10-29-01, 3:25 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
PONTIAC, Mich. _ Bengals Pro Bowl running back Corey Dillon has a penchant for making history economically. After all, here's a guy who last year in Game 7 needed just 22 carries to break Walter Payton's single-game rushing record with 278 yards.
The first play of Sunday's 31-27 win here at the Pontiac Silverdome in this year's Game 7 was no different.
When Dillon lined up behind fullback Lorenzo Neal in his own end zone, he needed 86 yards to pass Pete Johnson and move into second place on the Bengals' all-time rushing list. About 14 seconds later, he was there with a 96-yard run off a lead draw that is now the Bengals' longest offensive play ever, besting Paul Robinson's 87-yarder against Oakland in the first year of the franchise.
The run began Dillon's road rage of 184 yards on 27 carries, which is the best away game of his career. A week after his season-low 30 yards on 16 carries against the Bears, it also proved the maxim, "The Eighth Man Giveth and The Eighth Man Taketh Away."
After watching the Bears load up on eight men in the box, the Lions did it right away and promptly showed why it's not foolproof. If a back breaks the line of scrimmage, no defender is back deep to protect the long run.
The play, designed to go right, got jammed up in the middle. Dillon shook off a hand, moved to the left and saw a gaping hole where 325-pound left tackle Richmond Webb was enveloping 273-pound end Tracy Scroggins and left guard Matt O'Dwyer was schooling rookie tackle Shaun Rogers. When wide receiver Darnay Scott swooped in from the outside to take out strong safety Ron Rice, no one was home but history.
"That's what I said last week," said Dillon, who now has 625 yards on the season, 24 more than last year at this time. "You put eight in the box and we can hurt you passing, or find a crease and hurt you in the running game."
Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna killed the Lions softly with 412-yard balance. He was 11-for-13 for 126 of his 204 passing yards on first down. After watching tape of last week's 24-0 loss to the
Bears, Kitna thought the Bengals needed to pass more on first down.
In the go-ahead touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, Kitna's pair of 19-yard passes to wide receivers Darnay Scott and Peter Warrick both came on first down and earlier in the game Scott had a 27-yard catch on first down. Warrick's longest catch, a 20-yarder, also came on first down.
"If a team is going to put eight guys up and do all that stuff and blitz on first down, you have to make them pay," Kitna said after hitting 17 of 27 passes. "They're saying, 'You're not good enough to throw the ball,' and we have to do that. We were efficient throwing the ball today."
Right tackle Willie Anderson led a superb day by his offensive line. The 340-pounder blanked the 280-pound Robert Porcher, the NFL's sack leader the past five years, and along with Webb exploited the small Lions' ends in the running game. Dillon's killing run came with 1:56 left in the game on a toss sweep behind Webb that went for 20 yards.
"When we're on a roll, we're one of the best O-lines in the league blocking eight-man fronts," Anderson said. "Traditionally, we're good against them and today we had a passing game they had to respect."
Dillon, who loves the ball late, had his best fourth quarter of the season with 50 yards on 11 carries. In the winning touchdown drive, which he capped off on a bruising one-yard run, he carried six times for a determined 25 yards.
"It was mostly a thing where everyone was determined," Dillon said. "Nobody let up once they jumped on us. We kept pressing."
Dillon said he "pressed the A gap," before going on his record run.
"On that run, he showed great patience," Anderson said. "He was able to cut that run back because the whole left side caved their guys down and finished on them. There was a big gigantic hole and it just opened up before his eyes. . .We got good games from everybody. (Right guard) Mike Goff did a great job on Luther Elliss."
The only down moment came when a holding call on Anderson working on defensive end James Hall wiped out Warrick's 11-yard touchdown catch.
Anderson insisted it was a bad call and that the head referee told him it wasn't holding. Anderson says he showed the club move to the officials in training camp in which he controls the defender with a hand on the back of his hip.
"As long as I'm not impeding his movement," Anderson said. "He went down violently, but I'm strong."