Putting it on the line

11-1-02, 3:40 p.m. Updated:
11-1-02, 6:40 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Right tackle Willie Anderson and his offensive line are making a new list and they will no doubt check it more than twice by the time they end the season against the Bills four days after Christmas.

"It's kind of funny and it's kind of sad when you look at our goal sheet up on our board," said Anderson this week when he sat down with bengals.com on audio.

"There are 10 or 12 things we want to accomplish in each game. We've got a certain amount of rushing yards and we only did that two times before the last game. We're going to start a new list. From the Houston game to the Buffalo game. Let's change the list. . .You can't start from scratch. You have to recognize we played bad and have to swallow it down."

Anderson is putting what is left of this nightmarish season on the offensive line and the running game and is looking for his linemates to bounce back from extreme disappointment by being "mentally tough enough."

Life as a Bengal has not been good. Anderson hears the jokes and insults. But a trip to Children's Hospital last week, although heartbreaking, made him look at things from a different point of view for at least awhile.

"About 12 of us from our Bible study group went," Anderson said. "You see kids dying. Parents sitting with their kids sick. You hear about kids who never

leave the hospital for the rest of their lives. We were all sitting there. Corey, myself, Takeo, Brian. A lot of different guys went. And you saw people with real problems. The problems we have, it's still a game. But you want to win."

Anderson talked to Dillon during that trip and it's there they realized they are both thinking the same thing. That this team is going nowhere without the running game. Anderson reminded Dillon how back in 1997 Boomer Esiason simply scared teammates into playing well and how Dillon can do the same thing now.

"(Esiason) had been to the Super Bowl," Anderson said. "He had the prestige, fame, money, everything. He had it all.

"He had the power to go in the paper and rip me and everybody would believe him," Anderson said. "I didn't have any juice. That's the fear."

After the crushing 34-7 loss to the Steelers that was so brutal because it sent the Bengals into their bye week in a flaming wreckage, Anderson hung around to sign about 20 autographs. He had hosted kids from the Cincinnati Boys and Girls Club for their first live NFL game and he sat on a cart underneath the stadium signing while dying inside.

But Anderson likes kids. His dream is to open rec centers for needy children, where academics and real-life skills are stressed as much as athletics. He likes the idea of takings kids on a field trip to meet Bill Gates instead of Michael Jordan. His role model is the business savvy Magic Johnson.

"God put me here for a reason," Anderson said, "and the reason isn't just to play football and make lot of money. It's to make an impact on people's lives and show people there is a God. There are a lot of other things worse than the Bengals not winning games and going 0-7."

To hear the entire interview, please click.

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BIG MATCHUP:** Bengals center Rich Braham looks at the Texans defensive line boasting nose tackle Seth Payne and left end Gary Walker and he sees the formidable front of the old contending Jacksonville teams. They tag-teamed the past three seasons for the Jags before expanding to Houston, and that's not great news for the Bengals' running game.

Since Walker joined Payne in Jacksonville in 1999, Bengals running back Corey Dillon averaged 2.9 yards per carry in five games against the Jags.

"Walker's the speed guy, the guy they use on third down," Braham said. "Payne you'd say is the strength guy and

they're both players at the top of the league."

They must be up to their old tricks because although the Texans are 22nd against the run, they are eighth against the pass and making quarterbacks pay with constant hits.

"In every game they've played," Braham said, "they've gotten a lot of hits on the quarterback and it's because they always seem to get guys who are running unblocked and that's because they confuse you. They run a complicated scheme."

Braham is going to be one of the guys trying to decipher what is exactly going on. He says the Texans are capable of using the Steelers' 3-4 look, a 4-3 look, and one week they used a combination of three defenses. And Walker, Payne, and the rest of their linemen are constantly in motion .

"They run a lot of games, a lot of stunts where they're switching with each other," Braham said. "You have to know exactly what you're doing, or a guy is going to come flying in unblocked."

The key will be recognizing personnel when the Bengals break the huddle and Braham will be looking for the telltale signs. Uncovered guards usually mean a 3-4, but maybe not in a passing situation and it's a four-man line. The Bengals' also face a noisy stadium that can turn into a dome if it thunderstorms, as are the early predictions.

"We're going to have to know what we're doing," Braham said. "We have to know the game plan inside and out."

**

OTHER MATCHUPS:Don't you think the Texans are going to come out gunning long after watching Cincinnati on tape last week withBengals CBs Artrell Hawkins and Kevin Kaesviharn* mtched against *Texans WR Corey Bradford? The visitors need their rookie, *Bngals LT Levi Jones, to outplay the hosts' rookie, Teans LT Chester Pitts. * *Benals RB Corey Dillon renews his division rivalry with Texans MLB Jamie Sharper.

There are some interesting matchups on the sidelines with Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau vs. Texans head coach Dom Capers in the Battle of (small town) Ohio, and in the pressbox with Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski vs. Texans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer.

