Offense never caught up

10-14-02, 6:30 a.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

On the first series of the game, the Bengals picked up where they left off and went down the field against the Steelers like they did in the last seven minutes of their come-back win over Pittsburgh back in December.

"That first drive, that was the best we felt all season," Anderson said. "We were running the ball, picking up blitzes, clicking."

They ventured from their 26 to the Pittsburgh 29 on seven plays. But the drive stalled and when Neil Rackers came up short on a 46-yard field goal, the rout was on. There were some raised eyebrows in the locker room when running back Corey Dillon carried just once for 11 yards in the drive on the second play and quarterback Jon Kitna couldn't get a first down on three straight passes.

"That stuff shouldn't deflate you," Anderson said. "You have to overcome it. It was a crazy game. Everything happened so fast and we

got behind. We had opportunities and suddenly they were gone. That's what we kept saying. You don't get many chances."

Although the special teams gave up a kick return for a touchdown and had the Rackers miss and the defense got pounded for 211 rushing yards, Kitna took the opportunity to take the blame for the loss with his three interceptions and fumble in his second start in the line of Gus Frerotte and Akili Smith.

And he didn't blame the way head coach Dick LeBeau handled the training camp derby when it was suggested the odd quarterback competition has made him press.

"Going back to that situation, of course I wanted to be the starter," Kitna said. " It's what I thought was best. But coach LeBeau did what he thought was best, and the competition in training camp — I thought he handled it fairly. It was nip and tuck between Gus and myself. Obviously, with the start of our season, it's put us in a situation where you go out and press a little bit. I don't know if that's the cause for what I did today, but I have to go back and, in my own mind, analyze what I did today. Because I don't remember ever making some of the mental errors that I made today."

Steelers strong safety Lee Flowers, who had the first two interceptions on underthrown balls, suggested Kitna was confused about the schemes Pittsburgh displayed. But Kitna said he threw to the wrong receiver on the first pass and hurried his second throw long down the middle to wide receiver Peter Warrick.

"The first one was the worst decision I've ever made with a football in my hands," Kitna said. "The second, I was feeling pressure to my left," Kitna said. "I had to move, which broke down the timing of the play and I didn't get enough on the throw. The quarterback needs to do something else with the ball. It was there, I didn't get enough on it."

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