1-6-02, 9:35 p.m. Updated:
1-7-02, 6:55 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
NASHVILLE, Tenn. _ Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau is expected to announce Monday that there will be no major coaching changes for next season, but he could lose the dean of his staff.
Running backs coach Jim Anderson said after Sunday's 23-21 win in Tennessee that he is to interview Monday at Stanford for the Cardinal's head coaching job.
Anderson, 53, has been with the Bengals for 18 seasons in the second longest consecutive tenure for a position coach with one club next to Dick Hoak's 30 years in Pittsburgh.
"They called and I've returned the interest because when I coached there it was a great experience," Anderson said.
Anderson worked under head coach Paul Wiggin at Stanford for four seasons from 1980-83 before
coming to work for the Bengals when Sam Wyche became head coach in 1984.
Bengals running back Corey Dillon finished off his fifth straight 1,000-yard season Sunday with an 87-yard day that gave him 1,315 for the year. It's the 10th 1,000-yard season for a Bengals' back under Anderson.
Anderson indicated he'll return to the Bengals if he doesn't get the job. Ironically, several of the Bengals' coaches are headed near the home of Stanford, Palo Alto, Calif., Monday to scout the East-West Shrine college all-star game.
"I have a job here," Anderson said. "I didn't go looking for one. It's an honor to be called."
KEARSE GETS OLD SCHOOLED:** John Jackson did a Bruce Matthews on Bruce Matthews' day. Jackson, the Bengals backup tackle who turned 37 Friday, informed Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau Sunday morning that he won't retire and would return next year for a 15th season.
Then when left tackle Richmond Webb went down with a groin injury early in the second half, Jackson was called on for his most extended play of the season against Titans Pro Bowl end Jevon Kearse.
Only the Giants' Michael Strahan has more sacks than Kearse in the past three seasons. But Jackson, who was drafted when Kearse was 11 years old, didn't just school Kearse. With occasional help from the backs, he old schooled Kearse and held him sackless.
"He was mad. We exchanged some verbiage," said Jackson, who finally got to play the kid everyone has talked about. "I know enough to
know better. He's a great player. He's really quick. He's stronger than I thought he was."
Sunday looked to be the last game for the 40-year-old Matthews, the Titans guard-center playing in his NFL record 296th game for an offensive lineman. It was Jackson's 203rd game and among his most impressive given he had played hardly at all from scrimmage all year.
"Let's just say I knew he'd be fresh," said offensive line coach Paul Alexander. "He did a great job. That's the kind of player he is. Solid and reliable."
Jackson, a Cincinnati prep product out of Woodward High School, signed a two-year deal after last season that included a club option for '03.
"If they don't pick up the option, I'll be somewhere else," Jackson said. "I'm sure someone can use a good backup left tackle."
Like the Bengals needed Sunday.
THIS AND THAT: His 3-for-3 finish put kicker Neil Rackers at 17-for-28 for field goals on the season and 9-for-13 on the road. But he expects training-camp competition: "No question about that and that's fine. It's a great way to go into the offseason. . . .What I need to do (next year) is bury something like 15 or 20 in a row. Go on some kind of streak where I'm just putting everything in."
Rookie receiver T.J.. Houshmandzadeh left in the first half with a high ankle sprain that would have kept him out three to four weeks if it wasn't the season's last game. . . **
SMITH SCRUM:** Keep an eye on the Justin Smith-Brad Hopkins rivalry for the next few years. The Bengals' rookie right end and the Titans veteran left tackle each got flagged for personal fouls in the first half for extracurricular activity with each other.
"We just picked up right where we left off the last game. We were going into each other's stuff the last game," Smith said. "I knew on the plane ride down it was going to be exactly like that."
Smith, who picked up his magic 8.5th sack of the season against
Hopkins, said it's not about dislike.
"I wouldn't say that," Smith said. "We play with a lot of intensity and if he's going to bring it like that, I'll bring it like that."
When Smith held out for 51 days after the Bengals took him with the draft's fourth pick, much was made of the Bengals insisting on the 8.5 sacks as a trigger for his escalators. But he got it, and each of his salaries jumps $500,000 in the remaining years of his deal. He's downplayed the money thing, but the sack also broke James Francis' club rookie record of eight sacks in 1990.
It was also a big sack, taking quarterback Steve McNair out of field-goal range in the first half. It was also what he called, "a weird play," because he seemed to be the only guy who moved.
"I actually thought I heard a whistle," Smith said. "I just figured I'd go until someone told me to stop. I didn't have a clue what happened. When the ball got snapped, I moved."
SPIKES SACK: Outside linebacker Takeo Spikes had two of the Bengals' three sacks Sunday as the Bengals broke the club record of 46 set in 1976 with 48. It's a career-high six sacks for Spikes as he joins ends Reinard Wilson (9), Justin Smith (8.5), middle linebacker Brian Simmons (6.5) and tackle Tony Williams (5) on the first Bengals' defense to have five players with at least five sacks.
"I am proud of that accomplishment," Spikes said. " It was one of our biggest goals coming into the game. I was happy to get one, but I am very happy to have two right now. We played hard, and this game showed what kind of heart we really have."
OLD FRIEND OD: Bengals defensive tackle Oliver Gibson didn't have a good feeling when Titans quarterback Steve McNair went out at halftime with back spasms and Tennessee turned to backup Neil O'Donnell. Even though McNair kills the Bengals and had just thrown his 17th touchdown (with just two interceptions) against them in the first half.
That's because Gibson played one season with O'Donnell in Pittsburgh and knows a bit about his history
against the Bengals. O'Donnell might have had a bad year his one year in Cincinnati in 1998, but he's got a career 100-plus passer rating against the Bengals. His 35-yard go-ahead bomb to Derrick Mason Sunday gave O'Donnell 22 touchdowns against Cincinnati with just three interceptions.
"I thought it was a bad break for us because Neil can pick you apart in that situation," Gibson said. "I've seen him do it."
But it also simplified the Bengals' game plan. They came all-out with the blitz against the immobile O'Donnell. Although he burned them on the blitz on the touchdown pass and on a huge 19-yard completion to tight end Frank Wycheck on third-and-nine from his own end zone, O'Donnell spent the half hurrying his throws.
"We knew he was going to stay in the pocket, so we came after him trying to get him to throw off his front foot," said middle linebacker Brian Simmons. Or as outside linebacker Takeo Spikes said after sacking McNair and O'Donnell each once, "We brought everyone when he came in. It's bad enough to get beat by the starting quarterback. You don't want to get beat by the backup."