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TDBH: Sam trades finesse for force as Bengals' run game mauls Browns' elite defense


CLEVELAND - James Brooks jets for 118 yards and Larry Kinnebrew smashes for 94 more and three touchdowns as the Bengals running backs whose weights are nearly 100 yards apart mastermind a Thursday nighter in a 30-13 victory over the Browns' highly-regarded defense.  Bengals head coach Sam Wyche checks his funky finesse formations at the door and watches his club rip the defending AFC Central champions' swaggering defense with 257 rushing yards, the fourth most in club history.  "My forearms are killing me," says wide receiver Cris Collinsworth of his numerous blocking assignments. "But if we win it 30-13 every week, they can run The Wishbone."

The win lifts the Bengals to 2-1 and guarantees their first winning September in four years and helps ignite a 10-win season. It's also a sign the Bengals' powder keg of an offense is maturing with more versatility and physicality. Wyche makes a startling admission the day after the game. "I am less inhibited about the running game than I used to be," Wyche says. "As of today I understand more than ever how Woody Hayes used to think and how (Bengals offensive line coach) Jim McNally thinks …  I knew we would have to run effectively to win, but I still thought all along we would have to break more long gainers to beat a defense as good as Cleveland's. The fact we didn't is a testimony to how well we played." With right tackle Brian Blados holding Browns' estimable end Reggie Camp to one assisted tackle, Wyche and McNally hope fans and players will get off their backs about the Mike Wilson trade. Browns Pro Bowl linebacker Clay Matthews, leader of one of the NFL's more physical defenses, certainly is after the Bengals mash for 185 rushing yards after halftime. "We didn't hold up physically in the second half," Matthews says. "We pride ourselves on stopping the run. I'm surprised as anyone we couldn't do it."

The 270-pound Kinnebrew says the Bengals stayed committed to the run in the second half by making a minor but deadly adjustment when they countered Cleveland's stunts with zone runs. "We took them where they wanted to go and I was reading the cutbacks." Quarterback Boomer Esiason could have been reading a magazine, completing 12 of 21 throws for 152 yards. "I felt more like a spectator than anything else," Esiason says. "I was a hand-off machine and I kind of liked it."  Lost in the 257 yards and a cloud of dust is the defense not allowing quarterback Bernie Kosar's crew a TD while holding the Browns to 83 yards rushing. Bengals nose tackle Tim Krumrie, on the verge of making back-to-back Pro Bowls, is lost during the game with a sprained knee and it's feared he'll miss at least the next game. But showing the grit that made him a Cincy folk hero, Krumrie comes back and he'll end his career never missing a game. It's unofficially 188 straight because the only games he'll miss are the four during next year's strike.

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