Benson topped 100 yards for the second straight game against the Ravens. (AP photo)
Updated: 9:10 a.m.
The last time a running back had two 100-yard games against the Ravens, it was 1997 and Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was the Ravens defensive coordinator and middle linebacker Ray Lewis was in just his second season of a Hall of Fame career as Baltimore's middle linebacker.
After the Bengals' Cedric Benson did the feat Sunday with his 117-yard effort in the 17-7 victory just 28 days after he had 120 yards in Baltimore, the Bengals locker room acted as if it had never heard Ray Lewis' comments during the week that basically said Benson would have to do it again to prove it wasn't a fluke.
"We managed to do that," Benson said. "I think it says something about us as an offense on the ground. We made a large statement in the passing game, now we're making an even larger statement in the running game. We're finding ourselves to be complete now. I think we're done treading uphill as an offense. We found some level ground to run on."
No need to question the Bengals commitment to the run now. After Benson pounded it 34 times Sunday, he now has a whopping 198 carries and a 33-carry lead on Steven Jackson with a 396-carry pace. He's second in rushing with 837 yards, 122 shy of Tennessee's Chris Johnson, but on pace to become the first Bengals 1,600-yard rusher.
With his fourth 100-yard game, Benson has eight games to set the Bengals season record of six. James Brooks, Ickey Woods, Harold Green, Corey Dillon and Rudi Johnson have all had seasons of five 100-yard games.
It was vintage Benson, setting the tone with 80 yards on 18 carries in the first half. On the first drive he discovered the Ravens were jamming the middle with the intent of stuffing him. He got 12 yards purely on his own when he found nothing on the left inside and he muscled to the outside and ran out of safety Dawan Landry's arm tackle. Then he followed fullback Jeremi Johnson on a misdirection from left to right for a 21-yard gain in which Johnson made a great kick-out block on outside linebacker Terrell Suggs to put the Bengals in the red zone and set up the Bengals' first score.
"I think the run has allowed the passing game to be as successful as it has been," Benson said. "Their main focus was to stop the run. They were playing tight in the box early. They were very aggressive toward the run. We did a lot of play-action, which was to our benefit. We just stayed with our game. Didn't shy from it. Which says a lot about the confidence the coach has in us."
BIG PLAY: The Bengals' biggest play might have been the incompletion on fourth-and-two from the Ravens 39 with 4:27 left in the first quarter and the Bengals leading, 7-0. How much confidence does quarterback Carson Palmer have in wide receiver Chad Ochocinco? As the Ravens brought a double blitz, Palmer saw The Ocho lined up on cornerback Fabian Washington one-on-one down the right sideline and pumped a bomb to him after they gave hand signals to each other. It paid off in a pass interference call on Washington at the 15 that set up the second touchdown.
"He had the inside leverage," said Palmer, indicating that Ochocinco said it would have been a touchdown if Washington hadn't grabbed him.
VERN BURNS: Wide receiver Laveranues Coles, "Vern" to his teammates, hasn't had the smoothest of transitions to the Bengals. But despite the slow start the 10-year veteran's professionalism has had big boosters in head coach Marvin Lewis and quarterback Carson Palmer and on Sunday it showed why. Coles had Bengals highs of six catches for 72 yards, and the 32-year-old had the longest Bengals play of the day with a spry run and catch along the sideline.
He got a nice block at the tail end from The Ocho on cornerback Chris Carr after spinning out of Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed's tackle to get about 20 of the yards. Reed had more whiffs than Ryan Howard on Sunday and that was the second time Coles made Reed miss. The first time came in the red zone when he wriggled out of Reed's grasp on a reverse that would have stopped him close to no gain, but he got eight to set up a touchdown.
But the true veteran contribution came early in the second quarter. On the same play that Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry fractured his left forearm, cornerback Fabian Washington got hurt and was replaced by rookie Ladarius Webb. Two snaps later on third-and-10, Palmer rolled out and Coles schooled Webb running across the middle to the sideline for a 14-yard gain on third-and-10.
Then with Webb playing off the line on the next snap, Palmer threw a quick sideways pass to Coles for a seven-yard gain and the Bengals were headed to their final score, a 23-yard Shayne Graham field goal with 7:45 left in the first half for a 17-0 lead.
"He is a guy that really understands how to play the game, how to block and his role within the team," Palmer said. "He really understands the offense for being a first-year guy (in Cincinnati), and he makes big play after big play. He made two nice plays where he broke a tackle and got downfield. We had a broken play where I scrambled around a little bit and he made a really nice move to get open. He is just a veteran, a really good football player."
With Henry down, Coles looks to be hitting his stride just in time.
"It's going to hurt," Palmer said of the Henry injury. "He is a big-play guy, a guy we depend on on third down and expect to come through in a number of situations. We have to roll with the punches and find a guy to make some of those plays he made and stretch the field the way he did. It's tough; your heart goes out to Chris. He loves the game and was so excited with the way things were going this year. For him to have to go through that is going to be tough. Maurice Purify, Jerome Simpson, Quan Cosby ... whoever it might be are going to have to step up and make plays."
FORMULA ONE: Now people are starting to notice. Former Bears coach Mike Ditka told ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike Monday morning that the '09 Bengals have more "substance" when it comes to toughness than past teams. After the game, Palmer agreed that the club had moved closer to being an AFC North clone.
"I think Baltimore and Pittsburgh have set the tone for the AFC North and were the ones to come up with the formula, which is good solid defense, run the football and control the field position game," Palmer said. "I think that is something we have turned into. We used to be an air-it-out, explosive offense, and when you play in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Baltimore and Cincinnati, you get to those December games and you can't throw the ball 40 times. You have to be able to run the ball. We are at a good point now where we have to continue to get better and run the ball better."