To commemorate the 50th year of the Bengals, we’re looking back at nine Epic Events that shaped the history of the franchise. Not Epic Moments -- although there are some of them on the list -- but events that had long-lasting effect.
One story will publish each day from now until the Bengals' season opener on Sept. 10.
No. 8: Corey Dillon's record night
Corey Dillon was unquestionably the best running back in team history. He rushed for at least 1,100 yards in six of his seven seasons with the club. He’s all-time leading rusher in the club history with 8,061 yards on 1,865 carries. He ran for 45 touchdowns.
He was a big (6-foot-1, 225-pound) back with breakaway speed.
And for one day, he was best running back the National League Football has ever seen.
It was the 2000 season, the first at new Paul Brown Stadium, back when the field was still natural grass. The season was forgettable. The Bengals started 0-3 under Bruce Coslet. He resigned. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau took over as interim coach.
Dillon had been to two Pro Bowls in his first three years in the league after the Bengals took him as the second-round pick out of Washington in 1997. He set a rookie record by rushing for 275 yards and four touchdowns against Tennessee at Cinergy Field on Dec. 4, 1997 -- breaking Jim Brown’s record no less.
The Bengals were 0-6 when Denver came to town in Oct. 22, 2000. The Bronco run defense was allowing 65 yards a game, best in the NFL. Dillon shredded it. He needed only 22 carries to get 278 yards and break Walter Payton’s rushing record that had stood for 23 years.
“It seemed like a high school game,” he said.
Incredibly, 10 of his 22 carries were for one yard or less. But he had runs of 31, 21, 37, 30, 65 and 41 yards.
The 41-yarder went for a touchdown as the Bengals were running out the clock on a 31-21 victory -- LeBeau’s first as coach and the team’s first at Paul Brown.
Radio man Dave Lapham shouted, “We’re not worthy. We’re not worthy. We’ve got to bow down to Corey Dillon,” as Dillon broke the last run.
Dillon set the Bengals season record with 1,435 yards that year. He had two more good years with the Bengals. He rushed for 1,300-plus in 2001 and ’02. In ’01, he set the team record with a 96-yard run.
But that season, he said the Bengals would “never win with the Brown family in Cincinnati.”
He rushed for only 541 yards in an injury-plagued 2003. He forced a trade to New England. He rushed for a career-high 1,635 yards in 2004 for the Patriots. He added 75 in a Super Bowl win.
Dillon’s record has since been surpassed, but it remains the best game of a bad era of Bengals football.
Wondering about epic event No. 9? It was hiring Marvin Lewis, in 2003.
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at email@example.com.