BY GEOFF HOBSON
Running back Corey Dillon made history and then threatened to re-write history Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium as he led the Bengals to a 21-13 lead over Arizona early in the fourth quarter.
But after Dillon racked up 186 yards on his first 28 carries in breaking two of James Brooks' club records for most career 100-yard games (18) and most rushing yards in a season, Dillon was clearly laboring with a sore groin. **The Bengals couldn't put away Arizona several times during a sloppy game on a sloppy field.
Cardinals wide receiver David Boston fried the secondary on back-to-back passes of 33 and 38 yards, the last one a wide-open touchdown cutting Cincinnati's lead to 21-7 midway through the third quarter.
Then Arizona quarterback Jake Plummer found Boston beating cornerback Robert Bean for a 15-yard touchdown pass that made it 21-13 with 13:45 left in the game.
The Bengals couldn't cash an Arizona gift late in the third quarter when the Cards fumbled a punt deep in their own territory, but Cincinnati kicker Neil Rackers missed his second field-goal try of the day when he sliced a 45-yarder to the right.
Throw in a 32-yard field goal miss and an extra-point miss by Arizona kicker Cary Blanchard, and it was a bloopers tape in the making.
Dillon's one-yard touchdown with 46 seconds left in the first half capped a 13-play, 70-yard drive dominated by the run.
The Bengals ran the ball 11 times on the drive, so their two incomplete passes didn't hurt them.
And on third-and-6 from the Cards 9, Dillon converted for the first down grinding, for eight yards behind the right side of the offensive line.
After picking up 12 yards on his first two carries of the second half, Dillon appeared to re-aggravate his groin injury and went to the bench
But it didn't matter as the NFL's No. 2 running attack in the NFL kept pounding the undersized right side of the Arizona defensive line.
Backup running back Brandon Bennett ripped of a pair of 14-yard gains before scoring from seven yards out to give the Bengals a 21-0 lead 3:26 in the second half.
Dillon, who set the NFL single-game rushing record on Oct. 22 with 278 yards, was almost halfway there at halftime with the 18th 100-yard game of his career.
That broke the club record he shared with James Brooks, but he still had Brooks in his sights against the Cardinals' fourth-worst rush defense in the NFL.
Dillon finished the half just 44 yards shy of Brooks' club season record of 1,239 yards.
Quarterback Scott Mitchell struggled in his first outing since he sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee two weeks ago.
Mitchell hit seven of 14 passes for 47 yards in the first half and was intercepted by Cardinals cornerback Aeneas Williams when receiver Peter Warrick went long and Mitchell threw short.
The Bengals had the ball nearly seven minutes longer than Arizona in the first half and when they weren't in sync, the Cards were helpful. A third-down pass interference call on cornerback Corey Chavous kept alive the Bengals' second touchdown drive and Chavous was called for a hold on a punt return for a touchdown that would have put Arizona in a position to tie midway through the fourth quarter.
The Bengals missed a huge chance to put the struggling Arizona offense out of the game all day.
Take the second quarter and the Bengals leading, 7-0, Dillon ripped up the middle for an 18-yard touchdown run. But it was waved off when right guard Mike Goff was called for holding on Arizona strong safety Pat Tillman.
And the score stayed 7-0 when Rackers hooked a 36-yard field goal to the left, his seventh miss in 16 attempts.
Dillon went 57 yards the first time he touched the ball as Cincinnati jumped to a 7-0 lead on its first series of the game.
The Bengals' defense responded by holding the Cardinals to 56 total yards in the entire first quarter and punctuated their effort when defensive end Vaughn Booker and strong safety Chris Carter stuffed Cardinals running back Michael Pittman on a fourth-and-1 from the Cincinnati 34.
Dillon, who rushed for 73 yards in the first quarter, almost took it all the way right away.
Tillman prevented the touchdown when his diving tackle tripped up Dillon at the Cardinals 1.
Two plays later, Bengals quarterback Scott Mitchell executed a play-action fake and found wide-open tight end Tony McGee for a two-yard touchdown pass that was McGee's first touchdown of the season.
Mitchell got the call to start about two hours before the game, his first outing since he sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee on the Bengals' final offensive play of their 16-13 loss in New England two weeks ago.
Mitchell's 236 passing yards were the most productive through the air for Cincinnati this season, but he had to sit out last week's 48-28 loss to Pittsburgh.
Also before the game, the Bengals deactivated defensive end Reinard Wilson, wide receiver Ron Dugans and tackle Mike Doughty. It's the second time this season that Wilson, the club's first-round pick three years ago, didn't dress for a game this season.
With fellow rookie wide receiver Danny Farmer emerging over the past two games, Dugans, a third-round pick, has had trouble finding a spot because he's not a factor on special teams. Farmer had three catches for 59 yards last week against the Steeler team that cut him in training camp after picking him in the fourth round. **