I'm going to use Chick Ludwig's vernacular for a moment... and if you want, imagine his voice speaking these words. Bengals running back Jeremy Hill is an absolute stud. STUD. OK, that actually had a pinch of Alan Cutler's school of repeating the last word but... only louder.
Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson called Hill and his fellow running back Giovani Bernard into his office and shut the door. Jackson emphasized that he needed both of them. Our feeling is that Andy Dalton, who historically struggles against the Cleveland Browns, wasn't going to be the frontrunner of a Bengals victory.
In fact, Dalton appeared to be more of an afterthought that begged, "don't lose the game"? Dalton completed 14 of 24 passes for 117 yards passing with an interception and a passer rating of 53.6.
At the end of the day, Hill and Bernard led an offense that generated 244 yards rushing, reaching a milestone that hasn't been touched since Nov. 28, 2004 when Cincinnati rushed for 253 yards and beat Cleveland 58-48.
"It all goes to (Offensive Coordinator) Hue Jackson. This game was really for him for losing his father this week," said Hill, who generated 148 yards rushing on Sunday and only needs 123 yards to become the first Bengals rookie since Corey Dillon to reach the 1,000 yards rushing milestone.
"We hit them with a lot of stuff they haven't seen before and a lot of stuff we have run over the year. It kept them off balance and and kept them adjusting. By the end of it, we had already been up by 20 points. Anytime we can do that, we put ourself in a position to win."
It was only last month that Hill, following Cincinnati's 24-3 loss on Thursday Night Football, added motivation to Cleveland's bulletin board.
"Oh no, not at all. They're probably worse than I thought, to be honest with you," Hill said on Nov. 6 after he was asked if the Browns were a better team. "They didn't do anything special to me. I mean, respect to them, they won the game. But that's all I'll give them."
It came off as arrogance but it was his way of saying that the Bengals didn't play well. Despite the motivation that Hill gave Cleveland's defense and the momentum of Johnny Manziel becoming the newest starter, Cleveland, at home, submitted one of their worst performances of the season. Which is in its own right, surprising.
Hill gave Cincinnati a 7-0 lead with 7:53 remaining in the first quarter, powering through the line of scrimmage to complete a 14-play touchdown drive that spanned 63 yards and chewed 7:07 off the clock... all while an anxious city waited for their rookie quarterback to take the field.
With 13:11 remaining in the second quarter, Hill expanded Cincinnati's lead to 17 points during a 16-yard touchdown run, which led to the idea of jumping into the dawg pound.
Tried to channel my inner @ochocinco and jump into the #DawgPound but access was denied.... #stayturnt my friends— Jeremy Hill (@JeremyHill33) December 14, 2014
With two weeks remaining, Hill leads all rookies in yards rushing (877), rushing touchdowns (8, tied with Cleveland's Terrence West), 20-yard runs (6, tied with St. Louis' Tre Mason), 40-yard runs (2) and first downs (49).
Second-year running back Giovani Bernard added 79 yards rushing on 15 carries, generating a 5.3 yard/rush average. It's his best game since exploding for 137 yards against the Panthers on Oct. 12. And, in the three games since returning from hip and shoulder injuries earlier in the season, Bernard was averaging 3.4 yards per carry.