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BRIEFS NO END IN SIGHT: Quarterback isn't the only position the Bengals have botched. They've also made quite a mess of their tight ends.

Cincinnati jettisoned veterans Marco Battaglia and Tony McGee last year, banking on Sean Brewer -- who missed all of his rookie season with a groin injury -- and third-round pick Matt Schobel.

After three games, the tight ends have a total of one catch, a 6-yard reception by Schobel. Brewer is sidelined for a few weeks after arthroscopic knee surgery for torn cartilage.

The coaches had so little faith in the two young players that they've used top draft pick Levi Jones, a left tackle, as a blocking tight end. That's not a great option. Opponents know the Bengals aren't going to throw to him.

"Levi is really not a pass threat," Brewer said. "He hasn't been coached to run routes, things like that. It's hard to comment on that one."

Using Jones in the unfamiliar role also means one of the two young tight ends gets fewer plays, slowing his development.

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"You can't really simulate what you have to do until you get in there in the game," Brewer said. "It did hurt us, because we're not getting that experience. But whatever they ask of us, we have to do."

RUN IT UP?: Several 49ers, notably the sometimes volatile Terrell Owens, were upset when coach Steve Mariucci ordered Tim Rattay to kneel at the Washington 16 on the final two plays of a 20-10 win over Washington last Sunday.

Their argument? The Redskins kept passing late against San Francisco scrubs in a 38-7 exhibition win in Osaka, Japan, in August, prompting an angry exchange between Mariucci and Washington coach Steve Spurrier.

"I'm not going to bite my tongue," Owens said as the 49ers packed up for several days off during their bye week. "Like I said, we need to develop killer instinct, for whatever reason. That's it."

Mariucci said he decided to play conservatively because several of his players were out with injuries, and many more were ill from a stomach virus that infected most of the team.

Other 49ers at first wanted to rub it in, then backed off.

"While I was playing, I didn't realize how many guys we had lost," said offensive Derrick Deese, one of the team's senior players. "When we got in the locker room, I'm looking around, and there are all these guys on crutches, and then I could see what Mooch was thinking about."

GIANT PROBLEMS: The New York Giants, at 2-1, are off to a better start than expected. But they've scored only three touchdowns, one an interception return by Jason Sehorn, and they're just 1-for-7 on third-and-1 or fourth-and-1. Last week, coach Jim Fassel went for a TD on fourth-and-1 at the end of the half, and Tiki Barber ended up losing 4 yards.

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What's saved New York is a defense that's allowed the second-fewest yards in the league, and Matt Bryant, the kicker from nowhere, who's 9-for-9, including a 47-yard game-winner against Seattle.

The problem's not new. Last season, the Giants went 7-9, ranking ninth in offensive yardage but 21st in points. This season, they're ninth again in yardage and tied for 25th in points.

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