BY GEOFF HOBSON
INDIANAPOLIS _ Is the glass half empty or half full?
For the first time in a long time Saturday night, the Bengals didn't play well and still won, 22-10, here over the Colts when they survived 14 penalties and two turnovers. But their first-team offense managed only a field goal against a defense that gave up the most points in the NFL last season.
They are 2-0 in the preseason for the first time in 13 years. But their first team has been outscored in the first half, 27-17, the past two weeks.
It looks like last year, with a superb defense carrying an offense that can't break a big play. The offense's longest play this year is running back Rudi Johnson's 39-yard run, and the wide receivers have yet to catch a pass longer than 18 yards.
But then again, Pro Bowl running back Corey Dillon and wide receivers Michael Westbrook and Danny Farmer haven't played yet, and their best receiver in practice, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, didn't play against the Colts.
Yet the glass is overflowing in more than a few spots. It's clear the Bengals have pounded the Bills and Colts the past two weeks with their depth, and on Saturday night here in the RCA Dome they won the kind of game they usually don't. Plus, their pass protection has been flawless and their defense looks as good as ever.
"We're learning that we have enough good players on our team that if we're patient, and we can just hang in there, we can come back and win games," said left tackle Richmond Webb, part of a position group that hasn't allowed a sack this season.
Quarterback Gus Frerotte: "
We won as a team and that showed a lot of poise. We got in some bad situations and we overcame some of them. We kept playing and playing hard, and no one out there put their head down."
"They took some things away from us at times," said right tackle Willie Anderson. "We were semi-productive. It's not what we wanted, but they're a well-coached team and we gave the quarterback time for them to compete."
Their reserves have demolished the opposition the past two weeks. Johnson and Curtis Keaton, vying for the No. 3 running back spot, have combined for 344 yards. On Saturday night, they stifled the Colts on 12 yards in the second half to help the Bengals score 22 unanswered points.
"This is what happens when everybody works hard in practice and busts their butts," said backup defensive lineman Glen Steele, who had two sacks in the second half. "I don't think this team is like last year's team. This group of guys gets together here and works hard. It's a different team. I think you can see that on the field."
And the one thing they have accomplished is giving head coach Dick LeBeau "the look," he seeks. LeBeau liked the fact his team overcame a half-time deficit for the second straight week and that they held their poise late in the game, when the Colts were called once for roughing the kicker and once for a late hit.
"That was a real positive when Jon (Kitna) led us to that field goal at the end of the half," LeBeau said. "Right now, our guys are saying, 'Hey Coach, take a look at me,' and that's good."