Bengals’ RB tandem has them in high gear

The Bengals still don’t have a 100-yard game by either of their

running backs, a surprising statistic for a team that likes to

grind it out whenever possible.

Just shows how well their tandem is working.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis had his best game of the season Sunday,

finishing off a 17-10 win in San Diego by running over defenders

while the Bengals (8-4) ran out the clock. The tackle-to-tackle

runner finished with a season-high 92 yards. Rookie Giovani Bernard

added 57 yards.

Cincinnati piled up 164 overall on the ground, the fourth time

the Bengals have rushed for more than 160 yards in a game this

season.

There’s no single star in this running game.

”Those guys really complement each other well,” offensive

coordinator Jay Gruden said on Monday. ”Bennie’s obviously a

banger and Gio can do some different things. He softens up the

defense because they’re worried about the passing game with him

swinging out of the backfield. So both of them are very effective

with what they do.

”The important thing is to keep them fresh and try to stick

with it.”

Their showing on Sunday was in some respects their most

impressive yet, even though they remain one of only six teams in

the league without a 100-yard rusher this season. The line was in

flux after left guard Clint Boling tore the anterior cruciate

ligament in his right knee during the first quarter.

Left tackle Andrew Whitworth moved into Boling’s spot and

Anthony Collins came in to play left tackle. Coach Marvin Lewis

said Monday that Boling would have surgery.

Despite the line changes, the Bengals were able to run the ball

when it mattered.

Green-Ellis scored on a 4-yard run in the second quarter. With

the Bengals leading 17-10 and 4:43 left, they got the ball at their

34-yard line and ran out the clock. Their last eight plays were

runs, followed by Andy Dalton twice going to his knee as the clock

ran out.

Green-Ellis converted a pair of third-down rushes to keep that

final drive going.

”I get a lot of that Mariano Rivera stuff,” Green-Ellis said

Monday, referring to the Yankees closer. ”I guess I’m getting a

new nickname. It’s fun. Obviously you like to have the ball in your

hands to close out games.”

Green-Ellis, whose nickname is ”The Law Firm,” is known for

holding onto the ball when other teams are trying to rip it out of

his arms. The Bengals had a chance to put the game away midway

through the fourth quarter on Sunday, but he lost a fumble for only

the fourth time in his career.

The Bengals got the ball back, and he held on.

”When you give up one of those, it’s like you have something

burning inside of you that you didn’t even know you had,”

Green-Ellis said. ”You just get a lot more energy and power.”

Gruden could sense an extra determination by Green-Ellis on that

last drive.

”He hasn’t put the ball down too many times in his career,”

Gruden said. ”You could tell when he does, it hurts him more than

it hurts us. It hurts us a lot, but it really hurts him. And you

want to make up for it, and he did.”

Part of the reason the Bengals don’t have a 100-yard rusher is

because their two backs are sharing plays. Green-Ellis has carried

176 times for 614 yards; Bernard has 119 carries for 521 yards.

Using them interchangeably has kept both fresh and allowed Gruden

to get creative.

”It lets coach Gruden utilize his entire playbook and not limit

him at all,” Bernard said. ”If there’s a situation where I need

to go in, he’ll throw me in. If there’s a situation he wants Benny

in, he’ll throw him in. It definitely helps us and we definitely

use it to our advantage.”

NOTES: Lewis is considering keeping Whitworth at left guard this

Sunday against the Colts (8-4) at Paul Brown Stadium. Lewis said

there’s a chance right guard Kevin Zeitler, who missed the last two

games with an injured right foot, could be back in practice this

week. … CB Dre Kirkpatrick said he left the locker room quickly

on Sunday because he was emotional over his first career

interception. ”I just wanted to take it all in,” he said.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org