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With George on the Ball, Titans Roll

October 09, 2000|From Associated Press

CINCINNATI — Severely limited by injuries to their offensive line and receivers, the Tennessee Titans decided to get the ball to Eddie George.

It worked.

George piled up 214 yards on runs and catches--one more yard than the Cincinnati Bengals managed as a team--as the Titans ground out a 23-14 victory Sunday.

George carried the ball a career-high 36 times and rushed for 181 yards, the third-best total of his five-year career.

George also caught three passes for 33 yards as the Titans (4-1) held the ball for 41 minutes and overcame his fumble into the end zone in the first quarter that gave Cincinnati a glimmer of hope.

Once George got rolling, the Bengals (0-5) had no chance. They took a 14-10 halftime lead on two big plays: Corey Dillon's 80-yard touchdown run and Darryl Williams' 36-yard interception return for another score.

Other than that, they couldn't move the ball or stop George from churning out the yards at an average of five yards a carry.

"He's a powerful guy," said Dick LeBeau, 0-2 since taking over for Bruce Coslet as Bengal coach. "He's the key to them being able to hammer away at us, and it's typical with a back like him that he gets more yards late in the game. We missed a lot of tackles."

After George scored standing up on a five-yard run to put the Titans ahead, 17-14, midway through the third quarter, the Bengals never threatened with their inept offense.

Cincinnati managed only one first down on its first six possessions during the second half. Akili Smith completed only 10 of 22 passes for 85 yards. After his 80-yard touchdown run, Dillon had only 15 yards in his other 14 carries, finishing with 95.

George was the focal point of the Titans' injury-depleted offense. Receivers Carl Pickens and Yancey Thigpen were inactive because of strained hamstrings and offensive tackle Brad Hopkins was sidelined because of a sprained ankle.

The situation got worse when guard Bruce Matthews sprained his right knee in the second quarter and didn't return. Second-year backup Zach Piller took over and helped clear the way for George.

Titan quarterback Steve McNair made a huge mistake late in the second quarter. He locked onto Frank Wycheck, and Williams saw it, cutting in front for an interception and 36-yard touchdown return.

"That's the dangerous part of playing a team like that--you make mistakes early and keep 'em breathing," said Wycheck, who had season highs with seven catches for 68 yards.

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