Right plan, wrong result

9-16-02, 8 a.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

CLEVELAND _ The odd thing is the Bengals did what they wanted to do here Sunday.

They established running back Corey Dillon early and often. Of offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski's first 10 scripted plays, six were runs on his way to his 23rd career 100-yard game with 108 on 22 carries.

And after giving up 241 yards on the ground to San Diego last week, the defense shut down the Browns on 75 yards in allowing them 2.8 per carry.

Still, the Bengals ended up coping with another loss as they head to Atlanta for next Sunday night's ESPN game.

"Takeo (Spikes) and I talked about that right after the game," said Anderson of his fellow Atlanta resident. "We never dreamed we would be going home 0-2. We never thought it would happen."

The Bengals were never really in it even though Dillon also had a career-high eight catches for 67 yards.

"We could have done the same thing last week, we just executed,"

Dillon said. "After the first couple of plays, I was comfortable and everybody was executing in the running game. It just wasn't enough."

Dillon might have had more numbers, but he missed about the last three minutes of the first half with calf cramps. Dillon said his left knee sleeve was too tight and he went into the locker room to get another while also receiving two IVs. Trainer Paul Sparling said he thinks the cramps came from dehydration because he has been wearing the same sleeve.

Some wondered if the Bengals went away from Dillon once he lugged them into Browns' territory. Seven of his runs came on the Browns' side of the 50, but his best one, a 13-yarder, got wiped out because of a hold on left guard Matt O'Dwyer. The Bengals also had to deal with sacks and negative runs once they hit Cleveland territory.

"I don't call the plays," Dillon said. "I didn't think of it as an issue."

Dillon, now 121 yards from the Bengals all-time rushing record, preferred to say he was surprised by the 0-2 start and kept his remarks at that.

"I'm not a psychic. I can't tell you what's going on with everybody else," Dillon said. "I'm the running back for the Cincinnati Bengals. That's it."

Anderson thought head coach Dick LeBeau did what he was supposed to do in preparation last week.

"We heard all the rumors and all the talk around town that we're soft and we got dominated," Anderson said. "We had to respond physically to the challenge, and we did. It just wasn't enough and we have to keep fighting it."

HELMET-GATE: Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh had a brief, but eventful day that included a penalty for taking off his helmet a week later on the same field Dwayne Rudd cost the Browns a game with the same call.

After missing two days of practice with a groin injury last week, the coaches decided to keep Houshmandzadeh on the bench until late in the game. When he got in, training camp's best receiver ended up being the most prolific wideout with five catches for 58 yards. He would have had a sixth catch if he didn't get a replay overturned on the sideline.

On their last drive of the game,

Houshmandzadeh caught a 15-yard pass and was drilled by safety Robert Griffith at the Browns 28.

"He hit me and my chin strap came up to my mouth and I had to take my helmet off to fix it," Houshmandzadeh said. "I did not know I would get a penalty. It can go both ways. The reason they (referees) called it was they felt they (the Browns) lost the last game that way, so why not make them (the Browns) feel good?"

Houshmandzadeh said he had seen the Rudd play, but didn't think what he did applied.

"That play was still going on," he said. "Our play was done. It was over and I was fixing my helmet."

On the second play of the fourth quarter and the Bengals trailing, 17-0, Houshmandzadeh look to convert a fourth-and-seven with a sliding 12-yard catch out-of-bounds at the Browns 25. he thought he caught it.

"It hit my leg and I covered it up," he said. "It seems like everything goes against us."

Houshmandzadeh said he was well enough to play before the fourth quarter.

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