Neal urges reality check

9-12-02, 11:20 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Lorenzo Neal thanks God and his parents for his consecutive games streak that hits 130 this Sunday in Cleveland.

His father never hesitated taking off his belt if Neal stepped out of line growing up in Fresno, Calif. And his mother is still getting him ready for the physical challenge of playing in the NFL.

"My Mom still hits me. She thinks she's tough," said Neal, [ who may or may not have been kidding during Thursday's audio interview on bengals.com.

"If I'm in church and I'm talking too much in church, she'll belt me on the head. I'm used to getting hit pretty hard."

Neal, a 10-year fullback in his second-year as a Bengals locker-room leader, has hit the point pretty hard this week that he thought the Bengals were feeling a bit too good about themselves before dropping the 34-6 opener to the Chargers.

"Sometimes you put the cart before the horse and that's not how you win

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games," Neal said. "You can't go out and say because you're supposed to win, it's going to happen."

Neal was symbolic of how out-of-sync the Bengals were offensively last Sunday. He's one of their most effective run blockers, yet he played just five snaps as the Bengals tried to spread out San Diego's defense.

But even though he didn't play enough to have an impact, Neal said each player has to look back at last week's practice as they prepared this week.

"We're all guilty of not giving the defense a good look," Neal said. "We're all guilty of (the defense) not giving us a good look."

Neal, part of "The Miracle of Music City," kickoff return in the Titans' improbable playoff victory over Buffalo on the way to the Super Bowl three years ago, is an old hand at comebacks. He thinks the Bengals can pull one off Sunday, but they have to "meet force with force.

"A setback," Neal said, "is nothing but a setup for a comeback."

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