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Bengals Running to Coliseum Next : AFC: They limped into a 24-7 loss to the Raiders Dec. 16. Sunday, they will be in better shape, with no major injuries except for James Brooks.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

So who’s that nippin’ at your heels again, Bo Jackson?

Turns out it’s speed racer cornerback, Rod Jones, and the Cincinnati Bengals, who defeated the Houston Oilers on Sunday to advance to next week’s playoff game against the Raiders at the Coliseum.

The game is a rematch of a Dec. 16 regular-season meeting in which the Raiders pretty much manhandled Cincinnati, 24-7. The Raiders expect a different group of Bengals this time around. Last time out, quarterback Boomer Esiason could barely walk because of a badly pulled groin.

He started the game with a bum leg and was removed in the third quarter.

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The Bengals also played the game without starting cornerback Lewis Billups and safety Ricky Dixon, who were out with injuries. Tailback Ickey Woods was used sparingly because of badly bruised ribs. He finished with no carries and one catch for two yards.

The Raiders controlled the game and clinched their first playoff appearance since 1985 with the victory.

Reached at home Sunday, nose tackle Bob Golic said the previous meeting between the teams will have no bearing on next Sunday’s game.

“We’ve got enough veterans to know that you’ve got to play with who you have,” Golic said. “Regardless if they were at full strength, we went out and played a good game and we beat them. That should give your guys a good feeling, that as a team we have the ability to beat them. It’s not like some team that is untouchable.”

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The December victory over Cincinnati will be remembered for Bengal reserve cornerback Jones, a relative NFL unknown, chasing Bo Jackson down at the one-yard line after an 88-yard run in the third quarter. The Raiders scored two plays later on a one-yard pass from Jay Schroeder to tight end Ethan Horton, but that was window dressing compared to the Great Chase.

Jones bragged afterward of winning the NCAA 400-meter championship in 1984 for Southern Methodist University. He said you could look it up. The media did. Jones was acquired late in training camp in a trade with Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers’ media guide also stated that Jones had won the 400-meter title.

Jones finished 10th in that race. Still, there was no doubting Jones’ speed. He was a member of the NCAA champion 400-meter relay team in 1986.

Jones made it sound as though tracking down Jackson was as simple as flagging down a bus.

“I mean, if I didn’t think I could catch him, I should have stopped right then,” Jones said. “Bo is a fast man, but you have to be a fast man also.”

The mystery in facing the Bengals again is that you’re never sure which team is going to show up. Cincinnati has been erratic.

“Sometimes they come in and they don’t produce anything offensively,” Golic said. “Obviously, you can’t prepare for that team. You have to prepare for the Bengals’ team at full strength.”

One distinct advantage the Raiders enjoyed was sitting at home while next week’s opponent had to battle through a first-round game. It took its toll on James Brooks, who was sidelined during the victory with a dislocated thumb.

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“He’s a guy who will play with injuries,” Golic said of Brooks. “Of course, being a running back, being able to hold on to the ball or catching it out of the backfield might be difficult.”

Cincinnati Coach Sam Wyche said after Sunday’s game that there was a chance Brooks could play next week against the Raiders.


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