Ground game grounded

BY GEOFF HOBSON

NASHVILLE, Tenn. _ Titans strong safety Blaine Bishop saw and heard Corey Dillon's frustration often Sunday.

Dillon, off a 216-yard game against Arizona, could find just 42 yards on 18 carries in a 35-3 loss here at Adelphia Coliseum and the Bengals running back was letting Bishop know Tennessee had to put eight and nine men in the box to get it done.

"That's what you have to do against the great ones," Bishop told him.

The problem is, the Bengals' great one goes against some pretty great defenses in his own AFC Central. Cincinnati came into Sunday's game averaging 157 rushing yards per game, but the Bengals have averaged nearly 100 yards less against Tennessee, Baltimore and Jacksonville with 61.

Of course, no one runs on Tennessee. The Titans have allowed four 100-yard games in their last 39 games and two in the last 17. But Sunday's 60 yards (14 on two Scott Mitchell quarterback scrambles) deflated a proud Bengals offensive line that just this week claimed the NFL rushing lead.

"We didn't want him to get started," said right end Henry Ford, whose Titans still remember Dillon's 80-yard run against them in the first meeting this season. "We didn't even want him to sniff any long runs. I don't think he had too much fun out there."

Dillon clearly wasn't having fun after, when he wouldn't do interviews. The Bengals offensive line was miserable, too, when the Adelphia din of 68,498 and a Titans defensive wrinkle made things tough.

At least one Bengal wasn't happy that the stadium music between snaps kept playing while the Cincinnati offense tried to call signals.

Left tackle Rod Jones and right tackle Willie Anderson noticed the Titans' ends and tackles crowded the middle more with their splits in a scheme Jones thought the Titans would use, but not as much as they did.

"The down linemen were real tight," Anderson said. "They just wanted to make a big pileup. "A lot of times you saw Corey bounce it. He was bouncing everything because the middle was so clogged up. Their main thing was not giving him any holes to run in between and if he did have a hole, they'd bring down the down guys so fast into a big pile."

Jones figured the Titans would try to tinker because of the knee injury that took right end Kenny Holmes out of the game. But Ford, his backup, was a factor with a sack and a couple of quarterback pressures.

"They did some stunting and when people stunt and it's loud out there, that makes you a little tentative," Jones said. "You're not coming off the ball as quickly as you might normally."

The Bengals' goal was to find the safeties at the line of scrimmage, but Jones said, "I don't think we had a problem finding them, but the noise made it tough to communicate."

Rookie free safety Bobby Myers had no trouble finding Dillon in his first NFL start.

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On the first series of the second half, Titans middle linebacker Randall Godfrey stuffed Dillon on third-and-one at the Bengals 45. On fourth-and-one, Myers, a fourth-round pick, popped Dillon for no gain as both met steaming up the middle.

Anderson said the Bengals planned for much of the game to have their wide receivers to block Bishop and Myers, the Tennessee safeties who hovered at the line for the run, but "the blitz was so fast our receivers couldn't get to him on time. The timing on the whole thing was messed up.

"Their safeties did a real good job," Anderson said. "A lot of times they were coming in unblocked. They'd make Corey cut back and back to a guy making the tackle."

It appeared the Bengals came out trying to establish the pass after the Titans held him to seven yards on 11 carries after his 80-yard run back in October. The Bengals called his number just seven times in the first half.

"We had trouble running on these guys before. No one has (run on them)," said Bengals coach Dick LeBeau. "We knew we were going to have to throw it. We wanted to mix it in a little bit but we had to hit some passes. It's hard to run a lot when you had the (losing) situation we had."

Anderson admitted the crowd took the Bengals out of the game at the beginning, but he knew why they couldn't run the ball.

"They've got one of the top defenses in the league and they showed up," Anderson said. "In the games we ran the ball real well, we had a limited amount of plays and they're a good team and they knew (what was coming.) It's like the offensive line coach (Paul Alexander) says. The good teams still run and the defense knows what's coming."

On Sunday, the Bengals weren't good enough.

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