Frozen tie early

BY GEOFF HOBSON

The Bengals and Jagaurs flailed away at each other Sunday on a frozen field in the second coldest game ever in Cincinnati's NFL history.

They played to a scoreless tie here at Paul Brown Stadium in a first quarter encased in nine-degree temperature that was 20-below with the wind chill.

The best shot at scoring came when Bengals running back Corey Dillon ripped off a 12-yard gain to the Jacksonville 34, but Jags defensive end Tony Brackens forced a fumble with a strip of Dillon from behind.

Dillon started better than the Jags' fellow 1,000-yard rusher, Fred Taylor, on the slippery surface. Dillon had 52 yards on his first seven carries, 25 of them coming when he reversed field on the first play of the game. Taylor finished the first quarter with 22 yards on six carries.

It was tough sledding. The Jags' high-powered offense misfired on their first four third-down tries as quarterback Mark Brunell was only 50 percent on his first 10 passes for 52 yards.

Bengals quarterback Scott Mitchell threw his longest pass of the season to a wide receiver this season, a 25-yard shot to Peter Warrick crossing over the middle, but neither teams could get anything going consistently.

Bengals right tackle Willie Anderson, who didn't practice all week with the the left ankle he sprained last week in Tennessee, started despite the cold.

How cold was it?

It's the coldest Cincinnati home game since the infamous "Freezer Bowl," when the Bengals beat the Chargers, 27-7, in the AFC championship game on Jan. 10, 1982 amid minus-9 degrees with a minus-59 degree wind chill.

Earlier in the week, Taylor ripped the Paul Brown Stadium grass, calling it "a dirt bike track." But he got a skating rink instead, thanks to a massive dip in temperatures and Sunday morning snow showers.

The only lines visible on the white field were painted orange on the goal lines, end lines and sidelines.

Bill Connelly, Bengals business manager, said the club didn't cover the field with a tarpaulin Friday because the paint on the field had yet to dry.

During Saturday's all-day rain, the Bengals and referee Jeff Triplette agreed a tarp wouldn't help and kept it uncovered. Plus, there was fear more damage would be caused when the weather froze and the tarp had to be dug out of the field

The drop in temperature came overnight. Connelly said the field's heating system didn't adjust to such a huge drop and didn't generate enough power to melt the snow.

Last week had to seem like last year for Jacksonville. They rolled over Arizona, 44-10, last Sunday in 61-degree weather at home.

The closest thing to "Freezer Bowl," conditions came when the Bengals beat the Bears, 16-10, five years and a week ago on Dec. 10, 1995. Quarterback Jeff Blake threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Darnay Scott and Doug Pelfrey kicked three field goals.

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