Bengals rookie receiver Peter Warrick caught half of quarterback Akili Smith's completions Sunday. But it was his blocking and running that proved he's on his way to NFL stardom.
His 77-yard touchdown run off a reverse off a sweep in the second quarter that broke the Bengals' 128-minute touchdown drought also may been the bond he needs with Smith.
It was Smith who made the play possible when Warrick put the brakes on a sweep right, reversed left, and found the only thing between him and the end zone was Smith blocking on Broncos cornerback Terrell Buckley.
The Broncos' overpursuit also helped.
"I think they wanted to tackle me too hard," Warrick said.
After his "Paul Brown Leap," into the stands, Warrick gave the ball to Smith.
"If we're going to win as a team, we need to do things like that," Warrick said.
Warrick admitted he thought Smith's remarks last week about the receivers not always being in the right place, "could have been handled better.
"I wasn't upset," Warrick said. "He's the quarterback and it seems like everything is on his shoulders. He was telling the truth. Sometimes we're not in the right spots as receivers. But people just look at Akili and say he's not throwing the ball in the right spot."
On Sunday, all Smith had to do was block in the right spot. And Smith kept Buckley away from Warrick with a series of 50-yard hand checks.
"It was a will to win," Smith said. "We haven't gotten into the end zone this season. I was waiting for him to pass me on the left side. I wanted him to keep the ball. That's cool. I'll keep it. I wasn't trying to cut (block) Buckley. I was just trying to keep Buckley out of there until I saw PDub coming around my (outside). I felt Buckley and I finally saw PDub out of the corner of my eye and I knew that was it."
Warrick had a busy last series of the game. On a second-and-10 from the Bengals' 42, Warrick ran the same sweep to the right, but he kept going instead of cutting back and got 15 yards for a huge first down with 2:11 left.
"I was just trying to stay inbounds and get the first down," Warrick said.
Two plays later, Dillon followed Warrick down the left sideline after the rookie, "dropped somebody," with a block.
BEST BLOCK?: ** But the most crucial block by a Bengals wide receiver came from Craig Yeast with 3:20 left in the game and the Bengals up only 24-21 facing a third-and-eight from the Cincinnati 33.
With the passing game not an option, the call was a naked quarterback bootleg by backup quarterback Scott Mitchell. He faked a handoff to running back Brandon Bennett, headed to the left and it was wide open with Yeast tying up the cornerback as Mitchell rolled for nine yards and the critical first down.
The linemen thought Bennett was getting the ball to the left and left tackle John Jackson thought it was a good idea because he joked, "if we knew, we might have fouled it up."
But Mitchell told only Yeast and the running backs he was faking it.
"I thought they may tend to block it differently, but I wanted (the Broncos) to think it was a run," Mitchell said. "I told the backs because I didn't want them grabbing for the ball when I put it in there (the stomach for the fake)."
SMITH OK: ** Smith knows he held on to the ball too long when Montae Reagor sacked him on the second play of the second half. Smith's head smashed against the ground, blurring his vision, hurting his neck and numbing his left arm and shoulder .
Bengals trainer Paul Sparling's staff ruled out a concussion and a neck problem, but the tingling never left. Still, Sparling didn't even put Smith on the injury report for next week in Cleveland.
"My head went down like Michael Irvin's," said Smith of a play that ended the Cowboys receiver's career last year. "I tried to throw a few times, but I never had any zip on it and my left side was still numb. I'll be ready for next week."
Even though he was just 2 of 9 for 34 yards passing, Smith is now 2-8 as a starter and he's headed to the stadium next Sunday where he got that other victory.
LEBEAU PRAISED: It was Corey Dillon's day, but the Bengals also knew it was Dick LeBeau's day, too, because he got his first win as coach since taking over for Bruce Coslet Sept 25.
"Coach LeBeau told us this week to come out every day and practice and look around at this facility," said right tackle Willie Anderson. "And to look at all the money that's been put in this facility and to try and bring a win to this facility."
Anderson said the key to the Bengals' record-setting running game was sticking with the run. Seven of their first 10 rushes went for one yard, or negative yards, or there was a fumble.
"We have a different mindset (with LeBeau)," Anderson said. "It's an attack mode. We're going to run the football and that's what he's emphasized since Coach LeBeau took over."
Tight end Tony McGee praised the adjustments coaches made during the week. One of them was how the Bengals picked up "loopers," cutting behind teammates to get angles, which created gaps in the defense when the Bengals picked them up. McGee also thought the Bronco defenders were playing too high in their stances to stop the run.
"The adjustments were things we saw on tape," McGee said. "It may have helped we spent a little bit more time studying film after practice more than we probably did after the first couple of games. You can pick up these things when you can anticipate what's coming with certain looks."
As for LeBeau, he downplayed his first win: "I just feel good for these guys because they've worked for so long and so hard."
SWEET REVENGE: The much-maligned Bengals' offensive line had the last word Sunday. With Denver coming to town with the NFL's lightest line a 287-pound average and the league's No. 6 running game the Bengals' line that averages 320 pounds was getting some heat for not being able to spring Dillon.
"People were saying we were too big, too fat, that we were out of shape," Anderson said. "We knew that wasn't the case . We knew we hadn't been executing, but there were also some things out of our control, too. . .Nobody was saying anything when the Cowboys were winning Super Bowls with guys 330 pounds."
Left tackle John Jackson, getting his first start in place of Rod Jones, said there were no physical adjustments.
"The biggest adjustment was that guys took pride in their work today," Jackson said. "And that we kept running the ball no matter what. No matter what happened on the previous play, we kept trying to make the best play."
LINE CHANGE: What about the other line? Bengals defensive line coach Tim Krumrie had to make the tough call when he didn't dress tackle Tom Barndt.
Then he had to make an even tougher call, moving eight-year end John Copeland to tackle and starting Vaughn Booker at left end in his first game back in a month after a fainting episode and a knee injury. But Krumrie worked a rotation with those three and Glen Steele and Jevon Langford.
"John kicked butt," said Booker, who had two tackles and Copeland three. "When a guy goes inside after being in space all that time and he's closer to the ball, you don't know. But he was great.
"I was the reason for the rotation," Booker said. "Coach Krumrie wanted to keep an eye on me and he wanted to save me more for the second half, so he wanted to rotate in the first half. But the rotation worked so well, we stayed with it. The key was we showed them a lot of new faces."
BRONCOS BUCKED: How hard did the Broncos take the loss, their first to Cincinnati in 19 years?
"Coming into this game, we were second in the NFL against the rush, and then this happens," said linebacker Bill Romanowski. "It's embarrassing. You might as well take a dagger and rip your heart out and throw it on the ground and stomp on it. We got our (butts) kicked. It was embarrassing, and we have a lot of work to do."
The operative word seemed to be "embarrassing."
"When you have a guy who sets an NFL record, I would say it's an embarrassing day," said coach Mike Shanahan. "You can say it was tackling. We had people missing all day. You have to wrap him up. He's an excellent back and he's played well against us in the past. He looked exceptional."
Strong safety Billy Jenkins, who spent most of the day missing Dillon, said, "Everytime he broke a big run, there was missed tackles involved or missed responsibility. I give my hat off to him. We just didn't play well defensively at all today. We focused on him all week and he still did a tremendous job."
FAN POLL: A total of 65 percent predicted Dillon would run for less than 100 yards against the Broncos. The majority, 41 percent, picked the fewest total with 55 yards on 14 carries. Nearly 14 percent picked the most, which was 135 yards on 35 carries. He came into the game with 323 yards on 93 carries and very nearly matched it with 278 yards on 22 carries.