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Saints speed ahead

12-22-02, 2 p.m.


The shootout arrived as advertised Sunday in the deserted Main Street of Paul Brown Stadium as the quicksilver Saints took a 10-7 lead on the Bengals in the game'first eight minutes and held it after the first quarter.

In true tennis match fashion, the clubs combined for three turnovers with Bengals inside linebacker Takeo Spikes picking up two fumbles for a defense that came into the game with a league-low six recoveries. Bengals running back Corey Dillon picked up 45 yards on his first four carries, but a nifty 26-yard second-effort into Saints territory got negated when linebacker Sedrick Hodge came from behind and punched the ball from him for a turnover.

New Orleans kicker John Carney, who came into the game hitting 17 of his last 18 field goals, wasted no time staking the Saints to a 3-0 with a 38-yarder. It marked the tenth time this season the foe scored on its first drive and fifth time in the last seven games.

The Bengals came back in just 1:31. Wide receiver Peter Warrick returned to the lineup with bruised

lungs after missing a week and picked up right where he left off on the Bengals' first series. On third-and-11 from the Saints 30, quarterback Jon Kitna hit Warrick over the middle working against cornerback Fred Thomas for the first down, and Warrick did the rest, running away from Thomas and shaking off safeties Jay Bellamy and Sammy Knight, finishing off the touchdown with a stretch over the goal line.

Then the Saints and their speed receivers took just 1:56 to respond. Rookie Donte' Stallworth, making his first NFL start, took a quick post pattern in front of cornerback Jeff Burris and just ran away from him down the middle of the field, past diving strong safety Marquand Manuel for a 57-yard score and a 10-7 lead.

The Bengals were all over 1,200-yard rusher Deuce McAllister, holding him to no yards on his first five carries and 13 on nine carries in the first quarter. But quarterback Aaron Brooks was playing pitch-and-catch with his receivers. He completed 11 of 14 passes in the first quarter for 154 yards and wideout Joe Horn had five of them against soft coverage from Burris and the rest of the cornerbacks fearing New Orleans' speed.

Dillon finished with his best first quarter in weeks with 43 yards on five carries. His 15-yard bolt off the left side on his first run helped set up the touchdown, and a 5-yard facemask penalty on Bellamy at the end of the run helped.

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