BY GEOFF HOBSON
It's not exactly the Zapruder Film, but running backs coach Jim Anderson and his star pupil are sitting down to study some history Monday afternoon as they put in tape of the Bengals' 31-21 victory over the Broncos.
Running back Corey Dillon has just watched himself have the greatest day ever by an NFL runner with 278 yards on 22 carries, and now he shrugs at Anderson.
"Nothing special," Dillon says. "Hat on a hat. Get up the field with the ball. Nothing special."
But Anderson, who has now coached two of the six biggest individual running days in history, doesn't buy it. He thinks Dillon is a much better player than the kid who set the rookie record with 246 yards three years ago. For instance, he now switches the ball to his right hand when he runs right so he can use his arm to stiff tacklers.
"Oh no," says Anderson, who hands out compliments like grenades. "It's something special."
Anderson clicks to Dillon's last carry, the 41-yarder for a touchdown that gave the Bengals the win and Dillon the record with 1:49 left in the game.
Dillon starts right, then cuts back to the left while breaking the lineman's bid for a one-arm tackle. Then he veers to the left sideline, leaving him one-on-one with cornerback Terrell Buckley. He beats him to the end zone by running out of his tackle.
The run also emphasizes what Anderson teaches his running backs in darkened film rooms and on sunny fields. From 190-pound James Brooks in 1990 during a 201-yard day to 225-pound Corey Dillon in 2000 on a 278-yard day.
"This is just penetration," says Dillon as a defensive lineman cuts off his path on the inside of the tight end's leg before he even gets started. "I made a move back to the left and got up field with the ball."
Anderson preached last week and during the game indeed for 17 years about what should happen when a path gets altered.
"We always talk about keeping your head up and feet alive," Anderson says. "He keeps his head up and feet alive. He bounces (outside a guy) and just outruns (Buckley).
This is a great move," Anderson says of Dillon stepping past Buckley. "We talk about just getting the opportunity from the offensive line to get to the second level in the defense. Once they did that, he makes this guy miss with a little stutter move on him. Great contact balance pulling out of the tackle and taking it into the end zone. We talk about finishing a run in practice? That's finishing a run."
What Anderson loves about that play is it didn't work as cleanly as the one a few minutes before it. This took Dillon's instincts to pull off. It also took fullback Clif Groce's initial block to give Dillon room at the outset and guys like left tackle John Jackson staying on their blocks on the back side, knowing Dillon could be headed their way because of Denver's fast-flow pursuit.
"What it shows is at times it didn't work," says Anderson of Dillon's day. " At times it wasn't like the way you like to draw it up. But it showed guys were persistent, they stuck with it and executed their technique and assignments. When you do that, there's going to be a time when you win. But you have to stay with it because there'll be times they will stop the play They'll get minus yards."
But Groce and Jackson couldn't do their thing if Dillon didn't shrug off the penetration.
"We always say we're not going down with an arm tackle," Anderson says."We're always going to run through it."
No such innovation was needed on the 65-yard touchdown run just three minutes earlier.
"Same play," Dillon says, "they just played it differently." . .
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It's more like the Bengals ran it like it's drawn up. Again, Dillon starts his path on the right side, inside the tight end's leg, and this time there is no penetration. Right guard Mike Goff pulls and knocks off the pursuit of outside linebacker Bill Romanowski.
"The unsung hero is the center," says Anderson as watches center Brock Gutierrez handle outside linebacker John Mobley.
But there's more. Groce is walling off linebacker Al Wilson, receiver Peter Warrick is running at a cornerback and Jackson, on the critical back side, is staying on his block against a slippery safety in Eric Brown.
With a hat on a hat, Dillon is left to deal with only the other safety, Billy Jenkins. Dillon makes him miss for a 65-yard mistake.
"All I'm thinking is about getting there as quick as possible, that's all Dillon says.
Anderson: "At that point, we just want first downs. We think four yards is a good play."
Dillon: "Anything more than that is a plus."
Anderson: "That's right. You're reacting. That's all. At some point, the runner takes over. The athleticism kicks in. That's after the offensive line, the fullback, the receivers are working in sync."
As Dillon steams into the end zone, the other receiver, Craig Yeast, races from across the field into the picture to get in front of the other cornerback. Just in case.
"You never know," Anderson says. "You never know which is going to be the big block. When you get effort like that from everyone, well, there's no substitute for effort."
Dillon is watching himself raising the ball in the end zone. He knows that's him on the screen. But he shakes his head.
"It still doesn't seem like 278 yards," he says.