BY GEOFF HOBSON
IRVING, Texas _ It was deja ooh for Bengals special teams coach Al Roberts here Sunday in the 23-6 loss to the Cowboys.
Except for some early-season struggles by rookie kicker Neil Rackers, Roberts' crew has pretty much avoided the disasters of last season that continually gave foes twin killings:
Points for them and points off the board for the Bengals.
And Roberts took blame for the biggest gaffe, a Dallas field-goal attempt that turned into a one-yard touchdown run by kicker Tim Seder. With linebacker Takeo Spikes lined up wide, Seder cut it up the middle.
"My fault on the alignment," said Roberts, who was looking to put some pressure on the kick. "I had some safe parts on the field goal. I had Spikes aligned too far over. He was responsible for an outside pass .They saw he was lined up a little too far. They kept taking a look at him. They took a shot at it and got it. I had him aligned a little too wide and they got us on it."
"We'll have to adjust because it won't be the last time we see it," said defensive tackle Oliver Gibson. "Basically, we all lined up to one side and they ran the other."
But Roberts wasn't the only guy struggling. A fumble by punter Daniel Pope at the Bengals 26 led to a Dallas field goal. And rookie Brad St. Louis' high snap denied Rackers a 42-yard field goal.
Pope, the holder, decided to punt the ball into the coffin corner because he didn't have time to get the snap down. He argued with the officials, but they ruled the ball went into the end zone for a touchback, which set up a Dallas field goal.
Pope and Roberts think St. Louis thought he was at fault for the punt snap Pope fumbled and that's why he botched the field-goal snap. But Pope had told him it was his fault because he tried to kick it before he caught it.
"(St. Louis) took that long snap to the short snap," Roberts said. "That's where you have a kid who gets caught up in the emotions and doesn't go the next play."
Speaking of kids getting emotions in check, Rackers was perfect from 22 and 37 Sunday and has hit his last four field-goal tries after missing five of his first eight.
REF MISTAKE: The Bengals don't even have to send a disputed play into New York this week to have the NFL admit it missed a call.
The officials already did when they came back to the field for the second half. With 1:51 left in the first half, Cowboys punter Mike Knorr fielded a snap on a one-hop and still crunched a 41-yarder as Bengals linebacker Reinard Wilson landed on his foot.
Wilson was called for roughing the kicker and Knorr hurt his leg. But when a punt snap hits the ground, the punter is like any ball carrier and can get hit, "unless it was a flagrant foul and I didn't think it was," said coach Dick LeBeau.
"I thought I had the ball, but I ended up diving further than I thought and I hit his leg," Wilson said. "The ref came back and said it was a legal play. He said he messed up the play."
The Cowboys almost cashed the call, moving from their 27 to the Bengals 26 before Seder missed a 44-yard field goal with 57 seconds left in the half to keep the Bengals down just 7-6.
The Bengals sent receiver Peter Warrick back to return a punt for just the second time this season on the play, so his fair catch is erased. **
INJURY UPDATE:** Left tackle John Jackson is out two to four weeks after re-injuring his pulled hamstring in the second quarter. Jackson said he was trying to execute a cut-off block on the back side of the play.
"I tried to jump over (left guard Matt) O'Dwyer," Jackson said in a great deal of pain. "I don't know about tomorrow, let alone next week."
Linebacker Adrian Ross also re-aggravated an injury, and is to miss one to three weeks with a sprained ankle.
THIS AND THAT: Agent Marvin Demoff confirmed Sunday Bengals running back Corey Dillon has ended the relationship. Dillon had no comment after the game on the move or who will be negotiating for him as he heads to free agency. "I was disappointed he didn't talk to me and just sent a letter," said Demoff, who negotiated a one-year, $3 million deal back in August that ended Dillon's three-week holdout . . .
The Bengals are on pace to score 153 points this season, 34 fewer than the club-low in 1993. It would be the sixth time a club failed to score 200 points in a season since the NFL went to 16 games in 1978. . .The Bengals have now been shut out three times and have failed to score a touchdown in another one. The offense has scored one touchdown or none in all but one of the 10 games, the 31-21 win over Denver.