Bernard sparks Bengals in grind-out win
SEP 17, 2013 3:10a ET
Giovani Bernard was drafted to change that in the Bengals offense.
Wow, did he change it Monday night against Pittsburgh.
The second-round draft pick out of North Carolina took a simple dump-off throw from quarterback Andy Dalton just beyond the line of scrimmage, wheeled his way across the field and left three Steelers defenders in a virtual standstill as he scored the go-ahead touchdown from 27 yards out in the third quarter, breaking a 10-10 tie as the Bengals beat their rivals 20-10. Bernard also scored on a 7-yard run in the first quarter, part of an overall 65-yard output on nine touches.
The Bengals put up 407 yards of offense against the Steelers. It was the first time they’ve gained more than 300 yards against a Pittsburgh defense since the Wild Card playoff loss in January 2006. It’s the first time they’ve topped 400 yards against a Pittsburgh defense since Jon Kitna threw for 411 of the 544 yards the Bengals amassed in a 26-23 overtime win on Dec. 30, 2001.
This game wasn’t all Bernard. But when an offense has a player with his abilities, it’s going to free up a lot of space for everyone else.
“A lot of weapons, man. That’s the biggest thing,” said Green. “Gio is so explosive. We put him at any spot on the field and get him the ball in space, and he makes things happen.”
Dalton completed passes to seven different receivers, finishing the game 25-of-45 for 280 yards and one dump-off touchdown.
“Giovani’s done a really good job,” said Dalton. “We drafted him to be a guy that’s versatile; a guy that we can move around and catch the ball out of the backfield and make big plays. That’s exactly what we’ve got out of him. It’s exciting to see him come out and play big in a game like this.”
It was a big game for the Bengals. After losing their cool and the season opener, 24-21 in Chicago, they did exactly what they needed to do against their division rival. With Green Bay coming to town on Sunday, it was imperative that the Bengals not face the Packers winless after two games.
Bernard’s touchdown run gave the Bengals a 7-3 lead. It was set up by a 61-yard reception by first-round pick Tyler Eifert. Eifert helped lead the blocking on the touchdown run, along with center Kyle Cook. The two of them fell into the end zone with Bernard.
The touchdown reception, however, was something else.
Pittsburgh linebacker Lawrence Timmons was closest to Bernard when he caught the ball just inside the 25-yard line. Bernard, facing the line of scrimmage, spun to his right and saw no one around him. Safety Ryan Clark and linebacker Kion Wilson thought they had good angles on Bernard. They thought wrong. Bernard ran in for the score untouched as Green blocked cornerback Ike Taylor out of the way.
“Once you see green grass, you’ve got to take advantage of it,” said Bernard. “I’m not going to say they were surprised. They watch film as well. They know who the weapons are on the offensive side. For me, I was just going out there playing hard, playing tough and winning.”
Dalton didn’t throw the ball much in the second half. Bernard’s touchdown came with 6:08 left in the third quarter. From there the Bengals’ running game took over. They ran the ball just 10 times in the first half, although they were effective in gaining 53 yards. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden called 24 running plays in the second half as the Bengals controlled the ball for 20:54 after halftime.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis had 75 yards on 22 carries, including 13 carries for 35 yards in the fourth quarter. Forget the yardage total. The Bengals ran off more than 10 minutes of clock in the fourth quarter because they were able to run the ball. Facing a third-and-six at their own 17 with just over four minutes left to play, Green-Ellis gained eight yards, bulldozing tacklers past the first down marker behind the offensive line and Domata Peko playing fullback.
The 127 yards rushing the Bengals ended up with were the second most by them against Pittsburgh in Marvin Lewis’ 11 seasons as head coach.
“We had some good long drives that ate up some of the clock,” said Cook. “At the end of the day we look at it and say the score should have been bigger than what it was for us but our defense did what it needed to do and we were able to grind the clock out and win in typical Cincinnati-Pittsburgh fashion.”
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