When the Bengals run, Andy Dalton flies.
NEW ORLEANS - The numbers are now this
When the Bengals rush the ball at least 30 times, quarterback Andy Dalton is 26-3-1. Make that 5-0-1 this season. And when rookie running back Jeremy Hill lugs it at least 15 times, they are 3-0.
Hill made the case for the running game when his 152 yards on 27 carries on his home turf of Louisiana showed offensive coordinator Hue Jackson's roots of his scheme in the 27-10 victory over the Saints.
"If teams sit back and play coverage, we'll continue to get big plays underneath and get big runs," Hill said. "That helps a lot and then they start coming in that box and we have A.J. (Green) on the outside. Teams don't want to play him one-on-one…If teams want to do that, I'm sure Hue will dial it up every time."
Jackson certainly didn't wait around Sunday when the Saints adjusted to Hill going into the fourth quarter with 116 yards. Quarterback Andy Dalton then zipped three balls of 80 yards to Green in less than 90 seconds and it was left for Hill to wear down the clock at 27-10 with nearly 12 minutes left.
Hill bulled eight more times and won the game when he glided 11 yards on third-and-eight with 4:53 left and then on the next snap forced New Orleans to call its last timeout with 4:47 left on a five-yarder. The game of keep-away from Saints quarterback Drew Brees worked well enough he couldn't make one of his patented comebacks since he had the ball for only 5:20 in the fourth quarter.
The biggest compliment came from Brees himself. One of the most prolific quarterbacks of his generation, he came into the game with 18 touchdown passes and could only get one to barely extend his streak to 30 straight games with a touchdown pass.
"Offensively they did a great job of possessing the ball. They were off the charts on third down conversions," Brees said of the 9-for-13. "They scored touchdowns, made some big plays, ran the ball extremely well. What's funny or really not so funny is usually that's how we beat people. We beat people with that type of efficiency, with that type of tempo, with those big plays, with that run game, with that balance, with momentum, with staying on the field converting third downs. That's usually the way we beat people."
The Bengals know they're at their best when they run.
"I think he's going to become a great running back," said left tackle Andrew Whitworth, Hill's LSU big brother. "He's continuing to run in between his pads and that's why he's running well. When you look at some of the better backs in the league, they don't try to cut and dance around a lot. It seems to me that the more he puts his head down and plays straight ahead, he'll be okay. He has the unique ability as a back to be real physical and athletic and that's a rare combination."
The eminently quotable Hill can sometimes get on Marvin Lewis' rookie side. But the head coach knows he's got a budding star on his hands.
"Jeremy is such a tough runner. As he keeps going and just becomes a Bengal and just plays
football, he'll only be more and more impressive," Lewis said. "He's got a lot of ability - he's strong, he can cut and run, he's
got great speed, great vision and can catch the football. He's a very complete player. As a young guy, he's showing a lot right now. We've got to feel good about that."
Hill made Lewis work up to the very last second of the half. From his own 14 with 14 seconds left, Hill took what was supposed to be the last play of the half and broke it for the longest run of his career and a huge field goal with one second left that made it 13-3.
Right guard Kevin Zeitler, center Russell Bodine, and fullback Ryan Hewitt just blew up their defenders on the right side and Hill did the rest. Lewis said he didn't see Hill cut back on cornerback Corey White instead of go out of bounds because the minute he broke into the clear, he was sprinting to the referee to call timeout.
"I was surprised there was only one second left. I thought there would be
enough time but I'm glad we were able to save one second," Lewis said. "When I saw him cut and make the guy miss, it was off to the races and I'm trying to beat Jeremy down to the official."
Asked if it's the fastest he's run in 40 years, the 56-year-old Lewis said, "The fastest in 56 years." Hill said he knew he had enough time.
"That's why I skinnied the guy up at the end," Hill said. "I knew time was running low. I kind of looked down at the clock and saw it was about four seconds left. I got down and we were able to call timeout. I just wanted to see what time I had. I wasn't close enough to get out of bounds. I was in the middle of the field; I just had to get down.
"It was a weak-side run and they were committed pretty hard to it," Hill said. "I found a crease and just busted right up in there. Any time you know they've got a lot guys in the box and you find the crease, you can go a long way. That was a big play for us. That's why you don't (sit) on the ball before the half. You want to set yourself up for a big play."
Hill has made enough big plays to be on pace for nearly 900 yards in the last six games, the most by a Bengals rookie runner since Corey Dillon with 1,129 in 1997. With 556 yards on 4.9 yards per carry, he's 139 yards shy of what Giovani Bernard did as a rookie last year. With Bernard expected back this week after missing the last three games, the Bengals look to have their backfield flexed for the stretch.
"Early on, that's been our Achilles' heel this season. New England just played Cover Two and Cleveland did it. All the teams did it," Hill said. "They'd just sit back and play coverage and just hope for us to make mistakes. Obviously today, it kind of backfired a little bit on them because we made plays."