Updated: 10:25 p.m.
Cedric Benson got the game ball, a career-high 189 yards, the NFL rushing lead, and the last word while his Bengals got their biggest win in seven years and their most points in two seasons with a 45-10 victory over the Bears Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.
It was as emotional and as physical as Benson made it with 37 carries that served as bruising reminders to a Chicago franchise that cut him loose three years after the Bears made him the fourth pick in the 2005 draft. He had the most yards of any back in the NFL Sunday and the fourth biggest day of the season.
It was one of those wins that had the faithful dreaming about January. The Bengals are now 5-2 after rolling up 215 yards on the ground at 4.8 per shot against the NFL's sixth best run defense. It's been five years since they hit 215 on the ground. Not since the 253 against Cleveland in the 58-48 PBS shootout of '04.
When Benson scored the Bengals' final points three seconds into the fourth quarter on a one-yard touchdown run, he took a knee in the end zone to give thanks and then took his helmet off as he raced to the stands on the Bengals sideline before wide receiver Chad Ochocinco intercepted him and gave him a Super Bowl reference with, "Let's take it to Miami."
"Everybody was scoring touchdowns but me," Benson said with a laugh. "I was proud of myself and the road that had been traveled and the emotions were weighing heavy at the time."
It was such a big day that even The Ocho picked up a Benson phrase instead of the other way around. It is no "Child Please," but "Going ham" certainly described how Benson helped lift the Bengals to 5-2 heading into their bye week and keeping head coach Marvin Lewis undefeated against the NFC North at 6-0.
After the Bengals work lightly Tuesday and Wednesday, they'll have until next Monday to savor their best start since 2005 and get ready for the Nov. 8 rematch against the Ravens at PBS.
"Going ham. It's just a phrase for going hard, giving it your all, putting everything on the line," Benson said. "It's just a southern phrase for just going out and executing."
With Benson giving the offense some counsel, it responded with its best performance in years.
"He was humble," said left tackle Andrew Whitworth. "He even told us before the game that this isn't a revenge game. This is a chance to go out and show how good we are as an offense. He told us all week. This is a game where he wanted us all as an offense to go out and execute and we felt the same way. When you're not worried about revenge or those other things and you're just worried about winning, it's easier to (execute)."
Benson had the most yards by a Bengals running back since Rudi Johnson's 202 yards in 2004 against Cleveland. The Ocho had 118 yards on 10 catches for his first back-to-back 100-yard games since Sept. 16-23, 2007 and his most catches since he had 12 that same season against Tennessee. Quarterback Carson Palmer, who took a seat after handing off on the first play of the fourth quarter on Benson's touchdown, pumped home five touchdown passes, one off his club-record six set Sept. 16, 2007 in Cleveland, and his 146.7 passer rating was his all-time best, bettering the 131.1 against San Diego in 2006.
And, yes, Palmer said that game was mentioned at halftime and the Bengals leading, 31-3. The Bengals led that one against the Chargers, 28-7, at the half, and got beat, 49-41, also at home.
"It was mentioned, but we don't have too many guys left from that team," Palmer said.
Their 448 total yards Sunday were, by the way, the most since that day they rolled up 545 yards in that stunning Nov. 12, 2006 loss to San Diego. Sunday was a watershed day for the offense. It was the first time the Bengals had broken 40 in a win since they beat Detroit in 2005 and since that 51-45 loss in Cleveland Sept. 16, 2007, it was just the sixth time they had scored at least 24 points and second time this season.
One guy who wasn't here in '06, Benson, made sure that there would be no Chargers-like comeback by allowing the Bengals to hog the ball for 36:22.
And when head coach Marvin Lewis took him out to get the curtain call with nine minutes left, Benson had to go back in when rookie running back Bernard Scott got shaken up with a knee injury and fullback Jeremi Johnson also left with a knee injury. Johnson said after the game he'll be back and Scott appeared to be OK.
The Bengals were already light in the backfield when running back Brian Leonard was made inactive because they had to go heavy at defensive line with all the injured linemen there.
Benson regained the NFL rushing lead with 720 yards and a 33-yard edge over Minnesota's Adrian Peterson and 85 over Steven Jackson of the Rams. Sunday's 189-effort was the eighth-best rushing game in Bengals history.
"I would say so," said Benson when asked if he'd proven the doubters wrong. "But doubters are fun. They always give you a little edge. They tend to throw some kerosene on the fire. Doubters are good. I don't want to get rid of all of them. So hopefully I have a few more in there and we can keep this thing rolling."
Benson admitted it got personal once. As the game wound down to 11 minutes left he popped a 14-yarder and went over to the Bears sideline to stare.
"I tried hard the entire game not to get too involved in my emotions," he said. "It was just an emotional moment for me. Here we are in the fourth quarter running the clock out. We have a lot of points on the board and everyone has had a great day. I think there was a small part of me that couldn't resist just going up and showing a little emotion."
But the Bears were OK with him. Benson thought many were happy for him.
"I tip my hat to the whole (Bengals) team. The defense played well and created turnovers," said end Alex Brown. "The offensive line blocked well and Cedric ran the ball like crazy. Carson threw the ball and had time whenever he wanted, and they caught it. They could do whatever they wanted."
Benson said many Bears staffers, coaches and players congratulated him after the game. He did want to shake Bears head coach Lovie Smith's hand. Look him in the eye, he said, and thank him for taking him No. 4 in the draft. But Benson understands why Smith got off the field quickly after shaking Lewis' hand.
And Smith did salute him in his news conference.
"This was a business trip. Not a family reunion," said Smith when asked if he saw Benson. "He played well, and he's been playing well all year. He ran hard today from start to finish."
Benson's teammates were pleased. Maybe the guy who enjoyed it the most who wasn't Benson was Tank Johnson, the former Bears defensive tackle once removed who played with Benson in Chicago. After he earned a dismissal from the Bears 2006 Super Bowl team for a variety of off-field incidents, Johnson ended up in Dallas the next two years before surfacing in Cincinnati this season.
"I messed it up. Those guys didn't mess that up. I did," Johnson said. "I respect those guys. We won today and I'm proud of where I'm at."
But Johnson had to smile at Benson's day.
"I'm happy for him. He wanted to do well and he did and that's important," Johnson said. "Ced is the typical great running back. He's got a screw loose. All great running backs are just a little off. I'm happy for him his off was on today. That's Ced B. That's Ced. That's him all day. He gets the ball. He runs hard. He wanted to prove something."
Palmer recalled that some dust was kicked up during the week when Benson said the Bears "blackballed" him after they cut him following two alcohol-related incidents in 2008. He was eventually cleared.
"I am happy for Ced. It got kind of played up as a revenge game, and he had one quote that kind of got played up during the week, but I am just really happy for him and Tank," Palmer said. "It is special when you are somewhere for awhile, whether it works out or not. It's just nice to play that team and win for those guys and our team, our fans and our organization."
Benson said the page has been turned, the score settled. But the chip on the shoulder will stay. After all, he's leading the league with it and is on pace for the greatest Bengals season ever at 1,646 yards.
"The next time we play it won't be the Benson Bowl. It will just be the Bengals against the Bears," he said.
"I like my chip on my shoulder, so I think I'm going to keep it," he said. "I'd love to say the slate was wiped clean beforehand. The truth was, it wasn't. There was some business out there that I wanted to take care of. It is definitely clean now. We're past it. We're over it and what a game."
There were 64,900 leaving PBS that couldn't have said it better.