Bengals beat Steelers at their own game
By Joe Reedy, Cincinnati Enquirer
~In the past in Bengals-Steelers games, when you see a 127-44 advantage in rushing yards, you would automatically assume that Pittsburgh once again had the edge. My, how the tables have turned.
Monday’s 20-10 victory by the Bengals on Monday Night Football was the second straight time where they have out-Steelered Pittsburgh. And a lot of it had to do with the running game.
After being pass happy in the first half and with the score tied at 10 at halftime, the Bengals took control via the ground game. Of Cincinnati’s 35 minutes and 24 seconds on time of possession, two thirds of that came in the second half when they had the ball for 20:54.
Said Marvin Lewis of the increased focus on the run game: “There were some positive plays we had in the first half. So we took a seat back and relooked at some things, and we did a nice job coming out (in the second half).”
For the offense it was diametrically different halves. In the first half, 32 of the 42 plays were passes but in the second half they ran it on 23 of 36 snaps. The Bengals had 407 yards of total offense, which is the first time they have had over 300 against the Steelers since the 2005 Week 13 game in Pittsburgh.
Giovani Bernard scored both touchdowns and had 65 yards on nine offensive touches. With the score tied at 10 at halftime, Bernard scored the go-ahead touchdown midway through the third quarter on a checkdown from Andy Dalton where he went 27 yards and scored.
That was the only reception of the night for Bernard, who averaged 4.8 yards per rushing attempt. On his first touchdown during the first quarter, he got a nice block from Kyle Cook to go in from five yards out.
“He’s a big-play guy,” Dalton said. “You see what he can do with it when he has the ball in open space. It’s good to get a guy like that. That’s why we drafted him where we did and so it’s a big part of this offense and where we want to be.”
Even though Bernard scored both touchdowns, it was Green-Ellis who helped put the game away in the fourth. Of his 22 carries, 13 came in the fourth quarter including eight straight on a three-minute drive late in the game that took the clock under the two minute warning. Early in the series with the Bengals facing third-and-6, Green-Ellis went for eight off left guard to keep the drive going.
“Benny did a great job. Those last four or five minutes of the game were probably the biggest moments of the entire game,” Bernard said. “Those were critical we picked up those first downs and kept the clock running. Moments like that you have to take advantage of.”
When it was over, the 127 rushing yards by the Bengals is the second most they’ve had in Lewis’ 11 seasons against the Steelers.
Last year when Green-Ellis was signed during free agency, the hope was that it would be a backfield duo with Bernard Scott. When Scott was lost for the year with a knee injury, Green-Ellis ended up getting 75 percent of the carries for the year, which was not anticipated.
The rotation now with Green-Ellis and Bernard is something that benefits both. Bernard was the main back on three of the five second-half drives, but it was Green-Ellis who was able to pound things away.
During the first two games, Bernard has one-third of the carries (14 for 95 yards) but he has both touchdowns. Green-Ellis has 37 carries for 104 yards. Depending on who has the hot hand during games or what the circumstances are, what we saw on Monday night could be a template for at least the rest of the first half of the season.
In his post-game press conference, Lewis once again reiterated that he is happy with the distribution of carries so far. If it wasn’t for two holding penalties, Bernard’s 5.0 yards per carry average would be higher.
Added Bernard: “The biggest thing is once you get your opportunity you have to shine. Benny got his opportunity, he shined. Once I got my opportunity I got to make plays. … As long as we win I’m happy, going to sleep happy. Then coming back tomorrow without coaches yelling at us.”
Defensively, the 44 rushing yards, marked only the third time since 1982 that the Steelers have gained less than 60 against the Bengals. Pittsburgh was also 3 of 12 on third-down conversions. In the past two games against the Steelers, the Bengals have held them to 5 of 26 on third down.
Felix Jones, who the Bengals had in for a workout in April, had 10 carries for 37 yards. Jonathan Dwyer, who ran for 122 yards against the Bengals in a Week 7 Steelers win last year, had just one carry for two yards.
“We talked about that earlier in the week that it was going to be a tough, physical game. That’s what it was. We were able to finish,” said defensive end Michael Johnson. “We were in the same position we were in last week, where we were up and they kind of hung around. But this week, we were able to put our foot down and shut the door on them.”
Original story HERE