Giovani Bernard bounced back from ACL surgery Sunday bouncing through holes.
When they carted him off this field last November, Bengals running back Giovani Bernard knew this day would come even if everyone else was guessing. A mere 292 days after he blew out his ACL his enormous will was one of the silver linings in a mushroom cloud of a 20-0 Opening Day loss to the Ravens on the same Paul Brown Stadium turf,
As the Bengals try figure out what to do with Jeremy Hill and Joe Mixon, Bernard quietly outrushed both with 40 yards on seven carries while Hill and Mixon combined for 35 yards on 14 carries. He had the Bengals' two biggest plays of the day, a 23-yard run and 39-yard catch-and-run on a screen. It's his first 20-yard run or more in two years (26 here against San Diego on Sept. 20, 2015) and his longest catch since a 45-yarder against the Rams here on Nov. 29, 2015.
"I'm back. It felt good just to be out there with my teammates again," Bernard said. "I have my role and when my opportunity comes up I'm going to make that opportunity count."
Bernard announced he was back when the Bengals were driving for what looked to be the commanding score in a game the Ravens were clearly going to keep quarterback Joe Flacco under wraps. Down 3-0, Bernard set up quarterback Andy Dalton's red-zone pick with a bolt-out-of-the-blue 23-yarder up the middle that made up for his face-mask penalty on a stiff-arm that started the drive and put to the Bengals back to the 5. He made a hellacious cut that left Ravens outside linebacker Kamalei Correa on Elm Street as the knee looked as good as ever.
"Good to go," Bernard said. "It was a move where I set him up. Just playing football. The old Gio move. I can't tell you that."
But he can tell you what exactly he was doing on the screen. Sheer quickness up the middle.
"Something in space. That's kind of my thing," Bernard said. "Get out in space. Make something happen. Playing two-hand touch at that point."
But Bernard was tackled by Sunday's score. "I felt good but I didn't feel good about the result," he said in a game he didn't get a carry in the second half.
He knows Dalton is going to be getting heat, but he's seen him respond before.
"We'll be ready. I'm not worried about that," Bernard said of the club's mental state for Thursday's game (8:25 p.m.-NFL Network) here against Houston.
"That was tough," Bernard said. "Outside people don't see what really goes on. They just see that line and Andy's doing this or doing that. But at the end of the day it's a team effort and we really didn't help him out too much. When we're down there like that it's easy for the defense to drop back and do what they do. It's tough to do to when you're trying to play catch up.
"Andy's our leader. We know what type of guy he is. We know he prepares," Bernard said. "It's not a lack of preparation. It's just think it didn't work out the way we wanted it too."
Cincinnati Bengals host Baltimore Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium in week 1 of the regular season 9/10/2017