One reason the Bengals have surged back into playoff contention: their running game has taken a major step forward.
In recent years, the Bengals have largely had a persistent-but-punchless rushing attack, and through the first nine games of 2012, that was again the case, with Cincinnati gaining just 843 yards on 228 attempts (3.7 yards per carry). However, in the Bengals’ last three games — all victories — the rushing attack has been outstanding, racking up 538 yards on 104 attempts (5.2 yards per attempt).
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been the star of the Bengals' ground-game turnaround, exceeding 100 yards in each of the last three games and thriving in a heavy-duty featured back role. For his part, Green-Ellis, who’s in his first season with the Bengals, has said the running game needed time to jell.
The Bengals were expected to turn to a rotation at running back with Green-Ellis and Bernard Scott, but those plans were dashed when Scott suffered a season-ending injury. Though Cedric Peerman has done well spelling Green-Ellis of late, Green-Ellis has received the bulk of the carries, and he has responded very well. In the last two games alone, Green-Ellis has reeled off the three longest runs of his career (39, 41 and 48 yards).
Credit is also due to the Bengals’ blocking, both in the trenches and on the edges.
“We keep blocking at wide receiver better and that helps those big runs,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said after the Bengals’ Week 13 win at San Diego. “ … Those are the things that we have to keep doing. I keep pointing those things out. You want to get more chances to catch touchdowns? Let’s get Benny in the secondary more often.”
One example of strong blocking from the receiving corps came Sunday, when slot WR Andrew Hawkins sealed off Chargers CB Quentin Jammer on Green-Ellis’ 39-yard run.