Wary of the turnover

10-25-02, 10:40 a.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna is coming off his worst game since fifth grade because he tried to make something happen two weeks ago against the Steelers. Now, against the Titans, he wants to make sure nothing happens with Tennessee cornerback Samari Rolle.

It looks to be like a dangerous matchup for the Bengals. Kitna has thrown just one touchdown and seven interceptions this season. Rolle has 14 interceptions over the past three seasons and is overdue because he doesn't have one yet this year.

"I've got a lot of respect for Samari Rolle," Kitna said this week. "If he makes a certain play one way, you can't expect him to do the same thing on the next play and he'll make the interception. He's a home-run hitter. If you make a mistake, he's Barry Bonds."

Kitna also has regard for Titans head coach Jeff Fisher and his complex scheme. They have had a

decent knack for creating turnovers this season with 10 (led by cornerback Andre Dyson's three interceptions fueled by 16 sacks), and the Bengals have had an even greater knack in making them with 16 turnovers.

"Both Samari and Andre Dyson know football and have a good feel for the game. They understand patterns," Kitna said. "You know you're not going to get the standard (zone) coverages. Jeff Fisher does a great job giving you complex coverages and they've got a really good defensive line, so you can't sit back there and hold the ball."

After his two hurried interceptions against the Steelers in the first half that put the Bengals in a 17-0 hole ("just mindless errors on my part,") don't look for Kitna to try anything fancy this Sunday.

"If I stay within the offense," he said, "those two interceptions don't happen."

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OTHER KEY MATCHUPS:**Bengals ROLB Takeo Spikes and LOLB Canute Curtis have to make sure Titans RB Eddie George doesn't cut back. In his third NFL start, Bengals SS Marquand Manuel tries to shut down Tennessee's leading receiver, Titans TE Frank Wycheck. Bengals CB Artrell Hawkins tries to corral a Cincinnati nemesis in Titans WR Derrick Mason.

In his third NFL start, Bengals LT Levi Jones figures he'll get a dose of Titans DE Kevin Carter even though he doesn't usually play on that side. Bengals WR Peter Warrick tries to take advantage of the Titans' nickel coverage in the slot against Titans CB Donald Mitchell.

SPIKES, CURTIS VS. GEORGE: Is George coming out of his season and a half slump? He's coming off his first 100-yard game of the year and just his second in nearly two years, and the Bengals think he looks '99 Beast-like: "He looks pretty good to me," Spikes said.

Spikes and Curtis are going to be on the lookout if they are the back-side linebacker when George gets the ball. That's where he likes to go when he's in a groove. **

MANUEL VS. WYCHEK:** Manuel may have to get physical here. The Titans like to send Wycheck in motion, or run him on some misdirection routes that aren't long (his longest catch is 18 yards), but are long enough to get first downs. A lot of his catches come off play-action, another reason they have to keep George in check.

HAWKINS VS. MASON: Hawkins could only play on third down against the Titans last year because of a separated shoulder and Mason beat backup corner Robert Bean for touchdown passes of 35 and 41 yards in the season finale. Now Mason is coming off a separated shoulder after missing the last two games. The Bengals have been victims of the big pass in the first six games and one of the last things Mason did before he got hurt was burn the Raiders for a 32-yard play.

JONES VS. CARTER: With sack ace Jevon Kearse out, Carter has stepped up the way the Titans thought he would last season. He's healthier and seems to be more motivated in racking up an AFC-leading six sacks. Jones has given up two key sacks in the last two games and the Bengals think the 290-pound Carter might move over to the 310-pound Jones' side a little more often instead of staying over right tackle Willie Anderson, a guy that outweighs Carter by 50 pounds. **

WARRICK VS. MITCHELL:** Teams have had success throwing the ball against Tennessee in multi-receiver sets when they don't have to work against Samari Rolle and Andre Dyson on the corners. The Raiders' Rich Gannon threw for nearly 400 yards against them, the Browns' Tim Couch went for 326 and the now benched Quincy Carter led the Cowboys' win over them with two touchdown passes that included one to former tight end Tony McGee.

**

NUMBERS GAME:** All the numbers you need for Sunday's game against the Titans, including 822 and 742. The first is Bengals running back Corey Dillon's yards and the second is Titans running back Eddie George's yards in their nine head-to-head matchups since they became their team's feature backs.

822 _ Bengals running back Corey Dillon's yards in his nine starts against the Titans.

742 _ Titans running back Eddie George's yards against the Bengals since Dillon became the starter.

6 _ Touchdowns by George this season.

5 _ Offensive touchdowns by the Bengals this season.

2 _ Touchdown catches by George this season.

2 _ Touchdown passes by the Bengals this season.

16 _ Sacks by the Titans this year.

19 _ Sacks the Bengals are on pace to get this year.

157 _ AFC-best sacks the Titans have since 1999.

116 _ Bengals' sacks since 1999.

17 _ Titans quarterback Steve McNair's touchdown passes against the Bengals in 11 games.

4 _ Bengals' touchdown passes in their last 11 games.

20-10 _ Titans' October record since Jeff Fisher became coach in 1995.

8-23 _ Bengals' October record since 1995.

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