Saturday, August 11, 2001

Bengals 27, Lions 24

Mitchell leads 3 scoring drive

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        PONTIAC, Mich. — Bengals quarterback Scott Mitchell, booed by Detroit fans every time he stepped on the Silverdome field, led three second-half scoring drives to erase a 14-point deficit, and Cincinnati got its first preseason win, 27-24 Friday night.

Detroit's Johnny Morton scores on a long pass on the second play of the game.
(AP photos)
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        Neil Rackers kicked a 34-yard field goal as time expired after Mitchell moved the offense 74 yards in the final 5:10. Mitchell was 5-of-5 passing for 44 yards on the drive, and rookie running back Rudi Johnson had 30 yards on the ground.

        Mitchell, who was 12-of-19 passing for 141 yards, one touchdown and one interception, was the Lions quarterback for five years before losing his job in 1998. He expected a rough reception in his return to Detroit.

        “To be honest with you, I'm really over it,” he said. “I've moved on with my life and career.”

        Mitchell had complete control of the offense on the final drive.

        “There was no sense in trying to make any big plays, just take what they gave us and take care of the football,” he said.

Curtis Keaton.
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        Damon Griffin had catches of 6, 10, 8 and 11 yards on the drive.

        The drive was set up when defensive end Reinard Wilson recorded his third sack of the game and stripped the ball from Detroit quarterback Mike McMahon with the Lions in field-goal range. Glen Steele recovered.

        On his second drive, Mitchell led a 13-play, 55-yard effort and fullback Clif Groce scored from the 2. Mitchell was 3-for-5 passing for 35 yards.

        Then Mitchell led a seven-play, 56-yard drive that ended when he rolled left and hit Chad Johnson for a 16-yard touchdown pass. Rackers' extra point tied the game at 24.

        The drive started when Mitchell hooked up with Danny Farmer for a 24-yard gain on a crossing pattern.

        “I thought he was very, very effective,” Bengals coach Dick LeBeau said of Mitchell. “The one interception he threw was a mistake in the pattern. It wasn't his fault.”

        LeBeau said Mitchell will start the preseason home opener Aug.25 with Buffalo.

        LeBeau's plan late in the game was to put starter Akili Smith back in at quarterback.

        “I talked to both Scott and Akili because I don't like to change plans on them when I've told them something,” LeBeau said. “But Scott was going so well, and Akili had been out of the game. Akili said, "Let him go. He's got the hot hand.' That was unselfish, positive and good.”

        Despite the victory, LeBeau saw plenty to work on, primarily the pass protection breakdowns by the starting offensive line and the special teams kick coverage.

        “I thought early in the game, our protection was not good enough,” he said of the starting line, which gave up seven sacks in the first half. “It was a little bit better (later). But that has to be cleaned up. That would be priority No.1.”

        Detroit's Larry Foster returned the second-half kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown and a 24-10 Lions lead. Foster also had an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown early in the second quarter. He was relatively untouched on both scoring returns.

        Asked what he saw as the problem on the kick coverage teams, LeBeau said, “What don't I see? We're going to get that solved and get it solved damn quick.”

        The Bengals scored their first touchdown in the second quarter.

        Jon Kitna, appearing to change the play at the line of scrimmage, threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Darnay Scott, and Richie Cunningham's extra point cut Detroit's lead to 14-7. The TD was set up by safety Chris Carter's interception and 18-yard return of a Jim Harbaugh pass to the 16.

        But after the Bengals defense forced a punt, Kitna threw an interception to Detroit linebacker Barrett Green with no Bengals receiver in the area. Green returned 12 yards to the Bengals' 15-yard line.

        The Bengals defense held, and Jason Hanson was good on a 30-yard field goal for a 17-7 Detroit lead.

        Kitna, who played four possessions, led the Bengals on a 66-yard drive to end the half. Richie Cunningham made a 27-yard field goal on the last play of the half to pull the Bengals within seven.

        Kitna was 5-for-7 passing on the drive, including a 23-yarder to Peter Warrick and a 21-yarder to Tony McGee. Kitna missed Chad Johnson on an end-zone fade pattern to force the field-goal attempt.

        For the half, Kitna was 6-for-11 passing for 75 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

        Akili Smith played the first four series and was 3-for-7 passing for 88 yards, 51 coming on a heave out of the end zone on third-and-23 from the Bengals 5-yard line. Johnson wrestled the ball from Lions' safety Chidi Iwuona at Detroit's 44.

        Smith didn't get much help from his offensive line, which was playing without starting right tackle Willie Anderson. He was sacked five times and fumbled twice. Two delay of game penalties were called on the Bengals while Smith was quarterback.

        Corey Dillon started but did not touch the ball in two offensive plays. He was replaced by Brandon Bennett.


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