Rush to judgment?

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Ask many players in the Bengals' locker room of the chief differences in the regimes of Bruce Coslet and Dick LeBeau and there's not much debate.

LeBeau is more prone to stick with the running game no matter the score, the production, or the defense. Plus, LeBeau is more likely to bench a player who isn't performing.

And if you're an offensive lineman like right tackle Willie Anderson who has been on teams that went 8-8 and 3-13 here, those are two things you notice.

"You don't think guys haven't talked about the four or five changes (LeBeau) has made (in the starting lineup?)" Anderson asked. "Believe me, guys are talking about that. It's what I used to say. You need fear. Maybe not like Bill Parcells, maybe that's overdoing it, but fear (of losing a job)," can help.

What Anderson finds different on offense is the Bengals no longer worry about what they can't do against a particular defense and instead concentrate on what they themselves can do to the defense.

For instance, on Sunday the Bengals played the NFL's No. 2 run defense in Denver and rolled up the biggest rushing day in 50 years.

But Anderson doubts in another time that, just on stats alone, the Bengals would have tried to run it. And when the Broncos held the Bengals to one yard or less on seven of the first nine rushes, Anderson figures, "we would have ended up throwing 40 times," instead of running 37 times.

Take a look at this sequence from the 24-7 loss to the Browns last month, when Cincinnati gained at least four yards on five of its first 10 rushes of the game:

With the Browns leading, 17-7, midway through the third quarter, running backs Corey Dillon and Brandon Bennett carried four straight times for 18 yards against the unit the Bengals gouged for 340 yards by Dillon alone last year in two games.

The Bengals then had an incomplete pass, a sack, ran a fake punt for a first down, and then dropped back six straight times to pass before quarterback Akili Smith threw the killing interception.

Now there's this sequence against the Broncos.

Trailing, 14-10, on their first two series of the second half, the Bengals ran 10 plays from scrimmage. Seven were runs, one on third-and-17, and Bennett broke the 10th one for a 19-yard touchdown that gave the Bengals the lead for good.

To be fair to Coslet's play-calling, three of the first 10 runs against Denver went for at least 21 yards. And the Bengals couldn't pass, so they had to run.

None of the players are saying Coslet didn't have the right idea, but they're saying there's a clear shift in emphasis.

An offensive lineman, of course, appreciates running the ball. Anderson is still bitter about the HBO film clip from the Browns' game that recorded the Cleveland defensive line yelling about the fatigue of the Bengals' offensive line. That got spun in Cincinnati as Anderson's crew being out of shape.

"We took that personally," Anderson said. "When (LeBeau) started doing the sprints after practice, we wanted to show we are in shape and, yeah, I won (Wednesday). . .In that (Cleveland) game, we dropped back to pass 28 out of 30 times. . .Wouldn't you be breathing hard, too?

"And what about in the fourth quarter Sunday?" asked Anderson of a quarter the Bengals ran for 133 yards on 11 carries. "Does that mean we aren't in shape?"

**SIMMONS HEADED FOR IR?:

All signs point to middle linebacker Brian Simmons ending up the season on the injured reserve list with his torn knee cartilage. Trainer Paul Sparling said Simmons won't be back for the Nov. 12 game in Dallas, opening up speculation Simmons' season is done since rookie Armegis Spearman and Adrian Ross are playing well and the club is virtually out of the playoffs.

MORE INJURIES: DE Vaughn Booker (knee) returned to practice Thursday. . .FB Clif Groce (knee) didn't practice again. He's expected to play, but his durability is a question. . .C Rich Braham had no swelling in his knee and worked again Thursday. He's looking to return next week against the Ravens, but will probably join Simmons and S/LB JoJuan Armour on Friday's inactive list.

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