Old problems haunt Bengals

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 31, 2003

INDIANAPOLIS -- Marvin Lewis has only coached four games in Cincinnati and he's already seeing the same problems that plagued the Bengals for years.

Botched snaps, turnovers and poor decisions.

Indianapolis returned a kickoff, an interception and a fumble for touchdowns and still managed to win their preseason finale 21-20 Friday night, despite being outgained by more than 300 yards.

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''You can't make mistakes,'' Lewis said. ''We still make mistakes that help us not win the football game, whether it's to keep us from scoring offensively, the problems we've had with field goals, a return touchdown, two returns offensively, we can't do that.''

The Bengals (1-3) did all the wrong things against Indianapolis, which played without running back Edgerrin James and with quarterback Peyton Manning limited to just three plays.

Indianapolis (3-1) managed only 47 plays and 160 yards in offense.

The defense wasn't much better. Indianapolis drew five personal foul penalties, including two on face masks, and allowed Cincinnati (1-3) to convert eight of 17 third downs and rack up 504 yards in offense.

About the only good thing was that few saw it. For the second straight preseason game, the Colts drew a dismal crowd. The 29,079 attendance figure was only slightly better than the Colts all-time low of 26,741 two weeks ago.

''We didn't play our best game on defense, but we came up with the turnovers when we needed them,'' Colts coach Tony Dungy said.

The Bengals botched five field-goal attempts in the first half. Twice, bad snaps prevented Neil Rackers from even getting a kick off. Another time, holder Travis Dorsch dropped the snap. Rackers had chances to hit from 31 and 36 yards at the end of the first half, but one was negated by a penalty and he missed the second one wide left.

For Lewis, who has seen these problems before despite placing great emphasis on special teams in training camp, it was frustrating.

Colts rookie Brad Pyatt returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown. Cornerback David Macklin returned an interception of a pass by Carson Palmer 93 yards early in the third quarter to tie the score at 14-14.

In the fourth quarter, Josh Mallard hit Palmer from behind, jarred the ball loose, and defensive end Raheem Brock raced 70 yards to make it 21-14 with 8:42 left.

''We go down the same road and we don't do things that we did in practice and all of a sudden they show up on Sunday,'' Lewis said. ''Obviously, it's not acceptable, and you can't beat good football teams leaving points on the table like that.''

Palmer finished 15-of-20 for 192 yards and a touchdown.

Chad Johnson, Cincinnati's leading receiver last season, left late in the first quarter with a sprained left ankle and did not return. Lewis said later that the injury was not serious.

Backup running back Rudi Johnson sprained his left quadriceps in the first quarter, too.

The Bengals tied the score on a 6-yard run from Brandon Bennett midway through the first quarter and took a 14-7 lead when Shane Matthews hooked up with rookie Kelley Washington on a 52-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.

Matthews was 11-of-16 for 168 yards.

''The offense as a whole, we played well,'' Matthews said. ''In the NFL, the bottom line is turnovers and it showed here tonight.''

Despite their problems, the Bengals still had a chance to win it when Palmer threw a 68-yard TD pass to Lawrence Hamilton, then tried a 2-point conversion. But T.J. Houshmandzadeh could not hang on and the Bengals didn't get another scoring chance.

''It's tough, but the way I'm looking at it, I've got to learn from every situation I'm in, good and bad,'' Palmer said. ''There's two big plays that I can learn from tonight.''

Notes: Dungy said James did not play because of a sore ankle and hamstring. … Ray Jackson led the Bengals in rushing with 20 carries for 69 yards. … The victory gave Indianapolis its first three-win preseason since 2000. The last four times they've won three preseason games, they've reached the playoffs.