CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 2: Cedric Benson #32 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs with the football during the game against the Buffalo Bills on October 2, 2011 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Bengals defeated the Bills 23-20. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
Not only did Cedric Benson post his second 100-yard rushing game of the season against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, he recorded most of it during the second half, posting 87 yards rushing on 11 carries. That translated into a whopping 7.91 yard/rush average. Benson's 348 yards rushing is currently ranked sixth in the NFL with one game remaining. He's on pace to fall just shy of 1,400 yards for the season and if he keeps up his 4.5 yard/rush average in 2011, it will be his best average to date. In other words if Benson continues doing what he's doing, he'll have a career year.
Yet it didn't start with rose colored sunglasses earlier this year. During the NFL lockout Benson was arrested and charged with assault. A deal with prosecution led to the dismissal of that charge while pleading no contest to his May 2010 assault, sentenced to 20 days in jail (he only served four) and fined $2,000. In other news, there's currently a secret group of Bengals fans gathering at Texas airports to refuse Benson's entry into the state. Currently Benson is still involved in an appeals process to reverse a three-game suspension that was handed out last week; as far as we know, that decision is currently in purgatory.
Bengals running back Jim Anderson is impressed with how well Benson has handled everything. "He's handled it very well," said Anderson. "You can tell he loves football, because when he comes to practice, he works hard."
As has always been the case since 2009, as Cedric Benson goes, so do the Bengals. During the team's regular season opener against the Cleveland Browns this year, Benson nailed the coffin shut during a late fourth quarter 39-yard touchdown run. It was the first time that the Bengals won a regular season opener since beating the Baltimore Ravens in 2007. However during Cincinnati's two losses against the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers, Benson only averaged 3.7 yards/rush.
Even though the Bengals defense and passing offense is receiving the bulk of Cincinnati's affection after the Bengals 23-20 win over the Buffalo Bills, it was the rushing offense that played a large part in Cincinnati's comeback. During Andy Dalton's touchdown run to reduce Cincinnati's deficit to four points, Benson pounded out a five-yard run that set up a manageable second down for Andy Dalton to convert on second down. The Bengals feature back would follow that up with an 11 yarder and three plays later the Bengals scored a touchdown.
"Every quarterback would say that the running game is going to help you throw the ball," said Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. "We were getting in and out of the huddle with some quick tempo and we were blocking unbelievable up front, giving him some lanes to run through.”
During the possession that Cincinnati would tie the game, Benson ran the football four times for 27 yards rushing during the 80-yard drive, all of which occurred on first down, picking up chunks of yards and making it easier for the offense to stay on schedule to convert second and third downs.
Benson isn't often viewed as a popular player in Cincinnati, mostly because people view him as washed up. Regardless of your opinion on the guy right now, he's a big reason for the Bengals comeback on Sunday.