Jeremy Hill had a career day Sunday against the Browns with 168 yards.
The first thing Browns head coach Hue Jackson wanted to do in the last two seasons he was the Bengals offensive coordinator was run the ball.
The second thing he wanted was a big back to make it come true and that's why he stood on the table for LSU's Jeremy Hill in the second round of the 2014 draft.
So entering Sunday's game at sold-out Paul Brown Stadium the Bengals were on pace to have their fewest rushing yards ever, but they rose up behind Hill and showed Jackson they can still do it with a 271-yard rush effort that was their most since Dec. 3, 2000, when Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was still a defensive coordinator and Jackson was still a college coach.
It was a we-really-needed-that day for a Bengals offense that had come in reeling averaging just 18 points per game and 28th in red zone touchdown efficiency. But with Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert playing in limited fashion during his first game of the season Sunday, there's a light at the end of the tunnel as they head to London for next Sunday's game against Washington
"This is good for the guys," said right tackle Eric Winston, who rotated every third series with Cedric Ogbuehi. "I think it reinforced a lot of things the coaches have been saying and what we've been saying. We're close, but we have to go that extra mile to get it done. I think today you saw some guys throwing some blocks downfield with a little extra effort and at the point of attack. Exploding some big runs. A.J. (Green) was A.J. and everything played into itself."
It took Hill just nine carries for a career-high 168 yards, a 74-yard touchdown run providing the answer to Cleveland closing to 21-17 early in the third quarter. It was Jackson watching his own monster devour him when Bengals offensive coordinator Ken Zampese got the shifts rolling.
Winston lined up next to left tackle Andrew Whitworth, then shifted with tight end Tyler Kroft to the right. Then Whitworth and left guard Clint Boling pulled and Hill knifed between Whitworth and Kroft as Winston and tight end C.J. Uzomah sealed the perimeter and Hill outran the secondary. Hill ripped it off down the right edge, his longest since the 80-yarder got them into the 2014 playoffs against Denver on Dec. 22.
"That got the momentum in our favor. It was definitely a turning point," Hill said. "I didn't do a thing on that play. It was great blocking. I just ran through it like it was a walk through."
Whitworth left early in concussion protocol, so he's questionable for next Sunday, leaving some doubt on an offensive line where Ogbuehi have up two sacks. Dalton has now been sacked 22 times in seven games, more than in his 13 starts last year and 16 in 2014.
Hill, battling an assortment of bruises, said he could have played more but they backed him off while he rooted for running back Giovani Bernard to get 100 yards. Bernard finished with 80 on 17 carries, his most since Oct. 11, 2014 in the overtime win over Seattle.
So the Bengals, who came in with 539 yards on the season, got more than half that Sunday …
GREEN PASTURES: Green remains on fire with eight more catches for 169 yards, including the unbelievable 48-yard Hail Mary touchdown on the last play of the first half.
According to ESPN Stats, Green is just the sixth player in the last 30 years to have three 150-yard games in the first seven games. He tipped it at least three times before hauling it in to his body with his right hand in what has to be his best catch. As a Bengal.
"I made some good catches in high school and college," Green said when asked if it was his best ever.
He's on a torrid pace for 1,771 yards, which would make him the first Bengal to break 1,500 and stake his claim as the best receiver in the NFL. With 6,946 career yards, Green moved past Carl Pickens into third place on the Bengals' all-time receiving list and he's 156 yards shy of second place and passing Isaac Curtis' 7,101 yards. Leader Chad Johnson's 10,783 looms.
It was also the first time since the 37-37 tie in 2014 against Carolina that the Bengals had a 300-yard passer (Andy Dalton went for 308), 100-yard receiver, and 100-yard rusher. The last time they did it in regulation was when they got beat in Cleveland in 2007, 51-45, despite Carson Palmer and Chad and Rudi Johnson hitting the marks.
READING THE ZONE: Leave it to Jackson to come up with something that forced defensive coordinator Paul Guenther to draw up a response on the sidelines. The Browns plucked Hogan off the practice squad a few weeks ago and then unveiled the Stanford rookie in the first quarter, when he stunned the Bengals on back-to-back zone reads of 15-yard gains.
Jackson planned to use Hogan as a gadget, but then had to use him as a quarterback when Cody Kessler went out with a concussion and as one Bengal said, "We were better off with Kessler in there."
"They were giving us stuff we hadn't seen. It all loked similar, but it really wasn't," said safety Shawn Williams. "We hadn't even seen him. We didn't know he was over there."
Hogan ended up running seven times for 104 yards, becoming only the third quarterback in history to rush for 100 yards against the Bengals, joining Cam Newton (2014) and Kordell Stewart (1998). Basically, the Browns had pretty much run the zone read only with wide receive Terrelle Pryor running it to the outside. On Sunday, Jackson had Hogan hitting up inside with some new plays.
Guenther made a good enough adjustment to force Kessler to throw 24 times, which was a good thing since Kessler got fewer yards passing it (100) than running it.
"Sometimes the end has to stay outside, sometimes the linebackers scrape over," said linebacker Vontaze Burfict. "Half the time they are putting me outside the box and doing the option the other way so I couldn't obviously do anything about it, but that's what teams are doing. They are scheming up on us, figuring out how to run away from me and Geno ((Atkins) and that's the game plan."
Linebacker Vincent Rey said the Bengals worked it out so they called out before each snap whether it was going to be an end or a linebacker taking the quarterback.
The Cincinnati Bengals host the Cleveland Browns at Paul Brown Stadium in week 7 of the regular season 10/23/2016