Dillon rocks into history

BY GEOFF HOBSON

In allowing the greatest day ever by an NFL runner Sunday, the Denver Broncos bounced off Bengals running back Corey Dillon as if he were made of stone.

And in a way, he was.

That's at least what he wrote on the white T-Shirt he wore under his shoulder pads while running for 278 yards on 22 carries.

With one of the "Sharpie," Magic Markers he would later use to sign programs, footballs, and sideline passes, Dillon wrote on the T-Shirt, "The Lord is My Rock," borrowing from his favorite verse in "The Bible."

"I had some 'Trust the Lord,' shirts, but I forgot them today," Dillon said. "I gave (linebacker Takeo) Spikes mine and I just wrote, 'The Lord is My Rock,' and he is."

He better save the T-Shirt, because the Pro Football Hall of Fame called Sunday night requesting his jersey, pants and shoes.

Dillon called on "The Bible," to get through the steepest peaks and valleys of any Bengal ever, it seems.

Two months ago, Dillon ended a messy contract holdout by signing a one-year, $3 million deal.

A month ago, Dillon was so frustrated, he had to walk off the field for one play in Baltimore to gather himself on a dreadful day the Bengals gained four yards rushing.

Off the field, it was tougher than that as he and his wife battled for their marriage in a case that drew ugly public attention in court.

But on Sunday, as his wife and daughter looked on in Paul Brown Stadium, Dillon erased history by making history with touchdown runs of 65 and 41 yards in the game's final 4:58 as he left the Denver secondary flat-footed.

That 65-yarder? The Broncos' No. 2-ranked run defense came into the game allowing 65 yards PER GAME on the ground.

"We're working on things. We're trying to work it out," said Dillon, who has always denied he hit his wife two months ago. "I'm tired. I'm just going to go home, kiss the kid, and be Daddy. . .(The first phone call) is to my Mom and my brothers. She'll be going berserk.

"I'm going home and going to bed. I'm tired," said Dillon, who went through a day like this three years ago when he broke Jim Brown's rookie record with 246 yards. He now owns two of the six best rushing games in history

"I mean, I still don't believe I broke the rookie record. Now this? It's crazy, isn't it?"

Crazy, but memorable. During the contract snafu, the Bengals never hid their argument they thought Dillon lacked breakaway speed.

But Bengals President Mike Brown saluted Dillon Sunday night after watching him break away all day.

"I don't think I've ever seen anyone run away from people like that in one game so many times," Brown said. "I've been watching this stuff for 50 years and I never saw a back be so productive. Corey was super."

After the last touchdown run gave the Bengals the 31-21 lead with 1:49 left, the scoreboard flashed the unthinkable:

Dillon had broken the great Walter Payton's record of 275 yards set 23 years ago on 40 carries against the Vikings.

"I said, 'Oh, my God,'" said right tackle Willie Anderson when he saw the news on the scoreboard. "As a lineman or a running back, that's one of those records you think will never be broken. Impossible. I thought the closest it would ever happen was when he got the 246.

"The biggest thing people will overlook is who actually has this record," Anderson said. "Walter Payton, someone as immortal as that falls. . .What Corey did was un-human. He's a freak that runs with the pigskin. I don't know who in this league would have caught him today. Today was his day no matter what else goes around the NFL this week, today, or wherever."

Dillon had no idea, either, that he had a record. When he saw the scoreboard, he hit his knees and prayed before quarterback Scott Mitchell gave him a Gatorade shower.

"I looked up once and saw I had something like 170," Dillon said. "But when I was out there, it didn't seem like I was getting that many."

He got that many even though the Bengals tried just five passes in the second half and missed them all. The Bengals' offensive line took advantage of the Broncos' pursuit and finally handled the eight-men-in-a-box nightmare that hounded Dillon into a mere 3.5 yards per carry coming into the game.

"We figured out what (teams) were doing as an offense," Anderson said. " The game plan was to block the back-side safety The back-side runs turned to front side. So when Corey started left, (but) he my end up on the right because the (back-side blocker) just kept pushing and pushing him and he cuts it back.

"Corey saw a lot of holes," Anderson said. "At the beginning of the season, he wasn't seeing the whole picture the way he was the last couple of years. But today, and the last couple of weeks, he saw everything."

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The Bengals alternated people on that Eighth Man. Sometimes Anderson. Sometimes the fullback. Or the tight end. The bottom line was the Bengals blocked who they were supposed to block. Like on Dillon's 65-yarder with 4:58 left, when he blew out behind right tackle.

Right guard Mike Goff pulled and took out Denver linebacker Bill Romanowski. Center Brock Gutierrez kicked out outside backer John Mobley.

"The offensive line. Give them credit. They gave me something to work with," Dillon said. "And when I got to the second level, the receivers did a great job blocking."

In fact, on the 41-yarder, rookie receiver Peter Warrick said, "I took out someone," and Dillon did the rest as he outran cornerback Terrell Buckley down the left side.

"I was just going to try and cut back," Dillon said. "He dipped his shoulder and I said, 'The last time I cut back, somebody hit me in the back and the ball came out.' So I just tried to take it up the field. (Buckley) tried to cut me, so I stiff-armed him and got in the end zone."

Dillon referred to his fumble early in the second quarter, which Romanowski forced at the end of Dillon's 21-yard run and led to a Denver touchdown.

"I was down on myself," Dillon said. "I was pretty upset with myself for fumbling when I came in at halftime."

The only time Anderson remembers talking to Dillon during the game is after the fumble, when he told him he was still having a big day and that this wouldn't stop him.

Instead, the guy who took Jim Brown out of the record book as a rookie, also took out Walter Payton.

"I tried to take a little of what each had to form my own style," Dillon said of the great backs. "They have proven their careers. I'm not in their league yet. I just have to keep doing what I'm doing and hopefully end up in the Hall of Fame where they are."

Dillon turns 25 Tuesday, but first there is going to be a party for lunch or dinner Monday.

"I think I'm going to have to spend a game check on them this week," said Dillon of his line. "I'm going to take everybody out. I have to show my appreciation."

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