**

HAWKINS, KAESVIHARN VS. BRADFORD:** Last week, the Bengals' corners got outshoved and outplayed by the Titans on two touchdown bombs down the sidelines. Now they play a Houston team that leads the NFL in receiving average with 13.5 yards per catch and Bradford leads all NFL receivers with 21.1 on just 21 catches.

JONES VS. PITTS: Pitts, a second-round pick out of San Diego State, has been the focal point of the only thing that has been truly expansionesque about the Texans. They are getting rookie quarterback David Car creamed with 44 sacks. In his third NFL start last week, Jones had Bengal insiders breathing sighs of relief as he pitched his first sack shutout. They feel if he plays like that, they've got something. But he's got another noisy test Sunday. **

DILLON VS. SHARPER:** Bengals right tackle Willie Anderson says Sharper is the guy that mentally held together the Ravens' great Super Bowl defense. Dillon often had a rough go of it when Sharper was teamed with Ray Lewis in Baltimore, but the last time they met Dillon broke the Ravens' streak of 50 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. The Texans have only allowed one 100-yard game so far with 159 from Buffalo's Travis Henry.

LEBEAU VS. CAPERS: OK, so who came up with the zone blitz? Capers got a lot of credit for it when he was the Steelers defensive coordinator and LeBeau was his secondary coach in the early '90s. But Capers has always been gracious about it and truth be told, LeBeau brought the idea from the Bengals and everybody had a chance to perfect it with the perfect personnel in Pittsburgh. These are two small-town Ohio guys (LeBeau is London and Capers is Buffalo) who have a lot of respect for each other. **

BRATKOWSKI VS. PALMER:** LeBeau interviewed both for the Bengals offensive coordinator job after the 2000 season and some have suggested Palmer turned down the Bengals. But there was a question of timing, and Palmer had some Houston roots, where he got his first NFL job as a receivers coach for the Oilers from 1990-92. Both offenses have had trouble finding points. The Bengals are averaging a league-low 10.7 per game, while the Texans are 28th at 14.9.

SUPER BOWL: Bengals President Mike Brown returned Friday from a NFL meeting in New York, which is a good place to hold an owners' meeting, but not a Super Bowl in his opinion. Brown said he'll have a hard time being convinced to vote for a Super Bowl in New York or Washington D.C.

"Let's face it," Brown said. "Late January you get difficult weather. People go to the Super Bowl to get good weather. . .the activities leading up the game. They've never been asked to sit in 10-degree weather."

Brown said the Bengals are committed to helping the two cities touched by 9/11, but he's not sure what the connection would be for a game played in 2007 or 2008.

**

HEADLINES:** Brown doesn't think head coach Dick LeBeau brazenly guaranteed a win Sunday: "The rejoinder Dick made (to a question about what's next?) was along the lines of, 'If we play like we played in this game, we'll win one and maybe soon.' There's nothing wrong with that. The guarantee stuff seems to be more headline material than quotations."

Brown knows it won't be easy in Houston. He highly regards rookie quarterback David Carr and compares him to a former Cowboys rookie named Troy Aikman: "He's already playing effectively and he'll get better as he goes along."

As for Sunday's odds, Brown said, "It's nothing to be proud about. You don't want to be the underdogs as we are to an expansion team. That says something about us that we don't like to hear. (But) this team has a lot of good players. They have players who would help any pro team."

**

NUMBERS GAME:** All the numbers you need for Sunday's game against the Texans. Start with 100 and 83. The first number is how many sacks Texans rookie quarterback David Carr is on pace to take this season. The second is how many sacks quarterback David Klingler took in four seasons with the Bengals.

101.6 _ Passer rating of the Bengals' foes.

101.4 _ Combined passer rating of Bengals quarterbacks Jon Kitna and Akili Smith.

2.9 _ Yards per carry Bengals RB Corey Dillon has averaged on 89 runs against a defensive line with tackle Seth Payne and end Gary Walker.

81 _ Yards racked up in the Texans' first play of the game on a pass from Carr to Corey Bradford.

77 _ Yards of the Bengals' longest pass since 1995, a touchdown pass to Darnay Scott that was Boomer Esiason's last NFL pass in the 1997 finale.

87 _ Yards Dillon needs to pass Robert Smith, Curt Warner, and Rodney Hampton to move into 35th on the all-time rushing list.

80 _ Yards Dillon averages per game.

86.8 _ Yards all-time rushing leader Emmitt Smith averages per game.

18 _ Sacks Bengals are on pace to get this season.

20 _ Sacks the Texans have this season.

10-17-1 _ Bengals record in Houston.

8-35 _ Bengals' road record since they closed up the Astrodome with a 21-13 win on Dec. 15, 1996.

15,131 _ Attendance of last game in Astrodome.

70,120 _ Attendance of Texans' last home game on Oct. 13.

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