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MITCHELL ON TARGET FOR LIONS

While Detroit quarterback Scott Mitchell appears to be recovered from a broken thumb, Ki-Jana Carter can't stay on the field long enough to show the promise that led Cincinnati to pick him first in the 1995 draft.

Carter, who sustained a slight Achilles tendon strain during training camp, made his NFL debut Thursday night in the Bengals' 20-13 exhibition loss to the Detroit Lions.But the prized rookie out of Penn State was tackled high by Robert Porcher on his third carry and went down with a twisted left knee.

Carter, who had zero yards on three rushes, was on the sidelines in street clothes during the second half. He was to be examined in Cincinnati today.

"Because of the time he's missed, our goal was to get him the ball about 15 times," coach Dave Shula said. "So, we're that far further behind."

Mitchell, who missed the second half of the 1994 season, turned in another strong performance, completing 13 of 20 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns.

"I know I'll be ready to play on opening day," Mitchell said. "I feel good about the work I'm getting in preseason, but I've said all along that preseason doesn't mean anything."

In the other NFL exhibition game Thursday night, Philadelphia beat New England 31-7.

In tonight's preseason action, St. Louis is at Jacksonville and Oakland is at Minnesota.

The Lions (3-0) scored on their first three possessions to take a 17-3 lead.

Mitchell threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Johnnie Morton in the first quarter and a 13-yard scoring pass to Herman Moore in the second.

"I think last year he was looking at one spot too much," Morton said. "This year, he's looking around more and showing a lot of patience. I think the maturity he is showing right now will help him, and it also will help me when I'm on the field."

Moore said: "Scott's doing a great job, just finding different receivers. He's showing great leadership and when we're out there, no one is panicking."

The Bengals (1-2), hoping to rebound from a 31-7 loss to Tampa Bay last week, were hurt by penalties. The Bengals were flagged 16 times for 120 yards, and gained 289 yards of offense.

"There's not a whole lot of positives out of this one," Shula said. "Our first unit against their first unit was a big disappointment. The turnovers and penalties plagued us again, and we couldn't take out the guys causing the penalties because, with our injuries, we didn't have anyone else to put in."

Bengals starting quarterback Jeff Blake connected on 13 of 16 passes for 110 yards.

The Lions are 3-0 in preseason for the first time since 1990 when they won all four exhibitions. The 45,515 fans represented the largest preseason crowd in the Silverdome since 1982.

Eagles 31, Patriots 7

Kelvin Martin returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown and several other former Boston College Eagles lifted Philadelphia (3-0).

Mike Mamula, the former BC star whom the Eagles took with the seventh pick in the draft, and Bill Romanowski, BC class of 1987, keyed a Philadelphia defense that scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery and limited the Patriots to one touchdown.

Philadelphia quarterback Randall Cunningham completed seven of 20 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown.

QB Drew Bledsoe was 16-for-32 for 161 yards and a touchdown for the Patriots (1-2).

49ers

Top draft pick J.J. Stokes broke his right hand the day before the 49ers break camp and is expected to miss up to six weeks.

"He did that going out for a pass, and he kind of lost his balance when he put his hand behind him and hit the ground," coach George Seifert said.

Stokes' hand will be placed in a cast for at least four weeks and he could resume playing in five or six weeks. That timetable would allow Stokes to return for either the fourth or fifth game of the season.

The injury came a day after fullback William Floyd sprained right knee ligaments and will be sidelined about three weeks.

Oilers

A Texas official said he won't sue the Oilers if the NFL team honors its contract and postpones a possible move to Nashville, Tenn., until 1998.

Team owner Bud Adams said last week the team was looking at moving next year, but Oilers executive vice president Mike McClure said negotiations were focusing on a 1998 move. The team's contract in Houston runs through 1997.

"Right now, our target is Nashville and the state of Tennessee for the 1998 football season," McClure said before Tennessee, Nashville and team officials began negotiations here.

Harris County judge Robert Eckels threatened to sue if the team failed to meet its 10-year commitment.

Chargers

Courtney Hall, San Diego's standout center, didn't practice in the Chargers' two workouts with the Oilers at Trinity University. Hall suffered a hip flexor injury late in Wednesday's practice.

His status for Saturday's preseason game with the Oilers is unclear.

"We have to sit down and talk about it with the coaches," Hall said.

Hall skipped the Chargers' first preseason game and played only briefly in their second. He's rebounding from offseason surgeries on his biceps, shoulder and knee.

Browns

Wide receiver Andre Rison, who left the Atlanta Falcons to sign a five-year, $17 million deal with Cleveland in March, plays his former team Saturday at the Georgia Dome.

Rison, an All-Pro four times, sees a big difference between the Falcons and Browns.

"It's classier here," he said. "Down there, we didn't know if we could win and some of us didn't want to win.

"Now I don't have to go out and try to win the game by myself. I've got teammates who can win, not ones who just talk about it."