Monday, November 01, 1999

From run stoppers to run-of-the-mill

Bengals' normally strong run defense gives up 183 yards

The Cincinnati Enquirer

James Stewart leaps over the Bengals' line to score Jacksonville's final touchdown.
(Josh Biggs photo)
| ZOOM |
        From the Hard-To-Believe files, the Bengals' defense entered Sunday as one of the best in team history vs. the run.

        Jacksonville quickly changed that, as the Bengals allowed a season-high 183 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns in a 41-10 loss. Before Sunday the Bengals were allowing just 92.2 rushing yards per game, with the team record being 93.7 by Forrest Gregg's 1983 team.

        There was a simple explanation for Sunday's disaster, according to several Bengals defenders. Beyond all the complicated scheming and blitzing and gap-this and gap-that, it really is a simple game.

        “We missed way too many tackles,” said safety Greg Myers. “I know I missed one early.”

        That was a glaring one, as Myers saw Keenan McCardell bounce away at the 10-yard line en route to a 23-yard touchdown reception. The play sent Jacksonville to a 14-0 lead with 6:30 left in the first period, and the Bengals already were math ematically eliminated.

        Jaguars halfback Fred Taylor rushed for 128 yards and a TD, after missing the last two games with a sore right hamstring. Taylor got things rolling with a 35-yard run on the second play from scrimmage, and added a 52-yarder in the second quarter.

        Before Sunday, the Bengals had allowed only two teams to top 100 yards rushing this year — Carolina with 146 and Pittsburgh with 130.

        Taylor was asked how the Jaguars could run against the Bengals' previously stout run defense.

        “They hadn't played our offensive line yet,” he said. “If you go back and look at the tape, you'll see that the holes were very big. I just had to make a few cuts and make the safety miss.”

        The Bengals' weak pass defense, ranked 23rd in the NFL before Sunday, didn't have a great day either. They allowed 214 yards passing and two TDs by Mark Brunell and Jay Fiedler, and also lost starting cornerbacks Artrell Hawkins (ankle, shoulder) and Roosevelt Blackmon (ankle) to injury. Myers also went out with a hamstring.

        Missed tackles were the common refrain, on both rushing and passing plays.

        “We had good contact, but then they'd slip away from us,” strong safety Myron Bell said. “The schemes were good. We just didn't make our plays.”

        Defensive end John Copeland said the mistakes were both mental and physical.

        “They'd shoot a gap, and we'd hit the wrong gap,” he said. “Or somebody wouldn't cover behind us. And basically they just blocked us.”

        The Bengals' relative lack of pressure on the quarterbacks played a part. Cincinnati had only two sacks, and Brunell generally had ample time to throw. Eight different Jaguars caught passes.

        “They really got into a rhythm like we've never seen,” Copeland said. “Normally when an offense takes control of a game, we can take it back from them. But today we couldn't do it.”


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