Rookie Bernard growing into big role for Bengals

Giovani Bernard was heading back to the huddle after a long run

when he got a compliment from one of the Colts linebackers.

”After the play, he was like, `You’re a shifty dude,”’ Bernard

said.

Shifty. Elusive. And quickly growing into an integral part of

the Cincinnati offense.

Bernard had his best game on Sunday, running for a career-high

99 yards and catching four passes for 49 yards during a 42-28 win

over the Colts. He leads the AFC in yards from scrimmage by a

rookie with 1,023, giving the Bengals (9-4) the dual threat out of

the backfield they’ve lacked for years.

With BenJarvus Green-Ellis filling the role of power runner, the

Bengals have a combination that reminds them of the last time they

made a deep playoff run.

They made it to the Super Bowl in 1988 with a running tandem of

James Brooks and Ickey Woods. Woods did the straight-ahead running

and danced his ”Ickey Shuffle” after a score. Brooks was the

dual-threat back who was second on the team in rushing and fourth

in receiving.

”It’s just going to continue,” Bernard said. ”We’ve just

really hit our stride.”

The Bengals have been looking for a dual-threat back for years.

They took Chris Perry in the first round in 2004, but he was hurt a

lot. They took halfback Kenny Irons in the second round in 2007;

that didn’t work out either. Change-of-pace running back Bernard

Scott came in the sixth round in 2009, but also was hurt.

Bernard, a second-round pick out of North Carolina, has finally

filled the niche.

”I think back to 2008 when Ray Rice was a rookie,” coach

Marvin Lewis said, referring to the Ravens’ star running back.

”Some of his runs – low to the ground with his hands down – that’s

who we kind of likened Gio to as we evaluated him out of

college.”

The Bengals have taken a while to figure out how to blend the

two together. They’ve found the right mix in the last few

weeks.

Bernard has at least 95 yards rushing and receiving in four of

the last five games. On Sunday, he came up 1 yard shy of becoming

the first Bengals running back to run for 100 yards this

season.

”For me, the biggest thing that I try to do is just all-purpose

yards,” Bernard said. ”It’s not the running, it’s not the

(receiving), it’s just a combination of the two.”

Even though the Bengals haven’t had a 100-yard rusher, they’ve

had big games with the two of them running the ball. They piled up

155 yards against the Colts, the fifth time this season they’ve

rushed for more than 150 in a game.

Green-Ellis had 48 yards on 17 carries against the Colts and a

pair of touchdown runs, including one they were still talking about

Monday. The Bengals went for it on fourth down from the

Indianapolis 1-yard line late in the first half.

Nose tackle Josh Chapman swiped at Green-Ellis’ feet and

appeared to trip him in the backfield. Green-Ellis stumbled forward

and landed at the 1, then stretched the ball into the end zone. He

was initially ruled down at the 1, but the Bengals were awarded a

touchdown upon review.

Referee Jeff Triplette said the review focused only on whether

Green-Ellis was touched as he fell at the 1-yard line, not whether

he was tripped in the backfield.

Triplette’s crew had trouble getting the down and distance

correct at the end of the Giants’ 24-17 win over Washington last

week.

”I guess it’s just not a good week for those guys,”

Green-Ellis said Monday. ”I’m just happy that we get one in our

favor. Man, we’ve had so many calls go against us in the opposite

direction. So I’m happy to get one and that we got away with that

one like that.”

Notes: CB Terence Newman had a brace on his left leg Monday. He

hurt his knee late in Sunday’s game. It’s unclear how many games

he’ll miss. … The Bengals’ sloppy tackling allowed Colts

receivers to pile up 206 yards after catches on Sunday, the most

they’d allowed since 2009, according to STATS.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org