The Bengals were trying to get running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis 100 yards Sunday in Kansas City and why not get the Law Firm some extra clients? No other stat in any era means as much as 100 yards rushing. Unless it is turnover differential.
If anyone knows that it is Bengals running backs coach Jim Anderson, the dean of NFL assistant coaches. No other coach has been with a team longer than Anderson's 29 straight seasons coaching backs from JB (James Brooks) to CD (Corey Dillon), to Rudi J. (Rudi Johnson) to the 101 yards of BJGE against the Chiefs. That made head coach Marvin Lewis 31-7 with a 100-yard rusher, but it's always been a key.
Anderson's first head coach, Sam Wyche, was 22-8 with a 100-yard rusher. Dave Shula had only five and it was a big reason he was 19-52, but he was a .600 coach with 100-yard rushers at 3-2. Bruce Coslet and Dick LeBeau were a combined 39 games under .500, but both were even in games with 100-yard rushers.
Green-Ellis had 87 yards after he ran the first two plays of the fourth quarter Sunday for 12 yards and the rest was one long grind. Four of his last seven carries went for no gain, but everybody east of the Mississippi knew he was getting the ball to kill the clock in a 28-6 victory.
"We were aware that he needed like 13 yards there at the end of the game, and he was grinding pretty good," said offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. "He needs to be our closer anyway, so we needed to run the ball and get a couple of first downs and keep the clock going, keep our defense on the sideline. Unfortunately we didn't do it. He did get his 100, but it wasn't easy, that's for sure."
The 38 carries were the most runs the Bengals have had in Gruden's two seasons and he said it was partly because of the run-friendly looks the Chiefs showed and partly because the Bengals wanted to emphasize it. For one thing, they think their rookies, right guard Kevin Zeitler and center Trevor Robinson, excel in that kind of game.
"We had some good looks at some runs throughout the game, so we stuck with it; it was important," Gruden said. "It's important for our guys to get dirty. Guys like Zeitler, who comes from Wisconsin. He likes that stuff. And Trevor from Notre Dame. It was exciting to see him play against a good nose tackle and get some movement. Of course, the rest of the guys followed suit, and we ran the ball well. I think we ran the ball 38 times, and of that 38 I don't think we had any negative plays, which is also a very key element in continuing to run the ball."
Green-Ellis became the 14th back to have a 100-yard game under Anderson. Here's the breakdown, complete with the Bengals record in the games they did it:
» 28 - Corey Dillon (15-13)
» 19 - Rudi Johnson (15-4)
» 17 - James Brooks (13-4)
» 15 - Cedric Benson (13-2)
» 8 - Harold Green (4-4)
» 5 - Ickey Woods (5-0)
» 4 - Larry Kinnebrew (2-2)
» 2 - Kenny Watson (2-0)
» 1 - Stanley Wilson (1-0)
» 1 - Marc Logan (1-0)
» 1 - Ki-Jana Carter (0-1)
» 1 - Bernard Scott (0-1)
» 1 - Larry Johnson (1-0)
» 1 - BenJarvus Green-Ellis (1-0)
Note: Brooks (163) and Wilson (120) did it in the same game, a 31-7 win in New England on Dec. 7, 1986.
DR. DRE: The other man of the hour Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium is rookie cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, the player the Bengals picked with one of the draft choices they got in the Carson Palmer deal. He arrived via Oakland's first-round pick at No. 17 and if the trend continues he'll play the most snaps of his career to end a month head coach Marvin Lewis likes to call Kirkpatrick's preseason.
"He got to extend his windpipes a little bit, and that was good for him," Lewis said after Kirkpatrick logged nearly half the defense's snaps with 26 plays this past Sunday in Kansas City.
The way Lewis sees it, since Kirkpatrick missed all but three days of training camp, didn't start practicing regularly until late September with the bone spur in his leg, and didn't make his NFL debut until Nov. 4, Sunday's assignment against Palmer is merely his fourth preseason game.
And Lewis has been absolutely delighted the way Kirkpatrick has responded.
"He made big plays on special teams again, and he's doing a great deal. He's involved in downing the ball, he goes down and smothers the ball inside the five, he made plays physically on defense," Lewis said. "It's really been just two (games on defense). It would have been hard for me to script anything better than what he's had the chance to do the last couple weeks. When you don't get to play the preseason or the first six weeks of the regular season, this playing for him has come at a great time. He's playing in a game when it counts, and he's doing a good job."
Kirkpatrick also played more snaps on special teams Sunday against the Chiefs with 18, or 64 percent in three of the four phases. Special teams coach Darrin Simmons had him at gunner replacing wide receiver Andrew Hawkins (knee) on the punt cover team, while also putting him on kickoff and punt return. Hawkins has been brilliant downing punter Kevin Huber's pooch punts and Kirkpatrick stepped right in late in the third quarter to down a punt from the Chiefs 39 at the Kansas City 4.
"He's playing more. He's learning as he goes, but he's showing improvement," said Simmons, who is also relying on Kirkpatrick's varied college experience on special teams at Alabama. "He made big plays at gunner the other day. That was good. Now we've just get to get him to make him a couple of tackles. That will come."
Kirkpatrick, who had two tackles from scrimmage, may have made his biggest contribution not being physical at all on punt return as the Chiefs gunner went out-of-bounds three times and drew penalties.
"If Dre reaches up and touches him, it's not a penalty," Simmons said. "He read the release. The guy released really flat and Dre didn't touch him."
"He's very willing. He's very into it. He wants to play," said Simmons, who doesn't buy the theory that a lot of first-rounders would look down playing on special teams. "He's a football player. He wants to play. He knows if he wants to get on the field, that's what he has to do."
Lewis likes what the 6-2 Kirpatrick is doing from scrimmage because he's showing those traits the club saw in the draft process that made him stand out on tape with a presence.
"The thing that you see is it's not too big for him. He's going to compete and fight his butt off out there," Lewis said. "He is doing it on special teams. He is seeing what NFL football is all about, as a secondary player, like (Vontaze) Burfict is at linebacker. When you are a defensive player in the National Football League, you are involved in a couple special teams plays, you are involved on defense, and you have to be able to answer the bell. He's doing that.
"That was the thing that was so attractive about him: he's so long. The way he's running, how smooth he is right now in playing. He's continuing to learn to make that conversion to play that football in the air, so now he stays on top of that fourth-down play so now maybe he has a chance to intercept it. Now, hopefully we bat it down in that situation, but that's the thing; he keeps getting better and better and better. He's playing physical, he's making tackles. That's what you want to have him do."