Updated: 7:25 p.m.
After a season frustrated by the Bengals not running the ball as much as they did in last season's AFC North title run, an emotional Cedric Benson choked back tears after his season-high 31 carries for 150 yards put him over 1,000 for the second straight season in Sunday's 19-17 victory over the Browns at Paul Brown Stadium.
It was the first time Benson carried the ball 30 times this season and Cincinnati's 188 yards on 45 carries were a season high.
"I was foolish enough to question myself," Benson said. "Self doubt, not necessarily growing roots, but presenting itself, and finally things came together . ... Another additive to the emotion, this is the reality of the business, and it's the reality of my life and career. I don't have a deal next year. Along with everything, I'm running for a deal. That's part of the emotion, too."
What a difference a week makes? Last Sunday in Pittsburgh, Benson had 19 yards on eight carries. Against the Browns, Benson carried eight straight times for 37 yards in a nine-play drive in the third quarter that yielded a field goal.
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Bengals wide receiver Terrell Owens says he's out for the year with a torn meniscus in his left knee, leaving him with 72 catches for 983 yards after he reaggravated it early in Sunday's 19-17 win over Cleveland. That means he hit two of his six incentives, giving him $666,666 on top of his $2 million salary.
Owens, 37, said he'll be able to play next season, but he doesn't know where: "This (injury) is minor."
It left Owens 17 yards away from joining Jerry Rice and Randy Moss as the only players with 10 10,000-yard seasons.
Owens, who left practice Thursday on a cart and didn't work Wednesday or Friday, is staring at his first appearance on injured reserve in his 15 seasons in the league. Sunday's game at PBS against the Chargers is going to be the first game he's missed because of injury since he broke his leg in 2004 and made it back in time to play in the Super Bowl.
He said he originally got hurt two weeks ago against New Orleans and it didn't take long to buckle Sunday. He and Chad Ochocinco didn't start, but they came in on the second play and Owens was gone on the sixth play just 6:39 into the game.
"There's no swelling. It's one of those freak things. I just planted," Owens said. "It happened two weeks ago when we played the Saints when I got undercut, but I didn't really realize it. I still played. I played that entire game and I played the entire game last week. I've been playing on it."
Owens says he'll get a second opinion and he has no opinion where he'll be playing next year.
"That's the least of my worries right now," he said.
It is not expected that the Bengals will try to re-sign Owens. There are also indications they won't exercise the $6 million option on Chad Ochocinco, which is why they may not mind Andre Caldwell and Jerome Simpson playing a bunch of snaps in the last two games.
» Caldwell responded playing in Owens' flanker position with a career-high 89 yards on four catches. He also had the big block on Benson's 18-yard touchdown run that tied the game at seven early in the second quarter. The other wideout from the '08 draft, Simpson, doubled his career catches with two for 30 yards, in just his third game this season and 11th of his career.
But Benson raved about Simpson and Caldwell's blocking.
"Let me take the time to send out a big congratulations and a big thank you to Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell," Benson said. "They played excellent today. In the run game they had all the right fits. There was never an issue there, which created a lot of big runs. Even in the pass game they stepped up. I'm very proud of those guys. That's beautiful."
» Browns rookie safety T.J. Ward talked to Bengals wide receiver Jordan Shipley on Sunday and said he didn't mean to hurt him back on Oct. 3, when Ward got fined $10,000 for hitting Shipley in the head and giving him a concussion.
» Bengals WILL linebacker Brandon Johnson has christened the young pass rushers "The Fisher-Price Toy Package," and in the game before Christmas, they came up with three of the four sacks. Rookie left end Carlos Dunlap had two and rookie tackle Geno Atkins one. Dunlap now has seven for the season, 1.5 off Justin Smith's club rookie record of 8.5 set in 2001.
» Biggest play of the game was Quan Cosby's grab of the Browns onside kick with 2:11 left when Phil Dawson quick-kicked it. Cosby is one of the anchors on the hands team in the middle up front.
"He was looking suspicious over there when he was lining the ball up," Cosby said of Dawson. "For one, we knew if it was going to be an onside kick it was going to be on the ground in front of the tee. But the way he set it up, he put it on the tee, so when we saw that, we knew he was either going to kick it deep or middle-bunt it, and it would be coming right to me. And that's what they did."
» With four field goals Sunday, rookie Clint Stitserhas hit seven straight field goals to open his Bengals' career, two shy of the record Mike Nugent set to start this season.
»Signed on Wednesday, cornerback Keiwan Ratliff's third stintwith the Bengals almost had a disastrous start with 2:13 left in the game. He commited the cardinal sin in Cover 2 protecting a late lead when he gambled to make a leaping interception on a ball headed to wide receiver Brian Robiske on the sideline. But he had a bad angle and Robiske caught it and had no one behind him at the Bengals 20 as he ran it in for a 46-yard touchdow that cut the Bengals lead to 19-17.
"When he jumped before I did, that screwed me up and I jumped after him," Ratliff said. "I should have done the safe thing and knocked him out-of-bounds after he caught it."
But other than that, not a bad day for the new/old kid. Ratliff figures he played about 30 snaps in the slot, where he held Chansi Stuckey to one catch for two yards, and that was a third-down tackle by Ratliff that forced a punt.