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Update: Marked man, new man for offense; Tix deadline optimism

Cedric Benson

Now the question is after Sunday's air show in Cleveland, are foes going to continue to dare Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer to throw?

After not getting 100 yards in the season's first four games, running back Cedric Benson says it looks like defenses have vowed to stop him after last year's 4.2-yard effort led the NFL for a few weeks and gave him 1,251 yards for the season.

After the Browns virtually blitzed every down last Sunday to take him away, Benson is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry and would barely reach 1,000 yards at the 65 yards per game pace. Last year he didn't have more than two games without a 100-yarder and five straight without one would match his longest drought as a Bengal. And those came in 2008 after he didn't get in pads until Oct. 1.

Benson knows all about it. But after getting four yards per pop against Cleveland, he thinks the running game can get back there pretty quickly.

"I definitely noticed that," he said of his numbers. "Absolutely. It is close. We've been close in a couple of games. ... Up until this point, the running game hasn't been quite where I would like it to be and I'm taking a lot of notice to that and make sure I'm trying to take the right steps to turn that around. I think it's a great challenge. I feel privileged to be a marked man."

Left tackle Andrew Whitworth says the adjustments aren't going to happen overnight.

"(Cleveland) had some really good adjustments," Whitworth said. "They brought the safeties and corners off the edges and we really didn't have an answer for that. That's a good job by them ... as the season goes we'll be able to adjust to those things and have an answer. You just don't know how people are to going to play you. People are suddenly playing you differently than they have before."

Benson is getting used to the seeing the safeties in his backyard.

"I think Carolina had their safeties down a lot in the box," he said. "Of course Baltimore feels like they can beat you up front with what they've got. Week 1, New England had their safeties down as well. Each week has got to be a challenge for the run game. The passing game showed a lot of promise last week. And those guys are looking good. Looks like they're figuring out their flow and getting in a rhythm. It should help everything else out."

Six of Benson's runs for 45 yards came out of the no-huddle Sunday. Which meant he had 15 yards on nine carries out of a huddle. He can add. He's all for going to the no-huddle more.

"Sure, why not? If we're successful in doing that, then absolutely," he said.

"I think no-huddle gives defenses different looks," Benson said. "It's hard for them to call out a play and size up on defense. Blitzes and all that stuff. We threw them a little off balance with that. The no-huddle tends to do that."

But in the end, Benson thinks defenses would rather get thrown on than run on. If Benson gets 222 yards rushing instead of wide receiver Terrell Owens receiving, there is no doubt who wins the game.

"My honest opinion, I don't think teams are really fearful of the passing game," Benson said. "They're still going to try and not allow us to run on them and they'll try to stop that. Because if we ever run up and down the field on you, we're going to control the game for an easy win."

CALDWELL ANNIVERSARY: It was on Oct. 11 last year that wide receiver Andre Caldwell made one of the biggest catches in Bengals history, a 20-yarder with 22 seconds left that beat the Ravens in Baltimore, 17-14. That came in a four-receiver set with all the receivers running a "vertical," and since the drafting of Jordan Shipley that's the only way Caldwell has been able to get on the field.

But with Shipley saddled with a concussion, Caldwell expects to have a bigger role Oct. 10 at home against Tampa Bay as the third receiver in the slot.

Even though head coach Marvin Lewis called him the team's most improved player during the offseason, Caldwell has slid into anonymity with the emergence of Shipley and the signing of Owens. He saw one of his busiest days of the season last week with the Bengals using a steady diet of three- and four-receiver sets and converted a third down inside early in finishing with three catches for 15 yards.

"It's an opportunity to show the coaches and this team that I'm the guy to depend on," said Caldwell, who admits he's had to come to terms with the lesser role. "Mentally it's tough. I just roll with it. When my time comes, I know I'm a better player than last year. In all aspects of the game. Running routes. Mentally. Just doing everything I improved on in the offseason."

If he's going to get on the field, Caldwell knows that means he has to hold on to the ball. His fumble in the last minute in Oakland and another after catching a pass in the last two minutes in San Diego killed the Bengals last year.

But he also knows that 364 days ago he didn't drop it.

"It's another opportunity to be out there hopefully making plays," he said.

SELLOUT HOPEFUL: After a big day at the ticket office Wednesday, there is hope that the Bengals will be able to announce Thursday by 1 p.m. that they've beaten the NFL's 72-hour deadline for their 55th straight sellout, putting the game on Cincinnati's Fox 19.

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