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Portis rushes for 120 yards and two TDs

9/8/2003

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Marvin Lewis gave the Cincinnati Bengals a new
look -- all black uniforms. Clinton Portis made them look like the
same sorry team.

Portis ran for 120 yards and two first-half touchdowns Sunday,
and the NFL's worst team of the past 12 years went on another
self-destructive binge that helped the Denver Broncos roll, 30-10.

The Broncos (1-0) turned to their Rookie of the Year rusher to
pull them through their new quarterback's shaky debut. A nervous
Jake Plummer was repeatedly off-target, threw three interceptions
and looked skittish.

The $40 million acquisition finished 12-of-25 for 115 yards,
numbers that translated into a minuscule passer rating of 21.7.

"The numbers will improve as the year goes along," said
Plummer, who signed a seven-year deal after leaving Arizona. "I've
had great numbers and lost games, and I didn't feel as good as I
feel now."

The Bengals (0-1) had a familiar, sickening feeling. With
Plummer faltering, all they had to do was contain Portis. On most
plays, they had problems just getting a hand on him.

Denver's blockers latched onto the Bengals' linemen, locking
them in place while Portis flew by. He accounted for 159 yards
overall on 24 runs and five catches.

"We knew that if they had their nickel (defense) on the field,
we had to run the ball down their throats, and that's what we
did," said Portis, who ran for 90 yards in the first half.

The shifty running back touched the ball on 13 of Denver's first
19 plays, while Plummer was restricted to short tosses. Portis'
touchdown runs of 2 and 8 yards made it 20-3 at halftime.

Linebacker Ian Gold returned Jon Kitna's shovel pass 12 yards
for a touchdown early in the third quarter, prompting the crowd of
63,820 to boo with gusto over another season-opening embarrassment.

Lewis wanted his team to look sharp in his head coaching debut,
and provided new, black pants for the occasion. The offensive unit
was introduced to bursts of on-field fireworks -- another new
trapping for a new era.

Once the game began, they were the same old Bungles.

"I'm disappointed for the fans," Lewis said. "Everybody had
jumped on board with both feet, and we appreciate the support. All
I can say is, we'll be back."

Is Portis, not Plummer, the most important player on offense?
Portis is definitely the most important offensive player. He's the type of player who can rush for over 1,500 yards and still be a receiving threat for this offense. They have to

How long before Lewis has a steady impact on the win column?
This is going to be a difficult road for Lewis to walk, because of the past ghosts of Cincinnati. But there already is noticeable improvement. For instance, the scouting department was the least staffed in the league, but Lewis is adding people to the department. Scouting is where a team's future is made and having a full and competent staff is integral to a team's future. Also this past draft was a good one for the Bengals and I can't wait to see QB Carson Palmer strap on a helmet.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

They were back to their old tricks -- a field goal nullified by
penalty, a fumbled kickoff and missed tackles galore. Most of the
fans' wrath was directed at Kitna, who won't be the starting
quarterback for long if he plays like he did on Sunday. No. 1 draft
pick Carson Palmer is waiting on the bench.

"Right now you can tell Kitna's kind of looking over his
shoulder because you know any time you take a guy first in the
draft, it's not going to be long before they put him in the
ballgame," Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe said.

Kitna threw into a crowd and was intercepted in the first half,
bringing the first round of jeers. He was booed off the field after
his third-quarter shovel pass buried his team.

Trying to avoid a sack, he made a backhanded toss toward Corey
Dillon, but Gold caught it in stride and ran untouched for a
touchdown.

It was reminiscent of the defining moment of the Bengals' 2-14
season last year: Gus Frerotte throwing a left-handed pass that was
picked off in Cleveland.

"As a quarterback, sometimes you start feeling uneasy and you
try to do something that's not there," Kitna said. "You have to
be a little bit more careful because when you do something wrong,
it's usually disastrous."

Kitna was 10-of-20 for 86 yards in the first three quarters, and
finished with two interceptions, two fumbles and four sacks. He
clearly got the worst of the game's key matchup -- he and Plummer
have a history of making mistakes under pressure and dooming bad
teams.

With Kitna self-destructing, the Bengals had no chance. Dillon
ran for only 34 yards against a defense that wasn't about to let
him have another big day. The last time they played in 2000, Dillon
ran for an NFL-record 278 yards at Paul Brown Stadium. Only three
starters remain from the Denver defense he shredded.

Game notes
Broncos coach Mike Shanahan is 9-2 in openers. ... It was
Portis' ninth 100-yard game. He set a team rookie record with 17
touchdowns last season. ... WR Ed McCaffrey failed to catch a ball,
ending his Broncos record of 68 consecutive games with a reception.
Rod Smith extended his streak to 62 straight games, tying Lionel
Taylor for second behind McCaffrey. ... Kitna was 10-of-17 for 178
yards in the fourth quarter, padding his numbers after the Broncos'
defense went soft.