12-15-02, 4:10 p.m.
Updated: 12-15-02, 5:30 p.m.
Updated: 12-15-02, 7 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Stop if you've seen this before.
Unable to count (literally) on special teams.
The running game unable to score from the goal line.
An embattled defense unable to stop anybody with the game on the line.
And Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna calling for an attitude adjustment "and it starts from the top."
Quarterback Mark Brunell played a tidy little game of pitch and catch with wide receiver Jimmy Smith as the Jaguars eased to a 29-15 victory over the Bengals in the hollow echo of a more than half-empty Paul Brown Stadium that officially held the smallest crowd in the facility's history at 42,092.
"You have to expect to win and right now I don't know how many people expect to win," Kitna said. "As an organization we don't expect to win. If you don't expect to win, you're not going to win very often. Until you expect to win and do the things that are necessary to win, until you give your players reason for optimism, you're going to have a tough time."
The loss came against the backdrop of a CBS report that Bengals President Mike Brown has contacted the NFL front office and the NFL Players Association about the steps for a re-organization of the Bengals' front office that could include the search for a general manager. But on Sunday night, Brown said that was the first he had heard of it and branded the report "inaccurate."
For the 12th time in 14 games, the foes scored at least 27 points as Brunell 19 of 28 passes for 223 yards, and Smith finished two yards shy of a 100-yard day on seven catches, including the back-breaking touchdown in the third quarter.
It was a small, but surly crowd that summed up its disgust with the boos that greeted a draw play on third-and-15 for a touchdown with four minutes left in the game.
They saw the Bengals plow new ground by dropping to 1-13 for the first time ever, but they did it in such familiar, mind-numbing fashion. The inability to count cost the Bengals this one when 12 men on the field during a punt return led to Jacksonville's go-ahead touchdown with 4:48 left in the third quarter.
"You can t do that. You work that hard to try and get off the field to get a stupid penalty like that and it was a stupid penalty," said middle linebacker Brian Simmons.
Asked it sums up the season, Simmons said, if you mean, 'stinks,' yeah."
The Bengals had dropped into their two receiver set of Jeff Burris and Danny Farmer to catch the punt, but there was a miscommunication and a player didn't get off the field."
It was the second such penalty on the Bengals' beleaguered special teams during the day. They were forced to blow a timeout in the first half because right guard Mike Goff didn't get on the field for Neil Rackers' 51-yard field goal.
The Bengals' offense had no answers, either, with no sustained running game. The ball was out of running back Corey Dillon hands early in the second half and he finished under 100 yards for the fifth straight game with just 59 on 21 carries. Kitna hit 22 of 42 passes for 258 yards, but the Bengals couldn't get points again in the red zone.
Rackers gave the Bengals a 15-14 lead on a 25-yarder to cap the first possession of the second half, which went 12 plays and 55 yards and featured two big third-down catches by wide receiver Ron Dugans.
Then the Bengals held the Jags on fourth-and-six from the Bengals 43, but the too-many-men penalty gave Jacksonville a fourth-and-one from from the 38, and it was converted on backup Stacey Mack's first carry of the game for an eight-yard burst.
Then, on fourth and six, Jimmy Smith ran by
Burris for a 26-yard touchdown pass.
As if to underscore the inability of this defense to stop the run, running back Fred Taylor then walked into the end zone untouched behind the right side of his line for the two-point conversion that gave the Jags a 22-15 lead. Taylor finished with 71 yards on 18 keep-away carries, and the Bengals couldn't get it back for the Jags' final scoring drive, a five-minute, 62-yard journey.
And yet, the Bengals were within 14-12 of the Jaguars at halftime and would have been tied if Dillon didn't drop a two-point conversion pass with 58 seconds left.
The touchdown came when Kitna ran a five-yard draw for a touchdown after he kept the drive alive from the Jaguars 30 with a 25-yard pass to the wide-open Dugans on third-and-10. On the conversion, Kitna scrambled away from pressure and found Dillon wide open at the last instant, but the ball was dropped.
Kitna appeared well on his way to another big day, hitting 10 of 17 passes for 145 yards with no interceptions, and wide receiver Chad Johnson closed within 34 yards of 1,000 with two grabs for 61 in the half. He finished the day four yards shy. His 44-yard catch while working one-on-one with cornerback Jason Craft down the middle came early in the second quarter with Jacksonville leading, 14-3, and put the Bengals at the Jags 21.
But as they have been unable to do all year, the offensive line couldn't get any movement on third-and-1 from the Jags 1, and Dillon got stopped on the right side by middle linebacker Wali Rainer for a loss of one.
Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau
then took heat from the sparse crowd for calling on Rackers to kick an 18-yard field goal with 9:05 left in the game to cut the Jags' lead to 14-6.
Dillon spent another head-shaking day looking for room. He had just 32 yards on 13 carries in the first half, a 2.5-yard average against a defense ranked just 27th against the run in the NFL.
The Bengals' defensive problems continued to snowball right from the first drive, a stunningly easy 11-play march for a Jaguars' offense that came into the game mired 24th in the NFL stats.
But they looked awesome against a Bengals' defense that has now already given up 401 points with eight quarters left in the season.
Quarterback Mark Brunell hit 11 of 15 passes in the first half and four of them went to wide receiver Jimmy Smith. Without cornerback Artrell Hawkins (thigh), the Bengals had no answer for Smith as he rung up 51 yards and running back Fred Taylor chewed up 46 yards on his first nine carries.
It didn't help that rookie cornerback LaVar Glover was lost for the game with a strained hamstring early in the second quarter. But defensive tackle Glen Steele came up with a stop of Taylor on third-and-short to kill one drive and defensive end Justin Smith and free safety Cory Hall each got a sack to quash another.
The Jaguars scored on a pair of touchdown passes, a 12-yard screen pass to wide receiver Kevin Lockett fueled by several missed tackles, and a nine-yarder to tight end Pete Mitchell working on outside linebacker Canute Curtis. Brunell, off a play-action rollout, squeezed the ball into a diving Mitchell on the sideline and the play held up on LeBeau's challenge.
The Bengals were hampered on offense without injured wide receiver Peter Warrick, missing his first NFL game with bruised lungs. They activated Tony Stewart for his first game as a Bengal so they could run more two tight-end sets because their fourth receiver, Danny Farmer has problems with an injured knee and calf and isn't expected to play much, if at all. Stewart had one catch for six yards in the first half.