9-3-03, 6:30 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Corey Dillon hasn't watched the tape of his NFL-record 278-yard day against the Broncos since 2000, the year it happened on Oct. 22 at Paul Brown Stadium.
You can bet the Broncos have.
Even if they have only three starters back from that defense that is going to line up in Sunday's regular season-opener at PBS.
"They've got the same coach, so I'm pretty sure he's told them about what happened," Dillon said before Wednesday's practice. "I'm sure they know, and I'm pretty sure they're going to be pretty geeked up coming in here to prevent anything of the sort happening. I'm prepared for it."
Dillon says this is the best he's been prepared for an Opening Day in a long time after head coach Marvin Lewis tweaked his routine.
He's had only one 100-yard outing in his five Opening Day starts (104 against the Patriots in 2001), and just four in September during his career. The Broncos won't be surprised his big month is October with nine 100-yard games, and he has seven each in November and December. After playing in the intrasquad scrimmage and the first three pre-season games for the first time since 1999, Dillon pronounced himself fit and ready.
"It's as good as I've felt in a long time going in," Dillon said. "As far as being cohesive with the offensive line, more polished than other years. I got
more work, more contact. (Lewis) did it differently. Some times change is good."
There has been so much change that no one wants to talk about Oct. 22, 2000, the day Dillon passed the late Walter Payton, nine days shy of the first anniversary of his death.
In fact, Bengals right tackle Willie Anderson passed the word to the offensive line Wednesday not to discuss the record game. Denver head coach Mike Shanahan, who has hired two defensive coordinators since that day, figures its virtually ancient history ("It's not like it was last year,"), and defensive tackle Trevor Pryce and linebackers Al Wilson and John Mobley are the Broncos' only defensive starters left over from that 31-21 loss.
It was Dick LeBeau's first victory as Bengals'head coach, but he's gone and Sunday marks the dawn of the Lewis era with just five starters from that offense in Dillon, Anderson, center Mike Goff, left guard Matt O'Dwyer, and wide receiver Peter Warrick.
But. . .
"As long as Shanahan remembers it, we have no choice but to remember it," Mobley told "The Rocky Mountain News." "He's been bringing it up quite a bit - Opening Day at an environment that we didn't have much success last time we were there. He's not going to let us forget it."
Dillon admits, it was still a special day. Pryce admits, it is hard to forget because he still remembers hiding his head in a sweatshirt the next day as the tape droned on in the Broncos' meeting room.
A surreal day, really, given that the Bengals rushed for 405 yards against the NFL's second-best rush defense. Someone is sure to break the record. But no one is going to do it on 22 carries and no one is going to do it on 10 carries of a yard or less, like Dillon did.
"I guess if you look at it that way, it is unbelievable," Dillon said. "Bit I haven't looked at it that way. It certainly is a great thing to see your name on top with all those great players and all the great things they did.
"But I don't want to base my career on records," Dillon said. "What is the record if you don't have the (Super Bowl) ring?"
Still. . .
If you were on the winning side, the losing side, in the press box, in the car listening on the radio, you remember.
"I just remember him running all over us, honestly," Wilson told "The Rocky Moutain News." "I don't remember us stopping him one time, seriously. I just remember him getting the ball and doing whatever he wanted to do with it on that particular day.
Of course, Dillon remembers.
Dillon remembers how exhausted he was at the two-minute warning and the Bengals clinging to a 24-21 lead. They faced a second-and-eight from the Denver 41, and Dillon figured he would be taking a blow.
"To be honest with you, on that last play that was the touchdown, they had to put me back in there because I came out. I was tired, I was gassing," Dillon said. "They said, 'We need you to go in and get the first.' So I was going back in and just trying to get the first down and it ended up being a touchdown that broke the record. It was awesome, a great feeling. I can't describe it."
The record 41-yarder came when a Denver defensive lineman cut off his path as he took the handoff off-tackle to the right. He cut back left, got blocks on the back side from guys like left tackle John Jackson, and then simply manhandled cornerback Terrell Buckley before outrunning him to the end zone in a breathtaking play that took 11 seconds to erase a 23-year-old record.
"Bad tackling," Pryce told "The Rocky Mountain News." "Just really bad tackling. We had people in front of him, we just didn't tackle him at all."
A lot of changes, but some things never change. Shanahan lit up his team the next day, and made them wear pads that week of practice, a rarity in the Shanahan administration.
"Corey Dillon ruined my off week," Pryce said.
"It happened. You move on from it. But I'm definitely going to be thinking about it," Wilson said.
That's why Dillon knows enough people are going to remember to make Sunday a tough day at the office.
"I know they're coming at me," Dillon said. "I'm ready."