Sunday, September 7, 2003

Dillon record motivates both Bengals, Broncos

Denver defense seeks revenge for humiliation

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Mike Shanahan talked reluctantly about the last time his Denver Broncos visited Cincinnati.

Corey Dillon discussed that game briefly with Denver media on a conference call Wednesday.

Willie Anderson declined to reflect on the events of Oct. 22, 2000, when Dillon set the single-game NFL rushing record of 278 yards in a 31-21 upset of Denver.

But for the three remaining starters from Denver's victimized defense - linebackers John Mobley and Al Wilson and defensive end Trevor Pryce - the memories burn in their minds and will color today's regular-season opener between the two teams at Paul Brown Stadium.

"It's in the past," Wilson said. "We can't undo it. But we can do something else: We can't let it happen again.

"And I'm not going to lie and say it won't motivate me, because it will. Knowing that a guy set the single-game rushing record against my team will definitely motivate me."

The Broncos know they will see more of Dillon, who's as fearsome in his seventh season as he was in his fourth. Another big game from Dillon would improve the Bengals' chances of giving Marvin Lewis a victory in his first NFL game as a head coach.

The Broncos know Dillon will get the ball. And Dillon knows the Broncos know. "I feel like I've got a bull's-eye on my back, so it really doesn't matter," he said.

Said Shanahan: "They've got a very balanced offense, so you've got to worry about everything. You've got to take away the run, but at the same time, you can't take the passing game for granted because they've got the ability to beat you in a lot of different areas."

The Bengals will throw, but Dillon remains their offensive staple.

"Any team we play, they're going to be geared up to stop Corey Dillon," Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna said. "That's how it is. That's what teams do against us. We have to make plays in the passing game."

The Bengals will play with just two experienced wide receivers - Chad Johnson and Peter Warrick. The other two will be rookies Kelley Washington and Lawrence Hamilton - because a hamstring injury has forced out T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

Dillon, who would not talk to the Cincinnati media about the record, told Denver reporters that the record stands as his career high point. Low point?

"Oh, boy, I mean this could take all day," Dillon said. "There was a game against Baltimore in 2000. In that same year I had my high point and my rock bottom."

In a 37-0 loss at Baltimore four weeks before the record game, Dillon was held to 9 yards on 12 carries. Baltimore's defensive coordinator was Lewis, now Dillon's coach.

The Bengals' upset of Denver was the first victory of the season after six losses and the first in four tries for then-rookie coach Dick LeBeau. Dillon had 108 rushing yards in the fourth quarter on six carries, more remarkable when considering he had a pair of negative runs in the final 15 minutes.

Pryce had left the Denver lineup early in the fourth quarter with what he remembers as a sprained ankle. He recalls seeing Dillon kneel in prayer on the opposite sideline - where he was doused with a sports drink by quarterback Scott Mitchell - after his final carry, a 41-yard touchdown that moved him past Walter Payton.

"I have a lot of pictures in my mind," Pryce said, "but that one is pretty special."

Mobley had the last shot at Dillon on the record-breaking run. The linebacker dove but missed at the 8.

"To this day," Mobley said, "he's still able to say that he almost single-handedly dominated the Denver Broncos' defense."

Around Denver, the Dillon game is considered the low point of Shanahan's eight-year Broncos run and one of the darkest hours in franchise history. The Broncos went on to win seven of eight after the Dillon debacle before losing in an AFC wild-card playoff game to the Ravens, 21-3.

Lewis knows what it's like to face a player who has abused a defense.

"They're hearing about it all week," Lewis said of the 278.

As Baltimore's defensive coordinator, Lewis' "Dillon" was Jacksonville wide receiver Jimmy Smith, who had six 100-yard receiving games - including a 291-yard game in 2000 - in 12 starts against Lewis' defenses.

Dillon's focus, he said, is on winning a Super Bowl ring.

"It was a great day for this organization, me, the offensive linemen, but it was 2000," Dillon said. "This year, we're on a totally different page."



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Dillon record motivates both Bengals, Broncos
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