Dillon wasn't even in the stadium Sunday as his downtrodden team pulled off a reputation-changing victory. Jon Kitna's 53-yard touchdown pass to Chad Johnson and two tipped interceptions gave Cincinnati a 27-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
With their first victory over a top-notch team, the Bengals (3-4) proved they're no longer dreadful and no longer dependent upon one moody running back.
"We believed we were going to win this game," offensive tackle Willie Anderson said. "This is a new team."
Cincinnati has won back-to-back games for the first time since 2001 without much from Dillon, who was the team's entire focus under previous coaching staffs.
Dillon put the focus on himself last week by announcing that he feels unappreciated and wants out. He got into a traffic accident on his way to the stadium Sunday and was inactive even though he wasn't injured.
First-year coach Marvin Lewis decided to make Dillon inactive once he heard about the accident, which shook up the running back and delayed him from getting to the stadium.
"We couldn't tell how he was going to be physically," Lewis said. "We told him the key was to get himself right and fixed. Everything happens for a reason."
Dillon wasn't on the sideline to see his understudy win over the fans' hearts. They chanted "Rudi! Rudi!" as third-year back Rudi Johnson ran for 101 yards and a touchdown, the first Bengals running back other than Dillon to reach the 100-yard mark since Ki-Jana Carter in 1997.
"It reminds me of the old days," said Johnson, referring to his days at Auburn. "It was great to get the fans going like that."
Dillon showed up at the stadium before the game, then left.
Seattle (5-2) pulled off one late comeback after another behind Matt Hasselbeck as it got off to the best start in franchise history. This time, two late opportunities got deflected away.
Chad Johnson's 53-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown -- he beat cornerback Willie Williams on a slant and Kitna nearly lost his grip on the ball as he threw -- put the Bengals ahead 27-24 with 8:03 left.
Later, Hasselbeck's pass was deflected to linebacker Brian Simmons at the Bengals 33, ending one threat. After forcing a Bengals punt, the Seahawks drove to Cincinnati's 35, but Simmons tipped another pass to cornerback Jeff Burris for a clinching interception with 1:46 to go.
"It's not the end of the world, but it deflates you a little bit," Hasselbeck said. "The plays were there to be made. The ball bounces your way sometimes, and sometimes it doesn't. We were on the wrong side of a fine line today."
Hasselbeck was 26-of-43 for 347 yards, but the Seahawks self-destructed with three interceptions, one costly fumble and a blocked 49-yard field goal attempt by Josh Brown that set up the Bengals' go-ahead touchdown.
"You kind of knew we were supposed to come in here and take care of business," said tight end Itula Mili, who had two touchdown catches. "We didn't get that done. We didn't take care of the little things. They really capitalized on the fact we didn't. We feel like we let something slip away here today."
The victory was particularly sweet for Kitna, who led Seattle to the playoffs in 1999 but got benched the next season by coach Mike Holmgren because he wanted someone else leading the offense. Holmgren later got Hasselbeck from Green Bay to lead the Seahawks' resurgence.
Kitna carried a grudge for years, finally making his peace with Holmgren during a phone call last year. Kitna completed 19 of 31 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns Sunday, again avoiding the costly mistake that characterized his career until this season.
"The fact that it came against that team at this time is big," Kitna said. "That it was against the team I cut my teeth with makes it even bigger."
- Seahawks LB Chad Brown (foot) and DT Norman Hand (turf toe) didn't play. LB Randall Godfrey left the game with a strained neck.
- The Bengals have won back-to-back games for the first time since the end of the 2001 season. They opened 4-3 that season, then lost seven in a row and finished 6-10.
- Cincinnati has already surpassed its victory total from last year, when it went 2-14.
The Associated Press News Service
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