CINCINNATI — Cedric Benson sprinted onto the field during pregame introductions, a sign he was inspired after missing two games with a bad hip. Tough carry by tough carry, he ran into Cincinnati Bengals history.
The running back tied the franchise record with his fifth 100-yard game of the season on Sunday, setting up a 23-13 victory over the Detroit Lions that had even greater significance for the franchise.
The Bengals (9-3) assured themselves of a winning record for only the second time in 19 years. The other one came in 2005, when Cincinnati won the AFC North and lost its opening playoff game to Pittsburgh. The latest win left Cincinnati with a 2 1/2-game lead over Baltimore, which plays at Green Bay on Monday night.
“It puts us in a great position,” said Chad Ochocinco, who had a season-high 137 yards on nine catches. “We don’t have to depend on other people to win. We control our own destiny at this point. It’s a very, very, very good feeling for us as a team and a city. It’s pretty cool, man.”
A commitment to running the ball has carried them to the doorstep of the playoffs. In each of the past three games, a different Cincinnati running back has topped 100 yards, the first time that’s happened in the NFL since Green Bay did it in 2006.
Benson finished with 110 yards on 36 carries and became the focal point once Cincinnati got ahead.
“I love carrying the ball that much,” Benson said.