Defense vs. long odds

10-4-02, 10:45 a.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

The one thing the Bengals' secondary has been able to do the past 20 games is not give up the big touchdown pass. Until last Sunday, they had given up just two touchdown passes of 20 yards or more in their 13 losses.

They gave up seven last year, but five came in the last two games, both victories.

Tampa Bay put an end to all that last week with scoring passes of 65, 35 and 22 in their 35-7 win. The first two were blown coverages and the third was blown tackles, and now Colts quarterback Peyton Manning waits in the RCA Dome with his weapons of mass destruction.

"We've played some good offenses this season, but they didn't have the variety of weapons this team has," said Bengals middle linebacker Brian Simmons. "We ca me out and played better last week, but our goal now is to do it for 60 minutes and to prevent the lapses."

The Colts already have touchdown passes of 42 and 43 yards and forget running back Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison. They went to wide receivers Reggie Wayne and Qadry Ismail.

"We've got to get back to eliminating the big play and that's something we've been pretty good at," said cornerbacks coach Kevin Coyle. "And we've got to do it against arguably the best deep ball passing team in the league."

The Bengals are on pace to give up 476 points, the most in their history, and it would make them two touchdowns shy of being the third worst defense in NFL history. Miserable numbers for a defense coming off a No. 9 ranking last season and shooting for the top three this year.

"Up until now, teams that have beaten us haven't earned it," said free safety Cory Hall. "We've given them everything."

So here are your matchups. Bengals CB Jeff Burris returns to his old stomping grounds in old dome week to attempt to shut down Pro Bowl Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison. The Bengals have to stop the run before anything else, so Bengals MLB Brian Simmons and Bengals FS Cory Hall have to prevent Colts RB Edgerrin James from going off as well as making sure Colts tight end Marcus Pollard doesn't hurt them down field.

They might not get a sack, but Bengals DE Justin Smith has to let Colts QB Peyton Manning know he's around in a game the Bengals ought to really start thinking about not dropping their best pass rusher into pass coverage so much. And it's time for them to take advantage of some offensive line injuries when Bengals DT Tony Williams may go against Colts LG Rob Murphy in his first NFL start.

Bengals K Neil Rackers takes on Colts K Mike Vanderjagt, the NFL's most accurate field-goal kicker ever heading into this season.

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BURRIS VS. HARRISON:** Burris is jacked for this game for several reasons. The Colts let him walk during the offseason and he appears to be unhappy with how the media portrayed some of the blown assignments in last Sunday's game. Whatever, he's not talking.

But Coyle is talking about Harrison, the man who has the most catches after playing one, four, five and six seasons in the NFL. He's already got two of his 64 touchdowns this season.

"He's one of those rare receivers who has both the quickness to stop on a dime and the great down-field speed," said Coyle, who coached against him every day in practice as the defensive coordinator at Syracuse. "He what you'd call a great faker with his upper body. He's got such upper body movement coming out of his break that he can shake a corner out of his route."

Burris isn't the only corner with his hands full. Artrell Hawkins is going to have to be wary of Reggie Wayne and Quadry Ismail when they wander into the slot. Wayne leads the team with 15 yards per catch, and then there is Ismail, who had seven catches for the Ravens last year against the Bengals, but only one went for more than 20. **

SIMMONS, HALL VS. JAMES, POLLARD:** Hawkins saw how tough James is to cover when he watched Dolphins Pro Bowl linebacker Zach Thomas "have time of his life against him." Simmons will also, at times, draw Pollard, a dangerous guy down the middle who does have a 23-yard catch.

"He's got good feet, very athletic, and he can catch the ball," Simmons said. "We've got to stop the run because if we don't stop the run, we won't be able to stop anything. And you've got to throw in that Manning is probably the best play-action guy in the league." **

SMITH VS. MANNING:Why Smith is dropping into coverage so much is anyone's guess. They need sacks and he had 8.5 of them last year. But this isn't going to be the break-out game because Manning flat gets rid of the ball. Since he came into the NFL in 1998, the Colts are the only NFL team that hasn't allowed more than 100 sacks with 90.

WILLIAMS VS. MURPHY:** Remember Murphy, the former Moeller High and Ohio State product who didn't last with the Bengals a few years back? He could get his first NFL start Sunday if Rick DeMulling's sprained ankle doesn't heal. Can the Bengals finally take advantage of an injury on the offensive line? They couldn't do it the last three weeks and the Bucs made some big plays last Sunday without right tackle Kenyatta Walker and a left guard playing with a broken leg.

**

RACKERS VS. VANDERJAGT:** Rackers' streak of seven straight field goals ended last week when he shanked a 45-yarder, but the hold didn't get down properly and, it doesn't matter because Dick LeBeau would have stuck with him anyway this week. Since 1998, Vanderjagt has the most field goals in the NFL with 119, followed by the Packers' Ryan Longwell, the Patriots' Adam Vinatieri, and the Dolphins' Olindo Mare.

NUMBERS GAME: All the numbers you need for this Sunday's game against the Colts, including 49, 57, 51. The first is the number of touchdowns Colts quarterback Peyton Manning has thrown to wide receiver Marvin Harrison since 1998. The second is the number of touchdown passes the Bengals have since 1998. The third is the number of touchdowns Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson threw to Isaac Curtis from 1973-84.

49 _ Touchdowns Colts quarterback Peyton Manning has thrown to wide receiver Marvin Harrison since 1998.

57 _ Touchdown passes the Bengals have since 1998.

51 _ Touchdowns Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson threw to Isaac Curtis from 1973-84.

17-65 _ Bengals' AFC-worst road record since 1992.

3-2 _ Bengals record in Indianapolis.

140 _ Lowest scoring 16-game season in NFL history, 1992 by the Seattle Seahawks.

185 _ Lowest scoring 16-game Bengals season, 2000.

92 _ Points the Bengals are on pace to score in 2002.

460 _ Most points the Bengals have allowed in a season, 1999.

487 _ Points allowed by the 1980 Saints, third most of all time.

476 _ Points the Bengals are on pace to allow in 2002.

3,950 _ Rushing yards by Bengals running back Corey Dillon in last three full seasons, fourth best in NFL.

3,924 _ Rushing yards by Colts running back Edgerrin James in last three full seasons, fifth best in NFL.

918 _ Carries by Dillon in last three full seasons, fourth best in NFL.

907 _ Carries by James in last three full seasons, fifth best in NFL.

29 _ Rushing TDs by James in last three full seasons, third in NFL.

21 _ Rushing TDs by Dillon in last three full seasons.

10 _ James' home streak of 100-yard games since Oct. 22, 2000.

5 _ Dillon's 100-yard games at PBS since Oct. 22, 2000.

4,888 _Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison's NFL-best receiving yards from 1999-2002.

7,829 _ Bengals receiving yards since 1999.

253 _ Combined passing yards by Bengals QBs Jon Kitna and Akili Smith in six quarters this season.

272 _ Manning's passing numbers in last game, 23-3 win over Houston Sept. 22.

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