Bengals showcase more diverse running game
Sixteen runs. Fourteen yards, total.
Cincinnati spent an entire game running into a wall last December at Heinz Field before pulling out a 13-10 win that sent the Bengals to the playoffs and left the Steelers out of the running for the postseason.
As they get ready for the rematch on Monday night at Paul Brown Stadium, the Bengals (0-1) are working on a little different look.
Rookie Giovani Bernard put a little dash into the running game during an opening 24-21 loss at Chicago on Sunday, sharing plays with BenJarvus Green-Ellis. They gained only 47 yards on 18 combined carries - an average of 2.6 yards per try - while providing a glimpse of where the offense is headed.
The Bengals moved the ball primarily through the air, with Andy Dalton completing a lot of short passes during long touchdown drives. Dalton completed a career-high 78.7 percent of his throws and led touchdown drives that covered 97, 91 and 80 yards.
They moved the ball, just not when they ran it.
''Obviously when it's all said and done, Benny averaged (1.8 yards) a carry,'' offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said. ''We have to do better than that. But if we have to throw the ball, let's throw the ball. We have great receivers.
''But we do have to get better in the running game, especially down the stretch.''
In a sense, Sunday was their debut.
Cincinnati drafted Bernard in the second round to give them a different type of runner - quicker with more ability to cut back - and a better receiver out of the backfield. Green-Ellis is still the starter, but they're sharing a role that will evolve as the season goes along.
Green-Ellis was in for 37 of the 55 plays, Bernard for 21. Green-Ellis carried 14 times for 25 yards, but had four runs that resulted in losses and five that gained three or fewer yards. Bernard carried four times for 22 yards and had a catch for eight yards.
The running backs have to get accustomed to the sharing arrangement.
''I don't know,'' Green-Ellis said, when asked about the rotation. ''However they call things during the course of the week. As it goes along we'll have a better feel for how we fit into things.''
Coach Marvin Lewis liked the blend between the two running backs in the opener. He wished they'd have been able to run the ball a little more.
''If we had an opportunity to have maybe 10 more carries with the lead at the end, 10 more opportunities with the ball at the end of the game,'' Lewis said. ''I felt good about it, though.''
The Steelers (0-1) are coming off a 16-9 opening loss to Tennessee at Heinz Field. The defense played well, limiting the run-based Titans to 2.7 yards per carry. The offense was the problem, managing only 32 yards on 15 carries.
Linebacker James Harrison is gone from the unit that held the Bengals to less than a yard per carry last December, playing for Cincinnati now. The Bengals don't see that a whole lot has changed.
''The thing about Pittsburgh is whether watching them as a rookie or now, it's the same thing,'' said Green-Ellis, in his sixth season. ''They play the same fronts and do the exact same things.
''Traditionally over the years, it doesn't matter who those guys have been. Those guys come in and do the positions well. It is their scheme and the way they teach it. One of those games where you watch films and know what you get.''
NOTES: LT Andrew Whitworth (left knee) went through a limited practice for the second day in a row, an indication he could play on Monday. LB Vontaze Burfict (bruised right thigh) had a full practice. ... Harrison talked to the local media for the first time this week and insisted it's not difficult changing allegiances from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati. ''It's about where I'm making my money at and that's who I am going to be with,'' he said. ''You all can't seem to understand that concept: It's a job.''
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