Sunday, October 06, 2002

Keys to the game


Bengals need to score points any way they can get 'em

By Mark Curnutte, mcurnutte@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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        The offense has scored an unbelievable average of four points a game this season.

        In 20 games under offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski, the offense is averaging 11.8 points a game.

        Today, indoors on artificial turf at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, coach Dick LeBeau should let Neil Rackers try any field goal inside 60 yards.

        No more pooch punts.

        No more fourth-down gambles with 10 yards to go inside the opponent's 40-yard line.

        Try a Hail Mary, the pass and the prayer. Don't worry so much about field position. Stop playing on your heels.

        Rackers' botched field goal against Tampa Bay was the result of a bad hold by Nick Harris, who essentially blocked the ball while trying to spin the laces. Rackers is crushing the ball. Let him kick. Take the points.

        HOLD THAT LINE: Of the many disappointments so far this season, the Bengals' offensive line has been the biggest.

        That's the team's upper management speaking.

        The line has given up 14 sacks, and the offense is gaining just 3.5 yards a play.

        Now, the line is banged up. Left tackle Richmond Webb is out for the season. Right guard Mike Goff is out. Right tackle Willie Anderson and left guard Matt

        O'Dwyer are questionable but will play today at Indianapolis.

        Rookie Levi Jones will start in Webb's spot. Scott Rehberg will start for Goff. If Anderson goes down, second-year guard Victor Leyva will play right tackle. Rookie free agent Thatcher Szalay will be active for the first time.

        The Bengals have to improve on their seven-minute deficit in possession time to give their defense a break. And ball control starts up front.

        RISE UP: The Bengals are giving up 29.8 points a game. Three times in four games the opposition has scored 30 or more points.

        Today, the Bengals will face the most accomplished offense they will have seen in Indianapolis.

        Quarterback Peyton Manning has thrown for 772 yards and six touchdowns in three games. Marvin Harrison has 23 receptions for a 12.5-yard average and two touchdowns. And running back Edgerrin James is back to his old self, averaging 149 scrimmage yards — fourth in the league.

        The Bengals defense, whose preseason goal was a top-three finish, needs to play its best game of the season, or it will be another long, unpleasant, ugly day.

       



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