Defense plays best last

11-10-03, 6:30 a.m. Updated:
11-10-03, 3 p.m.


Yes, the Texans set a franchise record for scoring their most points. And they got their longest run from scrimmage on Domanick Davis' 51-yarder Sunday against the Bengals' defense in Cincinnati's 34-27 victory.

But like they did when they allowed Seattle 459 yards two weeks ago in a 27-24 victory over Seattle, the Bengals came up with clutch plays on defense to preserve the victory.

And they came from two free-agent veterans added in May and June for their experience and past productivity. Strong safety Rogers Beckett's blitz and sack of Texans quarterback David Carr on third down from the Bengals 8 held Houston to a field goal with 1:33 left in the third quarter and gave the Bengals only a 27-24 deficit.

Then with 2:32 left in the game and Cincinnati leading, 34-27, defensive end Duane Clemons came clean on a stunt with tackle John Thornton and tipped Carr's pass that ended up in the hands of Bengals rookie cornerback Terrell Roberts at the Houston 18.

"The bottom line is the score and we won," said safety Kevin Kaesviharn. It doesn't matter if it's 68-52 or 10-3."

Kaesviharn was a key guy Sunday. Because Beckett was hurting with an abdominal strain, he made his first start ever at strong safety. Then when cornerback Jeff Burris went down in the first series of the third quarter with an undisclosed injury, he moved to corner for the first time since last year.

"Like riding a bike," said Kaesviharn, who admitted he was rusty and gave the Texans' speedy receivers some chances deep that they couldn't convert. "Those are like foul balls in baseball."

Kaesviharn took blame for Houston's 73-yard touchdown pass from quarterback David Carr to wide receiver Corey Bradford on third-and-nine on the first play of the second quarter. It came against a blitz and Bradford used his track speed to bust it up the middle. Kaesviharn said he took the wrong angle, but after the game he had some grateful defensive coaches around his locker thanking him for his versatility throughout the afternoon.

And how tough is Beckett? After hurting himself while making a team-high 11 tackles last week, he told the coaches it only hurt when he tackled someone. So they took him out of the regular lineup, but went with him on passing downs. They had tried that same blitz twice in the game, but each time left tackle Chester Pitts picked him up.

"And he did his business both times with me. Told me not to come in there again," Beckett said. "The third time I tried to disguise it a little longer and I don't know who he picked up that time."

Clemens, who hasn't had a sack since he had three in Buffalo on Oct. 5, nearly dumped Carr. But maybe even better, he got his hand.

"We had gone over that stunt on the sidelines. It was an end-tackle game and John Thornton got a great pick for me," Clemons said. "We knew they had to throw and couldn't wait."


DON'T CROWD HIM:** At least Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has a sense of humor. Lewis, who apologized last week for saying fans weren't as invested in the team as much players, coaches and employees, took a dig at himself.

"What great fans we have here in Cincinnati. If we get a team to match our fans, we are going to be something.," said Lewis as he wrapped up his post-game news conference.

Footnote: The Bengals doubled their victory output of last season in front of the smallest crowd of the year at 50,437.


FOLEY RETURN:** Former Bengals linebacker Steve Foley said he wanted to make a big play against his former mates Sunday, and he did make a nice special teams tackle. But the closest thing he came to a big play was Bengals wide receiver Peter Warrick's reverse off a reverse for a vintage Florida State run of 20 yards. He put on the brakes to his left before heading back right, leaving Foley and free safety Marlon McCree in the lurch.

"I don't know what the atmosphere is like over there. I don't know how guys are going about it day-to-day," Foley said, "but just by looking, I think I saw some guys that were more in tune and more into it later in the game. In the latter parts of the game, they kept their heads together and made plays. If anything, that's the difference that I saw."

GREAT PICKUP: The Bengals stunned the world by picking up kicker Shayne Graham off waivers five days before the season and he still hasn't missed from less than 54 yards. On Sunday, he hit his 12th and 13th straight from inside 54, both 40-yarders and the last one coming with 2:32 left to give the Bengals their margin of victory.

But his biggest contribution came right after the Bengals took a 31-27 lead early in the fourth quarter, when as the last man on the kickoff, he upended J.J. Moses at the final instant for what appeared to be a touchdown saver at the Texans 39.

"I just wanted to make sure that I got the right leverage and got my head across," Graham said. "I didn't want him to leave me grabbing for air. I've done that before. Thankfully things worked well to

get the angle.

"It was very reassuring to look back and see him on the ground and then walking back to the sideline."

Moses rolled up 186 yards on seven kicks, the second most yards the Bengals have ever given up (to Desmond Howard's 229 in 2001), so what do you think NFL return leader Dante Hall is thinking as he comes in with the Chiefs Sunday?

Rookie cornerback Terrell Roberts, who came up with the big interception, said the Bengals had problems with the Texans' wedge blocking.

Roberts himself was one of the more relieved people in the building when he made the pick. He was called for unnecessary roughness on a fourth-quarter punt that put the Bengals at their own 21 instead of their 36.

"It won't happen again. Everybody," said Roberts when asked who got on him when he came back to the sideines. "The gunner went out of bounds and I was just trying to hustle over there and make sure he didn't come in and make a play. I got a little piece of him while he was still out of bounds."

Graham semi-saved him by ending that drive with his second 40-yarder.

"Confidence is the biggest word for me right now," Graham said. Any team I've ever been on, I've wanted he coaches and players to have confidence in me. I know I'll get confidence in myself."

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