10-27-01, 12:00 p.m.
Updated: 10-27-01, 8:30 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Artrell Hawkins, dean of the Bengals cornerbacks with all of 52 NFL games, knows exactly what is in store Sunday.
"They're throwing. No doubt that has to be their game plan," Hawkins said Friday. "If I'm in Detroit and I'm their offensive coordinator, that's the whole thing."
Lions quarterback Charlie Batch didn't throw a pass this week in practice because of shoulder tendonitis, but he won't want to miss this one after ringing up the first 300-yard passing games of his career the past two weeks.
On Saturday morning, the Bengals were forced to cut their sixth-round pick, linebacker Riall Johnson, to make room for rookie cornerback Kevin Kaesviharn from the practice squad. Depending on the injury situation at cornerback, the Bengals may try next week to re-sign Johnson, a player they like on special teams.
Kaesviharn, 25, who was teaching a high school gym class in Sioux Falls, S.D. last week, now finds himself suiting up for his first NFL game against the NFL's third best pass offense.
Head coach Dick LeBeau decided Saturday that nickel back Tom Carter's knee was too sore to play. Which means another rookie, Bo Jennings, just off his NFL debut last week, is the nickel back against the Lions' team he spent the season with until the Bengals called Oct. 16. In fact, Jennings is still listed in the Lions' media notes for
this week's game.
It's a blow because the Bengals' pass defense with Carter, Rodney Heath (out for the year with a torn hamstring) and Robert Bean (out this week with a hamstring problem) had been better than last year.
Inconsistent, but better. After allowing 223 passing yards per game last year, the Bengals are down to 199. Last year, they gave up 182 first downs via the pass. This year, they are on pace to give just 104.
The injuries leave Hawkins and Mark Roman, a second-year guy in his 21st game, holding down the fort as starters.
"They're both physically able to play," Hawkins said of the newcomers. "Bo is quick, fast and Kevin is tall with good size and decent speed. The thing is, to get thrown into the NFL with little experience, it can make for a long afternoon."
So it's fated that LeBeau, who set a NFL Iron Man record for cornerbacks by playing 171 straight games for these same Lions, returns to Detroit for the first time as
a head coach in a regular-season game without three injured cornerbacks. It's not clear if free safety Cory Hall will be the fourth cornerback.
"It's unusual, but it happens in this business," LeBeau said. "I'm so old, I've seen just about everything. I've seen it where linebackers had to play strong safety and strong safeties playing linebacker. It's difficult to come up with a scenario I haven't seen, (but), it's unusual.
"The thing I feel good about (Jennings and Kaesviharn) is both have pro experience," LeBeau said. "They've both been in pro camps. They have good poise. . .I was really pleased with the way Bo went in there (last week). It didn't seem to faze him. He's had a whole week of practice this week and he knows he's going to go."
LeBeau extended practice Friday by about 20 minutes so the new guys could get used to communicating in a two-minute drill, no-huddle situation.
"They're almost as banged up at receiver as we are (at cornerback)," Hawkins said. "But you can't discount anybody at this level. Everybody can run and they must had some success to be here."
With Germane Crowell joining Herman Moore on the injured list last week, the Lions have had to scramble for receivers. They are expected to dress fifth-round pick Scotty Anderson for the first time and veteran Bert Emanuel, fresh off the wire, figures to play a game in his first week in Detroit.
But Hawkins knows all about the physical play of Johnnie Morton and the quickness of Larry Foster. Foster has just 23 catches in two seasons, but he scorched the Bengals on two long returns in the preseason, and Morton is coming off the 17th 100-yard game of his career.
"They like to run the timing routes," said Hawkins of Detroit's new West Coast scheme. "But they also like to get down the field. They'll run deep come-back routes. It's going to be one of those tough games where who ever competes the longest and who makes the most plays on the ball is going to win."
WELCOME WAGON: Welcome to the bigs, Kevin Kaesviharn.
A week ago, Kaesviharn was teaching a physical education class at Lincoln High School in Sioux Falls, S.D. as a substitute teacher. Now he's traveling to Detroit, where he'll probably play in his first NFL game.
"(LeBeau) just told me to show up in the morning and he'd have an answer for me," Kaesviharn said after Friday's practice.
The word was go four days after Kaesviharn, a XFL refugee cut by the Packers in training camp, worked out for the club and signed to the practice squad. He didn't have time to get back home to South Dakota, so he's been pretty much walking around
in the same T-Shirt and pants all week.
During Friday's two-minute drill, Kaesviharn made a quick play on the ball, which impressed right tackle Willie Anderson from the sidelines.
"Hey, good play," said Anderson as he tried to find the name. "By new guy. Whose name I can't pronounce. . .Good play, New Guy."
Kaesviharn, a former elementary school teacher who spent a season coaching the secondary at his alma mater of Augustana College, showed his smarts by preparing Friday for Saturday's possible road trip. Which would dictate sharper clothes.
To Kaesviharn, fellow rookie corner Bo Jennings might as well be a 10-year veteran instead of a 10-day veteran who arrived last week from the Lions practice squad.
"Bo is going to show me right now all the spots in town I can get some clothes," Kaesviharn said.
