Dillon's beat goes on

BY GEOFF HOBSON

CLEVELAND _ Ho hum.

Another Sunday, another record run for Bengals running back Corey Dillon.

A week after breaking Hall-of-Famer Walter Payton's single-game rushing record with 278 yards, Dillon rung up 137 on 27 carries Sunday against the Browns to pass Payton again. Dillon's 415 yards is three better than Payton's third best all-time mark for yards in consecutive games.

No, as of early Monday morning, Elias Sports Bureau didn't have a record yet for most yards in three straight games.

"I'm not into that stuff. I'm trying to win," said Dillon when asked if the sidelines kept tabs on his run to O.J. Simpson's record of 478 yards for back-to-back games

The Bengals put Dillon on ice in the last five minutes with a calf bruise he had apparently been nursing for much of the game.

"My calf was cramping and it was bruised," Dillon said. "With five minutes left, I don't think they wanted me to injure it more seriously and take it easy."

The Browns wished he had taken it easy on them in the first half, when he ran for 99 yards on 14 carries. Cleveland held him to 38 yards on 13 carries in the second half, but five carries were for at least four yards and those were critical in the Bengals' bid to drain the clock.

Still, Dillon and backup Brandon Bennett each got dropped three times for negative yards in the second half as the Browns adjusted and sent safeties blitzing as well as taking away those Dillon cutbacks that fried Denver.

"They blitzed safeties like (Marquis) Smith up into the holes to shut down the run in the second half. They were very effective. They're a slow flow team and they had spies on the backside to prevent me cutting back."

Right tackle Willie Anderson said it was virtually impossible for the Bengals to adjust to the blitz, "when the receiver is split out wide and they come inside, it's too late to account for that."

In the two wins, Dillon has racked up 415 yards while quarterback Akili Smith has passed for 118, but Dillon bristles when he's called, "the show."

"I want to make this point," Dillon said. "I'm not the show. The offensive line is doing an excellent job. We're getting good blocks from the receivers, all the running backs out there are working hard. Our hard work is showing up in the stats."

Bennett is also showing up in the stats as he carried 17 times for 39 yards in relief of Dillon. Bengal insiders who were horrified at the club's 50-19 ratio of passes to runs in the 24-7 loss to Cleveland seven weeks ago could only smile as the Bengals' non-quarterbacks ran 46 times compared to 29 times Smith dropped back.

Dillon may not be The Show, but he is The Man. The Bengals have won all seven of the games he has rushed for at least 125 yards. 12-3 isn't only the final score, but the Bengals record when Dillon carries at least 22 times.

Fullback Clif Groce didn't play because of a sore knee, and the Bengals opted to go with a lot of one-back sets behind double tight ends while also using backup fullback Nick Willams at times.

"That helped us. I think we were able to keep them off balance with the different formations," said running backs coach Jim Anderson.

DONAHOE RESPONDS: Tom Donahoe, the highly-regarded former director of football operations for the Steelers, keeps getting linked with the Bengals and every other struggling NFL team as a possible front office addition.

But Donahoe told bengals.com Sunday night that he's had no talks with teams and anything in the media is pure speculation. He said he wasn't in Dallas to consult Cowboys owner Jerry Jones recently, but met with a sports psychologist who has ties to the club.

"At this point, teams are only worried about making it through the season and not thinking of much else," said Donahoe, who is currently working for espn.com each weekend. "I know my name is going to be mentioned because I'm out there, but there's nothing to this stuff. Pure speculation. If something is going to happen, it's going to happen after the season, not in October."

Donahoe has regard for Bengals President Mike Brown and coach Dick LeBeau and the feeling is mutual. But Brown has repeatedly said, "I'm not going to fire myself," as general manager.

HEATH BAR: Bengals cornerback Rodney Heath and his teammates weren't surprised when rookie quarterback Spergon Wynn checked into the game off and on for quarterback Doug Pederson.

Heath played at Minnesota with Wynn briefly before the quarterback transferred to Southwest Texas State.

"I knew he's a strong-armed guy who can go long and we prepared for him this week," Heath said. "We prepared for both guys. (Wynn) can really throw it, but he's a rookie. We thought we could take advantage of that and show him a few different things."

The other Bengals cornerback, Tom Carter, took advantage of Wynn's youth when he followed the rookie's eyes to the first interception by a Bengals cornerback this season. It also helped, Carter said that, "there was a form of a blitz and I knew he had to throw it fairly quickly."

By the way, Heath indicated he didn't believe he interfered with Browns receiver Kevin Johnson on the play that led to Cleveland's only points.

Heath said he had inside position and that Johnson banged into him going for the ball: "And it wasn't (the official) on the other side who called it. I think it was the guy on the other side."

WARRICK STRUGGLES: Rookie receiver Peter Warrick, fighting flu-like symptoms, said "I stunk," in the first half. He dropped a sure first down, which was a possible touchdown, and he wasn't sure why a reverse handoff from Smith was dropped for a 13-yard loss that killed the Bengals first drive.

But running backs coach Jim Anderson thought the mere threat of Warrick running reverses helped slow down the Browns' pursuit and gave the Bengals good shots at blocking the front side.

LAST WORD: Right tackle Willie Anderson hopes the emergence of the Bengals' running game puts away the critics. He's still fuming about that HBO clip from the 24-7 loss to Cleveland seven weeks ago that showed the Browns' defensive line ranting about the Bengals' offensive line being out of shape.

"They said we were out of shape," Anderson said. "I know how hard we had worked in the offseason (and training camp), and then to hear those guys say we gave up, that hurt our pride.

"Some people in our organization took that and ran with it and said, 'Hey, maybe these guys are out of shape.' I think when you lose, everything is blown up. . .We knew all the work (offensive line coach) Paul Alexander put us through to get us to where we are right now. (It took time) for a guy like (right guard) Mike Goff and me to get adjusted and a guy like (center) Brock Gutierrez to get used to it."

Plus, Anderson said in that Sept 10 game, Dillon was still rusty from a training-camp holdout. But he's now hitting the right holes and cutting back, "at the appropriate times."

THIS AND THAT: LT John Jackson (hamstring) is listed as doubtful, but he says he'll start Sunday against Baltimore. . . So should center Rich Braham (knee), who is listed as probable. . .

DE John Copeland got knocked out for a few seconds ("I saw orange stars,"), but returned. . .Punter Daniel Pope was huge with putting half of his eight punts inside the 20, three inside the 11, and one on the 2 that set up the Bengals' lone TD drive, a 43-yard jaunt. . .

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