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On line match

Posted: 8 a.m.



SEATTLE - Sunday's game is both one of those twice-a-decade showcases as well as another weekly example of the importance of the inside game.

Maybe turnovers aren't the definitive defensive stat.

"Stopping the run means maybe even more than turnovers," said Bengals right end Justin Smith and the numbers are as true in the Marvin Lewis era as any other.

In Lewis's 66 regular-season games as coach, the Bengals are 26-8 in games they hold foes to less than 120 yards rushing and 9-23 when they don't.

"We've got Carson Palmer, Chad, T.J., and they've got (Matt) Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander," said Willie Anderson this week of this marquee matchup of offense, "but it always comes down to which offensive line plays best."

Anderson, the Bengals four-time Pro Bowl right tackle, admits he's going to sneak a peak while he's on the sidelines at Walter Jones, Seattle's seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle in what some feel is a meeting of the NFL's two offensive tackles of the 2000 decade on each side of the line.

"Walt means everything to our team," said Seattle head coach Mike Holmgren. "In my coaching lifetime he's the best lineman I've ever had. The left tackle for a right-handed quarterback is a very important guy, particularly if you're a little more right handed.

"I've watched (Anderson). I've played against him and coached against him and he fills the same role for the Bengals that Walter does for us. You just count on him. You don't have to worry about him too much. You don't have to help him with blocks very much, even against great pass rushers. You can take that off your list of things to do and any time I can make that things-to-do list a little bit smaller, I like it."

Jones, 33, doesn't have to take on the pass rushers that Anderson (not to mention Ravens left tackle Jonathan Ogden) sees in the AFC, and will see here in Seahawks end Patrick Kerney. But Jones is the anchor of an offense that has a quarterback that has won nearly 60 percent of his starts in Hasselbeck and a running back in Alexander that is a 1,300-yard season away from 10,000 for his career.

"I think he gets rated high because he can do both run blocking and pass blocking and the best guys take pride in doing both," Anderson said. "Walter is famous for his workouts that he does and it's trained him to be equally adept at both."

Anderson, who has been in the NFL a year longer even though he's a year younger, notes that Jones has a different type of game. He remembers when Jones came out of college a lot lighter at 6-5 and running 40-yard dashes in the 4.6-second range. Now he's 325 pounds and if Anderson has a more power style at 340 pounds, then Jones had a longer route to the top because he went to a junior college.

But there are more similarities.

Both are Alabama products, Anderson from Mobile and Jones from Aliceville. They rarely miss games. Anderson starts his 115th straight Sunday and since his rookie year Jones has missed just three of 144 games.

And both would be a handful in a game of halfcourt basketball.

"He's a great knee bender and pass blocker," Anderson said. "You always look for big guys that can bend down with their knees instead of back benders. Good tackles are natural basketball defenders. Walter definitely would be a great defender. He's got good footwork and gets down low. That's pass blocking. It's being in that uncomfortable position for three or four seconds. He does it as well as anybody in the league."

Anderson watches plenty of tape of guys like Jones and Ogden and that's one of the reasons Anderson strives to play so well.

"I always want to put my best on film because you know guys like Walter Jones are watching," he said and he's thankful he played better last week in Cleveland.

Anderson bit the bullet in the opener against Baltimore and tried to play on his injured foot that virtually prevented him from working at all in the spring and training camp. He couldn't make it through the first half, but missed only two series last week and is closing in on tight end Tony McGee's fifth-longest Bengals consecutive game streak of 117.

"I definitely played better. In that first game I was walking on eggshells trying to get ready against the Baltimore defense," Anderson said of the Ravens' maddening changing schemes. "That wasn't a good first game for me (to come back)."

Not that the Seahawks are going to be a day at the beach even though they don't have a defensive lineman over 300 pounds. They've got three fast pass rushers at end in Kerney and Darryl Tapp, and on passing downs, linebacker Julian Peterson lines up over left tackle Andrew Whitworth.

"They're the worst kind of line to play," Anderson said. "They're small guys that are going to keep coming. They play with great leverage and speed and they play fast and hard for 60 minutes. They attack. Tampa Bay has great defensive lines and there are no 350-pounders."

But even though Anderson has a pretty good book on Jones there's not much he can tell Justin Smith in his matchup against Sir Walter.

"There's not much to tell about the great ones," Anderson said. "I know that Justin has a motor and Walter has a motor and it's going to be a big-time matchup."



The Bengals certainly hope it pans out better than Smith's match with Browns rookie left tackle Joe Thomas. The Bengals didn't get a sack against a Cleveland offensive line that isn't nearly as good as this one or the Baltimore line that the Bengals pressured in the opener.

But it's not like Thomas blew him out.

"It's the kind of game we let them get into," Smith said. "We let them run the ball and that allowed them to use their whole playbook and get into a quick rhythm throwing the ball."

The scary thing is Seattle is cut out of the Cleveland mold, hitting with a lot of formations, only the Seahawks have a much better quarterback than Derek Anderson, the guy that sliced the Bengals for five touchdown passes last week.

"We have to stop this run, first and foremost, and make them one dimensional," Smith said. "Hopefully our offense can go out and get out to an early lead and then we can tee it up and go after them. But if you let them run the ball, that's going to give them access to their whole playbook and they've got a lot of weapons."

Recalling Browns running back Jamal Lewis' no-touch 66-yard touchdown run, Smith observed, "It wasn't like a guy just got trucked over and he ran for another 60 yards. But when you've got some guys playing this coverage and some guys playing that coverage with the wrong fits and nobody's there and you turn a guy loose like Jamal Lewis with nobody there, what do you think he's going to do?"

The turnovers are a telling stat. The Bengals are 25-3 under Lewis when they have plus turnover differential and 4-21 when they don't.

But run these running numbers. When Anderson and the boys are opening up holes to rush for at least 100 yards, the Bengals are 25-15 and 19-5 when the foes don't. The most telling number is 120 on defense: 26-8 in games they hold foes to less than 120 yards rushing and 9-23 when they don't.

It's even more important in the division, where the Bengals are 3-12 giving up 120 or more on the ground and 11-0 when they don't in Lewis' 26 AFC North games.

"The first thing we have to do and nothing else is stop this run," Smith said. "When a team establishes that, they control everything."

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