Asked if he knew any place in town after 10 days, Jennings asked, "Has it been that long?"
At least Kaesviharn is used to playing indoors. Before going to the XFL, he played two years of arena ball with the Iowa Barnstormers.
MATCHUPS:With the spate of injuries for the Bengals cornerbacks and Lions receivers,Bengals CB Artrell Hawkinshas to show the way againstLions WRs Johnnie Morton and Larry Fosterin the slot.Bengals DE Justin Smithtries to expose the NFL's worst pass protection againstLions Ts Jeff Backus and Matt Joyce.**
In a marquee matchup, Bengals RT Willie Anderson faces Lions DE Robert Porcher, the NFL sack leader since 1996. In a special game, Bengals LB Adrian Ross faces Pro Bowl Lions PR-KR Desmond Howard and Bengals K Neil Rackers seeks redemption against two-time Pro Bowl Lions kicker Jason Hanson's career 87-percent rate inside the 50.
HAWKINS VS. MORTON, FOSTER Hawkins' educated guess is that one of these two guys will move into the slot against him when the Lions go with three wide receivers. Hawkins knows he'll have to be physical with the 6-foot 190-pound Morton and his three 100-yard games in the last four weeks.
The Lions' offense as a whole is on a break-neck pace, averaging 385 yards the past three weeks.
SMITH VS. BACKUS, JOYCE: For the first time this season, the Bengals didn't get a sack last week. They need to help out their corners with some now and they get a Detroit offensive line that has allowed a NFL-high 24 sacks.
The Lions hope the alleged 400-pound Aaron Gibson isn't as slow getting to the bench as he was to the corner as they turn to Joyce at right tackle. Smith moves around, so he'll also probably get a shot at Backus in a showdown of two rookie first-round picks. Word is that the 6-5, 308-pound Backus has been the line's most consistent player.
Running back James Stewart has been hurting and practiced in limited fashion this week, the 108th reason the Lions figure to come out passing.
ANDERSON VS. PORCHER: The 340-pound Anderson has the muscle edge on the 280-pound Porcher, but Porcher is a 10-year vet who has been a thorn in the Bengals' side for years from the inside as well.
Remember who forced Ki-Jana Carter to make his ACL-tearing cut with penetration in the backfield in that 1995 pre-season game?
And the Lions all-time sack leader (he passed Bubba Baker earlier this year) just keeps getting better. He already has five sacks this season and has 62 since 1996, two more than Baltimore's Michael McCrary.
Anderson says he's healthy after leaving last Sunday's game with a concussion.
ROSS VS. HOWARD: Ross, off his Pop of the Game hit on last week's punt trying, is trying to slow down Howard, coming off a Pro Bowl season. Howard is third in the NFC with 12.3 yards per punt return and is coming off a week in which he hit the Titans for kick returns of 46 and 59 yards.
"You have to get down field to make him go sideways," Ross said. "Desmond likes to take it downhill and he fights through those arm tackles. You'll have guys who are there to tackle him, but they get engaged with blockers and try to get an arm on him. You have to stop his speed and make him go left and right."
Receiver Larry Foster burned the Bengals on two returns in the preseason, but Ross said, "Now the vets are going to be on the field." **
RACKERS VS. HANSON:** Rackers is the only NFL kicker to miss six field goals this season, while the Pro Bowler Hanson has tried only seven and made five. Since 1996, only Miami's Olindo Mare is better than Hanson's 88 percent inside the 50. He had a 40-yarder blocked last week. His missed 65-yarder two weeks ago against Minnesota ended a streak of 11 straight field goals. Plus, he has nine game winners in his career.
Rackers kicked the winner at the gun in the Bengals' 27-24 win over Detroit during the preseason and he should get a lift going back indoors to the Silverdome. But with a 6-for-12 mark and off a week the Bengals brought in three kickers, he knows he has to produce now.
NUMBERS GAME: All the numbers you need for this weekend, including 171 and 67. The first number is Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau's NFL-record streak of consecutive games by a cornerback while with the Lions. The second number is the number of NFL games combined for the Bengals' four healthy cornerbacks this Sunday against the Lions.
385 _ Yards the Lions averaged the past three games.
353 _ Average yards the Bengals allowed the past three games.
441 _ Running back Corey Dillon's rushing yards after six games.
323 _ Dillon's rushing yards after six games last season.
20-29 _ Lions' record since Bengals Corey Sawyer beat them in OT in 1998 on Scott Mitchell's last pass for Detroit.
33-33 _ The Lions' record when Mitchell was their starter from 1994 until the Sawyer game.
60,000 _ With paid attendance for this week's game in Detroit expected to top 70,000, it will mark the first time the Bengals have ever played in front of four straight crowds of 60,000 plus.
6 _ First quarter points scored by Detroit this season.
3 _ First quarter points scored by the Bengals this season.
185 _ Number of games LeBeau played for the Lions from 1959-72.
0-6 _ Start the Lions haven't had since 1955.
24 _ Sacks the Lions have allowed this season.
24 _ Sacks the Bengals are on pace to allow this season.
26 _ Sacks the Bengals had all last season.
18 _ Bengals kicker Neil Rackers' career field goals.
9 _ Lions kicker Jason Hanson's career game winners.