No kicks for Bengals
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Quarterback Akili Smith looked sharp tonight in his tuneup for his rematch with Tim Couch and the Cleveland Browns in two weeks, but rookie kicker Neil Rackers gave the Bengals plenty to think about after they lost tonight's preseason finale, 21-13, to the Lions.
In his first two field-goal attempts since winning the job from veteran Doug Pelfrey, Rackers hooked a 46-yard try to the left and then shot a 27-yarder to the left as time ran out in the half before blowing an extra point when the Bengals crawled to within 21-13 with 6:09 left in the game on backup quarterback Scott Mitchell's 15-yard touchdown pass to tight end Steve Bush.
Rackers, a sixth-round pick out of Illinois, was greeted with the first Paul Brown Stadium boos by the crowd of 48,420 as he kicked off following the PAT miss.
Mitchell's bid to get a touchdown on the last play of the game was a pass knocked down in the end zone by Detroit cornerback Marquis Walker.
Smith prepped for the Bengals' Sept. 10 regular-season opener by throwing a 53-yard bomb to rookie receiver Peter Warrick and scoring on a three-yard run on his first of the two series he played. He hit six of eight passes for 67 yards and ran twice more for 15 yards.
The Lions rattled the Bengals' banged-up defense on the ground and through the air with two first-quarter touchdown passes from Stoney Case, both coming on mismatches with Cincinnati nickel back Rodney Heath.
The 5-10 Heath knocked down Case's pass to Herman Moore at the goal line, but the 6-4 Moore outmuscled Heath for the first touchdown of the night after the Lions pounded Cincinnati for 80 yards in the game's first seven minutes. On Detroit's next drive, 250-pound Walter Rasby boxed out the 175-pound Heath for a 12-yard touchdown catch.
Smith set up the Bengals' score when he converted a second-and-25 with a 53-yard bomb down the right sideline to the Detroit 3 after a leaping Warrick strafed Lions cornerback Bryant Westbrook one-on-one.
Smith then faked a handoff to running back Corey Dillon and rolled untouched to the left for a touchdown, aided by receiver James Hundon's block in the end zone. On his other series, Smith converted a second-and-long with a 12-yard bolt out of the pocket. But Rackers couldn't convert on the longest try of his pro career from 46 yards.
The Bengals wanted to hone their running game tonight and they go solid results from their first and second groups. They produced a pair of 20-plus runs in the game's first 20 minutes as in finishing the half with 91 yards on 11 carries.
Dillon looked to be in midseason form in gaining 45 yards on six carries, and ripped off a 20-yarder behind the work of right guard Brian DeMarco and right tackle Jamain Stephens. The Bengals haven't been enamored of DeMarco's play this preseason and they put Mike Goff in his place early in the second quarter. Backup running back Brandon Bennett followed him for a 22-yard gain after the bulk of the first offense left with two series under its belt.
But the Lions also pounded the ball on the ground, chewing up the Bengals for 99 yards on 16 carries. Except for nose tackle Oliver Gibson and linebacker Steve Foley, the backup defense started the game and played most of the way, except for cameo appearances by free safety Darryl Williams, defensive end John Copeland, middle linebacker Brian Simmons and cornerback Tom Carter. Detroit romped in the first half with 260 yards of total offense.
The Bengals' defense settled down after the first two drives and got decent efforts from their backups. Particularly in the third quarter, when the offense gave the Lions a short field on a Scott Mitchell interception (by linebacker Kevin O'Neil at the Bengals' 20) and on the next series on a fumble by running back Sedrick Shaw recovered by linebacker Stephen Kowalkowski at the Bengals 45.
Detroit didn't score, thanks to Jason Hanson's 40-yard field goal miss, but the offense kept putting the Lions on the field. The Lions put it away with an 18-play touchdown drive that straddled the third and fourth quarters for 10:09 that accounted for seven first downs.
Heath left the game with an upper back strain and didn't return. Neither did Bennett with a mild concussion and linebacker Adrian Ross left the game for good with a sore shoulder. Tight end Marco Battaglia was fine after getting shaken up. Safety Tremain Mack bruised an ankle and left the game with a question if he could return.