Sunday, September 29, 2002

Keys to the Game

Slow starts taking Bengals out of contention

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Of the many unbelievable statistics that illustrate the Bengals' miserable 0-3 start, one of the most amazing is this:

        The Bengals have spotted each of their three opponents a 20-0 lead before scoring.

        A good NFL team has difficulty recovering from a 20-0 deficit, let alone a Bengals team that can't pass the ball and score quickly.

        Falling behind 20-0 today to Tampa Bay would again take running back Corey Dillon out of the picture, put too much pressure on quarterback Akili Smith and turn whatever crowd there is against the Bengals. (For the record, the game is not sold out, but ticket sales surged after Tampa Bay's impressive Monday night victory over the Rams. The Bucs are the attraction).

        Tampa Bay defensive tackle Warren Sapp said the plan is to stop Dillon and see how much Smith has learned in the week since he was desperately promoted from emergency third QB to starter.

        “If we can get CD (Dillon) going, and keep those guys back, we'll have some success,” Smith said of the pass rush.

        One more set of numbers to show the unfathomable start: The Bengals have been outscored 26-0 in the first quarter and 31-3 in the second.

        POINT TAKEN: Tampa Bay has scored 71 points, but the defense and special teams have 20 of them.

        Linebacker Derrick Brooks has returned two interceptions for touchdowns. The Bucs had a team safety against Baltimore, and Karl Williams returned a punt for a TD.

        The Bengals can't give the Buccaneers any defensive or special teams (read: easy) scores today and expect to have a chance to win.

        The Bengals will have enough problems stopping Tampa Bay's increasingly efficient offense. Quarterback Brad Johnson hasn't thrown an interception in 115 attempts. Wide receivers Keenan McCardell and Keyshawn Johnson will be a challenge for the Bengals cornerbacks.

        LETDOWN: Last season, the Buccaneers came off a Monday night victory at St. Louis and arrived in Cincinnati looking right past the Bengals.

        The Bengals, to their credit, played well on Dec. 2, forcing the Bucs into overtime before losing 16-13.

        The Bengals have to hope the same thing happens this year.

        The Bucs beat the Rams 26-14 on Monday night at home. The game was closer than the score. Tampa Bay will go to Atlanta next week to play the dangerous Michael Vick.

        Bucs coach Jon Gruden faces a big challenge to get his team emotionally ready for the Bengals.

        “I can't worry about those kinds of things,” Gruden said of a possible letdown. “I think we've got a real solid group, a mentally tough bunch. I believe our football team will show up and play their hearts out.”


Bengals Stories
Bengals pass Bucs to Akili
Rehberg's challenge: Deny Sapp
- Keys to the Game
Who's Got The Edge?
Bengals-Bucs by the Numbers
Bengal fans petition for help
Searching store aisles for a QB
Johnson cousins engage in family spat
Levi Jones' Rookie Journal
Mark Curnutte's NFL picks

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Send get-wells to Huggins
DAUGHERTY: Huggins needs to take timeout
Huggins' friends, colleagues stunned
Coles knows Huggins' plight
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UC football team somber despite victory
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Sizing up Reds prospects for 2003
Pena guaranteed roster spot
Bowden brags about future pitchers
Reds axe Lefebvre, keep other coaches
Boone finishes iron-man season
Cinergy Field remnants go on sale
Expos 6, Reds 0
Reds Box, Runs
Diamondbacks repeat NL West title
Giants wrap up wild-card
Baseball Postseason Schedule
Miami 48, Akron 31
Ohio State 45, Indiana 17
Florida 41, Kentucky 34
Kalamazoo 27, Mount St. Joseph 13
Wittenberg 31, Thomas More 6
College Football Scores
College Update: From senior stars to freshman hopefuls
Enquirer Power Rankings
Pacers may open Xavier camp to fans
Football scores & game reports
How Enquirer poll teams fared
Ohio Football Scores
Kentucky Football Scores
Indiana Football Scores
Beechwood 24, Simon Kenton 20
CCD 42, Summit Country Day 7
Conner 22, Holmes 18
Edgewood 47, Fenwick 13
Newport 21, Garrard County 18
Purcell Marian 21, Badin 7
Scott 38, Campbell County 13
Woodward 20, Dayton Meadowdale 16
Public league's progress slow but steady
Ryle trying to match Elder with nation's No. 1
Holmes shows no Mercy to Oak Hills
Prep Spotlight on John Dixon
Boys cross country results
Boys golf results
Boys soccer results
Girls cross country results
Girls soccer results
Girls tennis results
Girls volleyball results

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