Coslet: Dillon is OK

BY GEOFF HOBSON

BALTIMORE _ Bengals coach Bruce Coslet said he has no problems with Corey Dillon after his Pro Bowl running back stormed off the field Sunday during the frustrating fourth quarter of the 37-0 loss here to the Ravens.

After Dillon got stuffed for a two-yard loss on the way to gaining just nine yards on 12 carries, he walked off the field as Coslet waved him back on the field.

But Coslet said the incident was nothing like some of the controversial on-field problems with former Bengals receiver Carl Pickens. Dillon missed one play and then returned to the game.

"Believe me, I have no problem with Corey Dillon," Coslet said. "He came up and hugged me in the locker room (after the game). It was no big deal. Corey has been terrific all year long. I told him, 'I'm trying to get you the ball anyway I can and I'll keep trying.' He's a competitor and there's nothing wrong with that."

Dillon declined to talk to the media after the game. But told the CBS-TV announcing crew of Gus Johnson and Brent Jones showed replays while reporting the coach and Dillon exchanged words, Dillon said, "There was nothing. There were no words."

Dillon has said nothing near controversial since he ended his volatile three-week holdout during training camp by signing a one-year, $3 million deal. But after gaining just 82 yards on 41 carries this season for 2.6 yards below his career average, Dillon is clearly fuming inside.

"If I was him, I'd be doing the same thing," said fullback Clif Groce. "He's a running back and he's getting 50, 40 yards, whatever he's getting."

Told Dillon had nine yards Sunday, Groce's eyes widened.

"Nine yards?" Groce asked. "That's unacceptable. It's not like he's back there by himself. Nine yards for a Pro Bowl running back? A hard running back? That's unacceptable as a fullback and as an offensive line. That's unacceptable for an offense."

BILLICK BALL: Ravens head coach Brian Billick and his defensive coordinator, Marvin Lewis, ticked off the Bengals coaches and some players. Enough that Coslet didn't shake Billick's hand. Not only did Billick challenge a touchdown call with two minutes left in a 34-0 game, but the Ravens kept throwing late in the game and Lewis kept going for the big plays.

"That was disappointing to see," said Bengals quarterback Scott Mitchell, who didn't like how he was treated by Billick when he was a Raven last season.

But as nose tackle Oliver Gibson said, "Bring it on. If I had you down, I probably wouldn't let up either."

Billick challenged what he thought was a touchdown because he was still upset over a personal foul call on running back Priest Holmes.

"They're in a tough spot right now and I don't envy them that," Billick said of the Bengals. "That's something they have to fight through. They've got a lot of young players. They're going to have to learn on the job."

ULTIMATE WARRIOR: What about Bengals linebacker Takeo Spikes? With chaos all around him, he goes out and makes 12 tackles and helps out on two others.

But it wasn't a good day for the defense. For the first time in eight games, they allowed a 100-yard rusher when Ravens rookie running back Jamal Lewis went for 116 yards on 25 carries. Cincinnati had been at the top of the NFL rankings for getting off the field on third down, but third down killed them against the Ravens because of absolutely no pass rush.

Baltimore converted eight of its first nine third-down tries, 11 of its first 13 and 12 of 17 for the game. A big one came early with the Ravens leading, 3-0. On a third-and-10, Ravens receivers Qadry Ismail and Jermaine Lewis crossed up the Bengals' secondary on Lewis' 26-yard gain on a crossing pattern. Bengals cornerback Artrell Hawkins believes he was picked off, "twice. Not once. I'm pretty sure that's illegal. They set a couple of picks."

The Ravens exploited the matchup Cincinnati feared most right away on the game's first drive, which consumed 6:22, 11 plays, 50 yards and ended in Matt Stover's 30-yard field goal. Perennial Pro Bowl tight end Shannon Sharpe, working against rookie middle linebacker Armegis Spearman, caught a 12-yarder over the middle. Then, the 230-pound Sharpe shook 210-pound free safety Corey Hall on a third-and-five to catch a 15-yard pass that put the Ravens on the Bengal 15.

Sharpe outdueled free safety Darryl Williams for Baltimore's last touchdown of the first half, a one-yard flip from quarterback Tony Banks. Still, the Bengals did a decent job on Sharpe, holding him to five catches for 40 yards.

THIS AND THAT: For the second straight week, Pro Bowl kick returner Tremain Mack fumbled a kick inside his own 30-yard-line when the Bengals were within at least 10 points. He got benched Sunday in favor of wide receiver Damon Griffin. Griffin fumbled his first try, but got it back. Cornerback Rodney Heath took the next kick, but Griffin returned after that. . .

The Bengals tried to shake things up even before the game. For the first time, they dressed rookies Danny Farmer and Mark Roman in place of wide receiver Craig Yeast and cornerback Robert Bean. Yeast, who was fighting a mild calf strain during the week, has been one of the most productive Bengals as a third receiver working mainly in the slot. In the first two games he had five catches for 69 yards, including a 25-yard catch. . .Roman, the club's second-round draft pick, missed the first 20 days of training camp with a holdout and fell behind Bean, a fifth-round pick. . .

Mitchell returned to Baltimore and picked up just 97 yards on 14 completions. It was his first regular-season action since Billick benched him in last year's second game: "I was definitely rusty in the beginning. I haven't really played in two years and I've got to adjust back to the speed of the game." . . .

BRAHAM UNDER KNIFE: Center Rich Braham, sidelined with an inflamed knee, hopes to avoid season-ending surgery by getting his knee flushed with fluids in an arthroscopic procedure that could take place as soon as Monday. . .

Doctors are still concerned enough about DE Vaughn Booker to rule him out of this Sunday's game against Miami after he missed the Baltimore trip. Booker passed out going back to the huddle late in last week's game in Jacksonville. . .RB Michael Basnight (wrist) and MLB Brian Simmons (knee) are out again. . .MLB Armegis Spearman (shoulder) probable. . .LT Rod Jones (shoulder, shin) probable.

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