10-22-01, 2:00 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
A total of 364 days to the day Bengals Pro Bowl running back Corey Dillon broke Chicago Bears great Walter Payton's single-game NFL rushing record, Dillon watched a Bears running back do something Payton never did.
As Anthony Thomas set the Bears' rookie rushing record with 188 yards on 22 carries, Dillon struggled to his worst day in 13 games Sunday during the Bengals' 24-0 loss at Paul Brown Stadium.
And like that 27-7 loss to Baltimore at PBS last Nov. 5 in which Dillon had 23 yards on 16 carries, the Bears stymied him with the same eight men in a box scheme that dared the Bengals to pass.
The Bears always seemed to bring an extra defender on the run who was unblocked.
"Three extra guys," Dillon said.
"I'm used to running on an eight-man front. Nothing new. Nothing new," Dillon said. "If (future foes) do it, we'll gash them in the passing game or we're going to get creases in the running game and get back to what we know we can do."
The problem was Sunday that the Bengals' passing game couldn't take advantage and quarterback Jon Kitna thought it was because the Bengals averaged a miserable two yards on first down.
"Their game plan seemed to be they were going to put
eight men in the box down there and blitz on first down and blitz if it was more than second-and-seven," Kitna said. "And then try to play soft coverage on third down and see if we could convert. . .The problem is, you can't drop back and throw every first down because then Corey doesn't get his touches. That made it tough."
Tough? Dillon thought tough was those two Bears tackles that go about a combined 700 pounds plus in Ted Washington and Keith Traylor.
"They were just running people in a box and they were physical and made plays," Dillon said. "(The box) was a big factor. They've got those two big boys clogging up the middle. They did a hell of a job. Impressive."
Center Rich Braham said the Bears' front showed a new wrinkle when the defensive line stunted more at angles left to right than they had shown in the previous weeks.
"They were rolling the safeties up, trying to disturb our cutbacks (on the backside)," Braham said. "There were times we were trying to take it front side and it seemed like the safety was up in there, too. We just didn't play well up front."
Safeties Tony Parrish and Mike Brown were everywhere. They each had a team-high seven tackles. Typical of their play was Dillon's seven-yard loss late in the third quarter, when Brown blasted in from the right and hit Dillon. Dillon shook him, but had to head back left and got swallowed.
Parrish also knocked receiver Darnay Scott from the game and into the X-Ray room with bruised ribs. The tests were negative and Scott is probable for this Sunday.
"If he wasn't blitzing, he was up in the box," said Dillon of the safeties. "And when he's up in the box and out there running, he's in great position to disrupt the play."
KITNA SEES RED: It was the first time a Dick LeBeau team has thrown 40 passes, which means it couldn't be good and it wasn't. After a scattery 19-for-46 passing day for 244 yards, Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna agreed it was his worst performance of the year.
And he took the blame for his fifth interception of the season and the Bengals' first turnover in the red zone this season. And it turned the game around for good when Bears cornerback R.W.McQuarters jumped in front of receiver Peter Warrick at about the Bears 5 and returned it to midfield to set up the crucial score that made it 10-0. P>But the seeds were sown on the play before. Kitna slipped rolling out of the
pocket away from Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher on a first down from the Bears 6 and took a nine-yard loss.
"We were running a sprint-out play and Darnay (Scott) kept working, and they messed up their coverage, which kind of messed up our play," Kitna said. "They were confused and Darnay kept working on that play. And when I was planted to throw it to him, my heel slipped and went down, so then we got a sack and we were backed up."
Down 3-0, Kitna felt he had to make a play to compensate, but the second-and-15 call started badly when center Rich Braham's shot-gun snap sailed so high that Kitna had to jump to tip it to himself. Kitna, already late, hurried the throw and got nothing on it.
"Sometimes you just have to eat it," Kitna said. "If it's first down, it's a little easier to eat. I felt I had put us in a hole and I felt like I needed to make a play. It wasn't double coverage. They were playing man-to-man with two safeties deep. I was late getting there and you can't do that."
Kitna blamed the loss on execution in the red zone, where the Bengals had failed only once in getting points during 14 previous possessions inside the 20 and that was on last week's missed field goal.
Against the Bears, the Bengals came up empty twice, and Neil Rackers missed a 39-yard field-goal try when they reached the Chicago 21.
"That's 17 points and we gave them seven, so there it is," said Kitna, who misfired on four straight passes when the Bengals were on the Bears 2 with five minutes left in the game.
