Dillon rebounding from fourth-and-frustration

11-20-02, 8:35 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

The frustration that racked Corey Dillon to his bone Sunday still gnawed at the edges Wednesday.

Dillon knew how it looked. How he stormed off the field yelling after the Browns stopped him two straight times from the Cleveland 1 with six minutes left to preserve their 27-20 victory.

He knows how the rage looked. But only he felt the pain that welled up inside.

"The thing that really upset me is letting the fans down," Dillon said Wednesday. "That's twice at home. That's the thing that bothers me. The fans wanted it like we did. Hey, everything else, I tried as hard as I could, man."

But it wasn't just Sunday's frustration. It was six years of Sundays. Dillon's 92 yards against the Browns pulled him within 112 yards of doing what only three players have ever done before.

And he's miserable.

"I don't know how people see me. If they think I go into a season looking at stats or what, but I could care less," Dillon said. "All I care

about is winning the Super Bowl. That's my only objective and my biological clock is ticking. That's the majority of the frustration. Time is running out for me."

How frustrating? This could be the only time in history that the NFL's worst team (1-9) has a guy within 165 yards of the rushing title this late in the season with six games left.

Yet, Dillon has heard the analysis from inside and outside the club that he should have taken the fourth-down play to the outside instead of trying to bull it over from the inside. That's hard for a Pro Bowler who has waged a six-year war of north and south to understand.

"If I had to do it again," Dillon said, "I would do the same thing. I'll take my chances going north and south any day. I've always said I don't like going east and west. I've gone to three Pro Bowls going north and south. If I had to do it over, no problem. Same thing. Check the stats."

The Bengals ran pretty much the same play last month on fourth down from the Titans 1 with 1:08 left that they ran on third and fourth down against the Browns and all three runs failed with the game on the line. But Dillon won't second guess.

"The bottom line is, I had to get a yard and I didn't get it," Dillon said. "I was the last guy to touch the ball and if they want to blame me, I'll take the blame. No problem. Put this one next to Mr. Dillon. Now it's on to Pittsburgh and I'll do my thing again."

Dillon is doing his thing pretty well considering the offense has the ball just an average of 28:39 and the team is getting outscored an average of 28-16. He's averaging 89 yards per game and his 888 yards is fifth in NFL rushing, a pace that would give him 1,421 yards, 14 shy of his 2000 career high.

That year, he finished 274 yards behind rushing champion Edgerrin James. Last year, Dillon's 1,315 was 240 yards shy of Priest Holmes, and he's now 165 from LaDainian Tomlinson's NFL-leading 1,053.

He's also 112 yards shy of his sixth straight 1,000-yard season. Only Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders and Curtis Martin have done that.

Can he do it Sunday? It would be sweet. Dillon, averaging 107.5 yards since Jon Kitna became the starting quarterback, is on the road against a Steelers' defense ranked fifth in the NFL stopping the rush.

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