Cincinnati pounded the rock and dominated the line of scrimmage in a 31-17 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. A positive sign for the 3-4 Bengals moving forward as they aim to keep pace in the AFC North.
The Cincinnati Bengals had not had a 100-yard rusher in an AFC-longest 20 games. It had been since Giovani Bernard‘s 120-yard performance against San Diego in week two of last season.
Through six games, the Bengals were on pace for 1,437 rushing yards. It would have been a franchise-low mark, two yards shy of the ’95 season when Harold Green was the team’s leading rusher. That all changed Sunday in the first edition of the Battle of Ohio.
Jeremy Hill needed just nine carries to rush for a career-high 168 yards. His 74-yard touchdown run — longest since 2014 vs. Denver — gave the Bengals a 28-17 lead in the third quarter.
A lingering chest injury sidelined Hill just short of double-digit carries. The LSU product left the game after a 20-yard carry on the second play of the fourth quarter. He sat the rest of the game but was active on the sidelines as Cincinnati maintained an impressive ground-and-pound formula.
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Outside Hill’s big day, Bernard and Rex Burkhead combined for 103 rushing yards on 21 attempts. Bernard capped off the Cincy’s 75-yard scoring march to begin the game with his first rushing score since week six of last season.
39 of Burkhead’s 70 career rushing yards have come against Cleveland.
In total, Cincinnati racked up 271 yards on the ground. It was the team’s highest output since Oct. 22, 2000, when Corey Dillon broke the NFL’s single-game rushing record against the Broncos. On that day, the Bengals ran for 407 yards while Scott Mitchell and Akili Smith combined for just 34 passing yards.
On this day, however, everything clicked for the Bengals’ offense. Both on the ground and through the air, Cincinnati was dynamic. The short-handed youngsters on the Browns’ defense didn’t stand a chance. Andy Dalton threw for 308 yards and a pair of touchdowns and completed 12 of 13 passes for 252 yards and two scores when targeting A.J. Green or Brandon LaFell.
The 559 total yards of offense was the most by the Bengals since a 582-yard outing in an overtime win over the Rams on Oct. 7, 1990.
It was great to see Hill return back to his rookie form when he tallied 1,124 yards and ran for over 100 yards in five of Cincinnati’s final nine games. Sunday showed how a great running game can slow down a pass rush, which erases one of Cincinnati’s biggest — along with red zone efficiency — offensive issues so far this season.
Dalton was sacked three times in the win. But, in the second half, the offense only faced a third down longer than six yards one time.
Cincinnati will hope to bring its running game with them when they travel to London next week. The 4-3 Redskins are on tap. Washington ranked 27th against the run heading into week seven.
Since 2011, the Bengals are 14-1-1 when they have a 100-yard rusher.