9-12-02, 9:55 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Corey Dillon, the 1,300-yard running back with the 110-percent motor, feels like the Bengals' fan does right now.
At the end of a long, dark alley.
Dillon, the soul of a wounded team, and his Bengals try to get out of the dead-end this Sunday in Cleveland. But he wants his teammates to know the Browns are not only coming after him, but also them after the Chargers tossed them around the playground last Sunday.
"I know I'm a marked man every Sunday, but everybody around here has to get the attitude that they're trying to get us," Dillon said. "Everybody. So we have to go out there with a little piss and vinegar and get it done."
During an animated post-practice media session Thursday, Dillon said the Bengals have to forget about the eight-man fronts, the all-out blitzes, and anything else defenses have used to stop him for the past five seasons and one game, and just play.
Don't talk. Just play.
"Sometimes you just have to get outright damn dirty," said Dillon, and he doesn't mean unsportsmanlike conduct. "If you're a great boxer and you're walking down the street and you get jumped by two or three dudes, I'm pretty sure you're not thinking about damn technique.
"We've been in the alley. It's time to get out of the alley. I'm not saying you don't need technique, but sometimes you just have to get dirty. Man on man. Just get crazy with it," Dillon said. "If there's an 11-man blitz, so what? Time to play ball."
His old school approach has won him at least one fan on the Cleveland defense.
"I call him a blue-collar player," said Browns cornerback Corey Fuller, "with white-collar talent."
Dillon is banging his lunch bucket after his worst game in 30 weeks Sunday ("I'm not Superman. I can't fly over anything") when the Chargers held him to 10 yards on nine carries. He's not criticizing an offensive line he is always quick to praise. He's just reminding his teammates that foes have always concentrated on him and he's still managed huge games.
"It's not a question of who's at fault, it's just everything works hand-in-hand." Asked how to beat defenses stacked on the line, Dillon said, "Just kick their you know what. Point blank. That's how you beat that. Man to man. Just get it done. You know they're there. So what?
"Everybody and their Momma and their Nanny knows what's going on when we're running the football," Dillon said. "They know we're going to run the rock. Ain't no top secret. Ain't in the FBI classified file. Everybody knows. My thing is what we have to do to get around that."
Dillon pointed out that the 2000 game he set the league rushing record with an always mind-boggling 12.6 yards per carry came against a Broncos defense ranked second in the NFL in rush defense while playing eight in the box.
"What happened?" Dillon asked. "We kicked their tail up and down the field."
The Browns know the feeling. In the six games against the Bengals since they returned to the NFL, the Browns have allowed Dillon four 100-yard games and Cincinnati has won all four. After the Chiefs' Priest Holmes ran for 122 yards against them last week, the Browns know what's coming.
"I think he is looking at this game as get well," Fuller said. "I wouldn't blame him. After he watched the film and see what we did last week, I would tell them to load the bus right now today. He loves playing against for some reason."
Dillon did see the film of Holmes doing his damage, and he sees what the Bengals' offensive line says they didn't do against the Chargers. The Chiefs got a hat on a hat
"They got a man on a man. They got movement," Dillon said. "They gave him something to work with and he made the most of the opportunity. I don't care who you got in the backfield. Bo Jackson, Jim Brown, Emmitt, who ever, without some movement, it just isn't going to go."
Dillon said he didn't see the Browns doing a lot of dropping the strong safety on the line of scrimmage because of their respect for Kansas City's passing game. But he diplomatically avoided the next observation, which is the Browns probably will do it because of the Bengals' problems throwing the ball.
Of course, Dillon can pretty much say what he wants because not only of what his teammates think about him, but also because of what the NFL thinks.
Check out Fuller.
"When he first came in the league, he was the best NFL back in the situation he was in, and I still feel the same way," Fuller said. "The situation has got better, but he's still in the top three backs. For what they ask him to do, you won't find a guy who plays as hard as he's played and being in the situation he's been in.
"I have lot respect for him," Fuller said. "I love the way he plays. He doesn't try to run it in your face. He's going to go into the end zone. He's going to drop the ball. He's a throwback Barry Sanders attitude of scoring a touchdown and all that stuff, but he's a true grinder."
For his part, Dillon doesn't think this is the same defense he has gouged in the past. He thinks it's better with the free-agent additions of middle linebacker Earl Homes and strong safety Robert Griffith.
"They're a team on the rise. By no means am I going to take them lightly," Dillon said. "They're tough, they'll hit you. It's going to be four quarters of hell."
If the Bengals can't get movement again, it will be for them, too.