The Bengals offense finally found a long lost friend. Cincinnati’s ground game came to life and was the difference maker in a heated rivalry.
After looking anemic for the first six games of the season, the Cincinnati offense finally showed signs of life. The Bengals found their footing in a 31-17 blowout of the Cleveland Browns. Whether it was the result of frustration or the Battle of Ohio, fans finally got to witness the high-powered offense that was promised during the offseason.
Week 7 was the elixir that the Bengals needed. Facing the winless Browns in the annual intrastate battle gave the home team a sense of urgency.
Playing in the rough-and-tumble AFC North has always included the need for a running game. Sunday’s effort proved that the Bengals are able to get the job done on the ground. Jeremy Hill played through an assortment of injuries to post a career high 168 yards rushing. His previous top mark was set against the Jacksonville Jaguars. During Week 9 of the 2014 season, Hill trounced the Jags for 154 yards.
Certainly, the Browns are not the Patriots or the Cowboys. But, the offense was able to right some of the inconsistencies that hampered its production .
Getting the running game on track will certainly take the heat off A.J. Green and Co. The threat of Hill and Giovani Bernard hitting holes will cause defenses to sneak more players to the line. Eventually, that will open the floodgates for Green, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd, and Tyler Eifert. So far, defenses haven’t been concerned with the Bengals’ ground game.
Balance Is The Key
The threat of going 2-5 was one bit of motivation for the Bengals. But, the other had to be the lack of a balanced attack. Teams had become convinced that the Cincinnati offense was nothing more than Dalton to Green. The duo was producing nice numbers but the red zone attack was almost dead.
After finding a comfortable mix of ground and air, the chemistry caused an important number to spike. The Bengals’ points per 100 yards was much better. With 31 points against the Browns, Cincinnati’s average slid up to a respectable 5.09. The red zone performance didn’t help. But, overall the Bengals are ranked at No. 2 in the league for yardage. The key is to produce TD’s when down close.
"“Getting the ball down the field helps the running game. It helps stretch out the safeties. They can’t come up for support as quickly. I thought we did a great job with play-action passes down the field. All of it ties into itself. When A.J. and LaFell are making catches down the field, the safeties just can’t come as close in the run game.”"
Andy Dalton? Well, The Red Rifle gave his usual performance. He finished the day on 19-of-28 passing for a 90.2 QBR and 128.3 rating. Dalton also scorched the Browns for 308 yards and two TDs.
The Bottom Line
Yes, the Browns are an 0-7 team. You can also make an argument that the Bengals caught Cleveland at its banged up lowest. Joe Haden missed an all-star matchup with Green. But, Cincinnati did what they had to do. Facing a must-win situation, they won the game.
Now, London is calling. The Washington Redskins and former assistant Jay Gruden are next on the list.