1-3-02, 1:15 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Jim Breech, the Bengals all-time leading scorer, stopped by Paul Brown Stadium Wednesday for his weekly skull session with current kicker Neil Rackers. When it was noted Breech and the second-year Rackers now have something in common, which is that both have never missed their combined 10 overtime field-goal tries, Rackers could finally crack a smile.
"That's my best percentage," said Rackers, who has one of the 10 and Breech has the rest. "That and I'm 2-for-2 for on-side kicks."
Indeed, in research uncovered by Bengals public relations director Jack Brennan, Cincinnati is the only team this season to have a success rate of 100 percent on more than one on-sider. The first came in San Diego and the second, of course, last Sunday with 2:46 left in regulation to lead to the tying touchdown against the Steelers.
It could have been the winning touchdown, but Rackers slipped and
missed the extra point, making his 31-yarder with 4:08 left in overtime slightly more dramatic than a shuttle launch.
But Rackers, so crushed Sunday after he also missed kicks from 32 and 28 yards, seemed recovered. Back on solid ground Wednesday on the practice field, Rackers said he kicked from about 43 yards and hit between 85 to 90 percent.
"Kim Wood now has me at about 20 years of NFL experience," said Rackers of the Bengals strength coach. "I wonder if I could get the salary that comes with that?"
Rackers admitted he aged 10 of them Sunday. He got a few gray hairs in overtime when Pittsburgh punter Josh Miller rolled one inside the Bengals 1.
"When I saw that ball stop on the half yard line, I couldn't look," Rackers said. "All it would take is one spike giving out on a shoe down there and we lose the ballgame. When T.J. (Houshmandzadeh) caught that (nine-yarder) over the middle to get it out of there, I was the happiest guy in the world."
Rackers appeared more relaxed than happy now that he's headed to Tennessee. That hasn't been an easy place to kick, either. Titans kicker Joe Nedney has missed eight of his 28 field-goal tries this season. Five of the misses are at Adelphia Coliseum, where Nedney is 8-for-13.
WEBB OF THE GAME:** Bengals left tackle Richmond Webb played with Dan Marino, but he never pass blocked 70 times or had his quarterback throw 68 passes like he did Sunday with the Bengals' Jon Kitna.
"We might have had 40 games where he threw 60 passes," Webb said with a laugh.
After taking 99 snaps Sunday, Webb, who turns 35 next week, admitted he is sorer than usual. But he still thinks he'll be back next year after he takes about the first month of the season to decide if his body can still take the punishment
FISHER'S PRICE: How long has Titans coach Jeff Fisher been preparing for the Bengals? He got the head coaching job the day after Bengals quarterback Jeff Blake threw for four touchdowns and 354 yards in his third NFL start against the Houston Oilers' defense Fisher was coordinating in 1994.
Since then, Fisher has rung up a 10-3 record (seven straight) against three Bengals head coaches. Here is his take on the Dick LeBeau era.
"They're a better conditioned team. They're playing harder from start to finish," Fisher said. "In the last (five) games (before last week), they didn't give up more than 18 points. Their defense is playing hard."
Fisher, a defensive coach, seemed genuinely impressed with how the Bengals' coaches have responded to
losing their top four tight ends to injury with five games left in the season.
"How they've adjusted because of injury, a lack of tight ends, and are still getting production and efficiency and energy out of the offense is very impressive," Fisher said. "They're doing a great job moving people around and getting the ball to their playmakers."
Fisher may have a soft spot in his heart for tight ends because he went through a drought earlier this year in which he had only banged up Frank Wycheck with experience.
It isn't lost on Fisher that Sunday's game was supposed to be played the week of Sept. 11. The Titans started 0-3 and didn't win until Oct. 14 in this 7-8 season.
"Like everyone else, we were off (Sept. 16), played a game, and then we had our bye," Fisher said. "We didn't have any kind of continuity the first part of the season."