"There was some miscommunication down there on the goal line," Kitna said. "We did it to ourselves down in the red zone. You can't have mistakes, especially when you're not doing anything on first down. I can't believe how many third-and-10s we had."
Try 11 third downs of third-and-eight or longer. And the Bengals were 53 percent (10-for-19) on all third downs, "but you can't keep doing that."
RACKERS FUTURE: The last time Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau was asked about the future of struggling kicker Neil Rackers, he made it clear he would be with the club for the next game. LeBeau didn't exactly say that Sunday after Rackers hooked a 39-yarder left to drop to 50 percent (6-for-12) for the season on a kick that would have made it 17-3 in the first minute of the fourth quarter.
The Bengals might be ready to at least bring in some other kickers to get a look.
"We'll take a good look at everything that happened to us in this game," LeBeau said. "We do that every
Sunday and Monday. We have to get our game up to where we can be competitive week in and week out. We'll try everything we can try."
Since going 3-for-3 on Opening Day, Rackers is 3-for-9 and has also been struggling with a new holder in Nick Harris. But on Sunday, he took the blame.
"We've had problems with the entire (unit) the snapper, the holder and the kicker we just haven't gotten it together and this one today, this was (my fault)," Rackers said. "I hit it it was going straight but I didn't hit it all that well and it caught that wind and (the wind) threw it about two inches left and obviously I wanted to put the points on the board so we could go ahead and start recovering onside kicks and come backs and win the ball game."
One thing going for Rackers is his kickoffs. On his lone shot Sunday, he drove it three yards deep in the end zone. Harris can't kick off, so the Bengals would have to find a field-goal kicker who can also kickoff and most of those guys already have a job.
MEN IN STRIPES:** This game was steeped in controversy from the game's second play. Bengals middle linebacker Brian Simmons thought he had scored a 29-yard touchdown after wrenching the ball from running back James Allen when he got stood up by linemen Bernard Whittington and Oliver Gibson.
Although Allen appeared to still be moving, the call was a dead ball because
Allen's forward progress had been stopped.
"I never heard the whistle," Simmons said, "and then I was running into the end zone. I thought the play was still going."
To compound matters, the Bengals burned a timeout because they thought they could challenge the call. But head coach Dick LeBeau was rebuffed because the play was contingent on a whistle.
"We couldn't challenge that," LeBeau said. "I would have challenged if I could have. That was just one play and this is a game of many plays. That play was big because it could have helped us get off to a good start, but we had our opportunities in this game."
Simmons had to agree: "The game was 0-0, it was the first series. That call's not deciding the way the game goes."
The next big one could have. With the Bears driving at the end of the first half, they tried to set up a Paul Edinger field goal try with a five-yard side-line pass to rookie receiver David Terrell at the Bengals 26 with six seconds left.
The Bengals thought Terrell clearly had one foot out-of-bounds and so did Edinger apparently after looking at the replay board because he started lining up a 49-yarder from the 31.
But the refs said they couldn't tell on the replay and Edinger scooted up to hit a 44-yarder as time ran out for what looked to be a 13-0 lead. But the field goal was nullified on Bears tackle Blake Brockermeyer's unnecessary roughness penalty.
In the middle of it all, the back judge appeared to be taking some kind of abuse from the end-zone fans and requested security be called to that part of the stadium.
BO MAKES PEEP: How about poor rookie cornerback Bo Jennings?
Last Tuesday he's on the winless Lions' practice squad in Detroit. On Wednesday morning, he's in Bengals cornerbacks coach Kevin Coyle's office as a member of the 53-man active roster learning a new scheme as the Bengals compensate for the season-ending injury to Rodney Heath. On Sunday, Jennings, a free agent from Tennessee State, finds himself in the second half in the game matched up with first-round pick David Terrell after Robert Bean goes down with a pulled hamstring.
"I tip my hat to Bo," said cornerback Artrell Hawkins. "It was his first game in the NFL and he's with a new team. I thought he held up."
The 6-3, 212-pound Terrell did fight off the 5-8, 202-pound Jennings for the
longest catch of the day on a 41-yarder down the middle that set up a touchdown.
"He beat me on the post," Jennings said. "He got leverage on me, he got inside inside me. I got beat on the small things today. I'm going to fix those mistakes and come back."
The coaches have been impressed with Jennings , particularly his eagerness to study.
"A lot's happened during this week," Jennings said. "It seems like so much has happened traveling, coming here, coming in early in the morning and going back late to the hotel, learning, staying in the book I just prayed and God answered my prayers."