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Dillon basically finds groove

10-6-02, 9 p.m.


INDIANAPOLIS _ For the Bengals and Pro Bowl running back Corey Dillon, it was all "downhill," after his 15-yard bolt off tackle late in Sunday's first quarter.

Which is a good thing as Dillon turned last week's running-game adjustments into gold with a season-high 164 yards on 23 carries for his biggest game since he went for 184 last Oct. 28 in Detroit.

"We were a little more basic," Dillon said after his third best day ever on the road. "We picked out the plays we do best. You saw them."

With Dillon virtually averaging one yard less than his 4.4 career carry average, right tackle Willie Anderson said he went to the coaches with fullback Lorenzo Neal last week to suggest they simplify things a bit. The idea was to get some "downhill blocking,"

and to get away from the angle blocking that teams have come to expect.

"We asked them if they can design some plays to be less complicated and where we just come off the ball and maul guys," Anderson said. "Corey has been crying for it, too. The first couple of games, we've been doing a lot of thinking and we didn't have a chance to come off against guys. What the coaches wanted us to work on this week was a couple of plays and perfect them."

So the coaches focused on a smaller number of runs and told their linemen to maul instead of angle. Now Dillon is back to averaging 4.4 yards per carry for the season with 407 yards on 93 carries. He came into the game on pace to gain 972 yards this season. Now all is a little bit righter with the world because that number is now 1,300.

His 67-yard touchdown run that bolted the Bengals back to life in the middle of the third quarter and made it a 21-14 game is just the kind of play Anderson is talking about. Center Rich Braham and right guard Scott Rehberg double-teamed the nose tackle and cleared him out one way. Anderson, able to use his 40-pound advantage one-on-one against his guy, drove him five yards to the outside. That left Neal to scrape away the linebacker and Dillon shot through the hole widening at Anderson's inside leg.

"That lets the tackles come off and allows us to block downhill," Anderson said. "That's also Lorenzo's strength. Just taking guys head on, and not worrying about angles. The positive runs we had the first four games were all downhill runs."

Anderson classifies "downhill," as "power football."

"Off tackle or between the guard and tackle," Anderson said. "He almost had some more long ones, but he just got tripped up at the last minute."

Of course, it's not all power. Dillon delighted in the fact that two defensive backs had the angle on him from behind and from the left as he ran down the right sideline. But he simply pulled away for the fourth longest run of his career.

"It looked it, huh? It looked it, huh?" Dillon asked. "The big guy can run. It was a foot race and I won that one. I'm not saying I'll win them all. . ."

What he can say is that, for now, the shackles are off at 4.4 yards per carry.

By the way, the longest run of Dillon's career came last year on the first play of that Detroit game on a 96-yarder. He had an 80-yarder against Tennessee in 2000 and a 71-yarder against San Diego in his first 100-yard game his rookie season in 1997.

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