defense doing what the Ravens' no-holes unit couldn't do the week before? Cincinnati holding the Jaguars to one touchdown and two field goals in a 13-0 loss?

Yes, Hurricane Gordon dressed ALLTEL Stadium in wind and rain to slow down the speedy Jags. And Jaguars running back Fred Taylor (knee) didn't dress with his two 100-yard games against the Bengals.

But still. It was the Jags' second fewest points in the last 23 regular-season and playoff games, and Cincinnati held the NFL's most productive non-quarterback player to 41 yards when receiver Jimmy Smith fought through their double team for six catches.

"You know what it came down to?" asked defensive captain Takeo Spikes. "We were embarrassed about getting whipped like that in our own stadium last week and we didn't want it to happen again."

Spikes engineered the Bengals' best defensive outing since holding the expansion Browns to 224 yards in last year's 18-17 victory Oct. 10 with a game-high nine tackles and a sack. Playing next to him, rookie free agent Armegis Spearman filled in well for middle linebacker Brian Simmons with eight tackles.

That Oct. 10 stand was against the NFL's worst offense. This was against the NFL's fifth-best offense coming off a 421-yard day against the Ravens' highly-regarded defense last Sunday in Baltimore.

"It's the first time I can remember coming into a place and playing so well defensively and it's a great feeling," said cornerback Artrell Hawkins. "I think it will give us a lift. I think it's a thing we can build on. We have to be more consistent. We can't live off this week."

Hawkins, the third-year right cornerback, was a key figure in the effort, although he wanted to keep the how simple.

"Hey, we have to play these guys again. I'm not going to tell you what we did," said Hawkins, who left it with, "We mixed up defenses and gave (Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell) some looks I don't think he's seen before."

What he saw was a new coverage the Bengals put in just for this game and the dangerous Smith after he pillaged Baltimore for 15 catches and 291 yards. Nearly half the time, Cincinnati bracketed Smith with Hawkins in front of him and a safety behind him. That left Keenan McCardell one-on-one with left cornerback Tom Carter and while McCardell did get 108 yards, it took 10 catches as Carter and Hawkins stopped yards after the catch with sure tackling.

"I know they won, but I don't think they lit up the scoreboard," Hawkins said. "There was good pressure up front and good coverage and you put those things together and you're going to stop people."

Or as nose tackle Oliver Gibson said after he rung up two of Cincinnati's four sacks, the Bengals finally hit some layups. . . .

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"This defense is a heck of defense, but you have to execute it," Gibson said. "It's based mainly on guys making the layups, so we made the layups."

Gibson, continuing to prove he's the best free-agent pickup in Bengals' history, was a busy man. He also caused the Bengals' first interception of Brunell since 1997 when he tipped a pass high enough in the air for outside linebacker Steve Foley to outjump defensive end Reinard Wilson.

"Mark Brunell throws it low and he throws it left-handed," Gibson said. "If I couldn't get back there, I figured I would just get my hands up. He's a spot passer and you have to get the hands up on those timing routes."

After an invisible pass rush last week got only one sack of Cleveland quarterback Tim Couch, Gibson said the Bengals worked on their run-pass conversion.

"We spent the week concentrating to get a mindset to get off the block, use your hands, and get out on the edge," Gibson said. "We concentrated so heavily on the run, that sometimes we were just playing the run. . . We emphasized just getting on the edge and going."

It looked like the Bengals shut down the Jaguars on the first two series of the game without a first down. Until Carter was called for holding Smith on third down for an automatic first down, which led to the only touchdown and Jacksonville's longest play, a 21-yarder to McCardell.

"It's like the NBA. Every official is different," Carter said.

"The guy was calling it close. He called a couple against Jacksonville like that. After that, I played differently. I kept my hands to myself. I didn't do a lot of hand checking. Jacksonville loves the big play. We knew if we could stop the 80-yarder, we'd have a shot."

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