Rookie running back helps keep Bengals in first place

Published 1:08 am Tuesday, November 4, 2014

CINCINNATI (AP) — Jeremy Hill got through the line untouched and was off for the end zone 60 yards away. Nobody was going to catch him.

The Bengals haven’t seen this out of a rookie since the days of Corey Dillon.

Hill’s 60-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter capped his big game on Sunday and a 33-23 win over the Jaguars. In his first NFL start as the featured running back, the second-round draft pick had 154 yards and two touchdowns.

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It was the most yards by a Bengals running back in five years. Hill joined Dillon as the only rookies in Bengals history to run for 150 yards and two touchdowns in a game.

“It was awesome,” receiver Mohamed Sanu said. “We know he’s that kind of player.”

The Bengals will likely need him to start again on Thursday night against the Browns at Paul Brown Stadium with first place on the line in the AFC North. Giovani Bernard was inactive on Sunday with shoulder and hip injuries that prevented him from practicing at all last week. It’s unlikely he’ll be much better in a few days.

The Bengals (5-2-1) are alone atop the division, followed by Pittsburgh (6-3), Cleveland (5-3) and Baltimore (5-4). A win by the Browns would move them into a first-place tie with Pittsburgh and end Cleveland’s streak of 17 straight road losses against division opponents since 2008.

It’s the first time the Browns and Bengals have played with first place at stake so late in a season since 1986, according to STATS.

The AFC North is the only division in which all teams have a winning record. It’s only the fifth time since realignment in 2002 that a division has all four teams with winning records.

“We have a tough division game on Thursday,” Hill said. “We are definitely looking forward to Thursday.”

The Bengals have been trying to get a breakaway threat like Hill for years. They made him the 55th overall pick out of LSU — the second running back taken overall — and immediately began working him into a backfield tandem with Bernard.

Bernard leads the Bengals with 446 yards and five touchdowns. Hill has 349 yards — third-most among NFL rookies — with five touchdowns, the most by a rookie.

“Gio is hurt right now and he wants to be out there, but Jeremy stepped up and that’s what the NFL is all about,” guard Clint Boling said. “You aren’t going to have everybody for all 16 games. People are going to get hurt.”

The Bengals got receiver A.J. Green back in a limited role on Sunday. He’d missed the last three games with an injured big right toe. Green was in for 38 of Cincinnati’s 68 offensive plays and had three catches for 44 yards, including an 18-yard touchdown. He had another touchdown catch nullified because he lined up beyond the line of scrimmage.

Green participated in a light practice on Monday evening and expects to play against the Browns. It’s unclear how much his role might expand.

“It felt good,” Green said before the workout. “No setbacks, so I’ll be ready.”

Sanu became the Bengals’ top receiver with Green sidelined. They’re hoping to get Green back to full speed quickly, forcing defenses to have to guard against two deep threats.

“We hopefully will have all hands on deck because we need them,” Sanu said.

Notes: The Bengals have sold enough tickets that the game on Thursday will be shown on local television. … Cornerback Leon Hall is in concussion protocol after getting hit in the head in the second half on Sunday, leaving him uncertain for Thursday’s game. … Right tackle Andre Smith had a boot on his sprained left ankle and sat out the light practice on Monday. … Linebacker Rey Maualuga ran through agility drills on the sideline without problem. Maualuga has missed the last three games with a strained left hamstring.



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