Originally created 09/07/98

Oilers open with big win



CINCINNATI -- On a day when injuries made the Tennessee Oilers improvise at every turn, their reliable kicker and 39-year-old backup quarterback held them together.

Al Del Greco made his first three field goal attempts and Dave Krieg took over for an injured Steve McNair and steadied the Oilers to a 23-14 victory Sunday over the Cincinnati Bengals.

It was a costly game for Tennessee, which lost five players to injury. The most prominent was McNair, who hurt his elbow late in a ragged first half and didn't return.

Krieg, who hadn't played much in two years, came out sharp and led the Oilers to a second-half touchdown and put Del Greco in position to kick two field goals. Krieg completed seven of 13 passes for 129 yards without an interception.

Del Greco hit from 38, 31 and 48 yards before hitting the right upright on a 47-yard attempt in the closing minutes, ending his streak of consecutive field goals at 12.

The Oilers achieved their main goal: contain Corey Dillon, who rushed for a rookie record 246 yards against them last December. Dillon managed only 87 yards on 20 carries this time, including a touchdown, and Neil O'Donnell was efficient but mostly unproductive in his debut.

O'Donnell completed 24 of 32 passes for 200 yards and one touchdown, but overthrew a wide-open Darnay Scott in the end zone in the first half and threw an interception that set up Del Greco's clinching 48-yard kick with 5:29 left.

He also was sacked on the Oilers' 15-yard line by Kenny Holmes with 1:19 left, ending the Bengals' final possession.

McNair had a rough debut in the Oilers' souped-up offense, repeatedly missing open receivers. McNair completed 10 of 21 passes for 135 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown pass to Willie Davis.

Krieg, who threw only two passes as the back-up last season, took over in the second half and gave the Oilers a little more of what they expected when they signed Yancey Thigpen to open up the passing game.

He had three completions of 15 or more yards on his first series, culminating in a 3-yard run by Eddie George that put the Oilers ahead 17-7.

After the Bengals got within a field goal on Dillon's 3-yard touchdown run, Krieg threw a 55-yard pass to Thigpen -- his longest completion since 1993 -- to set up Del Greco's second field goal of the game.

Tennessee had to start the second half with its backup quarterback taking snaps from the third-string center. Pro Bowl center Mark Stepnoski was out with an injured right knee and backup Erik Norgard sprained his right shoulder early in the second quarter, leaving rookie Kevin Long to make the snaps.