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Week 15 Bengals vs 49ers: Jeremy Hill has a game full of familiar ups and downs

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The Cincinnati Bengals' star-crossed running back has had a down sophomore campaign and some issues reared their ugly head again on Sunday.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, a trio of rookie offensive weapons out of Louisiana State University took the NFL by storm--especially late in the year. The Cincinnati Bengals boast one of those players, standout running back, Jeremy Hill. The now second-year back ran through and by opposing defenses to the tune of 1,124 rushing yards with a 5.1 yards per carry average in his rookie season.

It's been a completely different story for Hill in 2015, who appears to be tentative when finding a crease in the offense and just isn't breaking off the big runs we saw from him last year. His longest gain of 2015 is just 17 yards and Hill had just been getting 3.6 yards per carry going into Sunday's matchup against the San Francisco 49ers.

One thing Hill has done well this year is find the end zone, as he had nine total touchdowns (eight rushing, one receiving) coming into Week 14, and that trend continued in the Bay Area. On the day, Hill had two physical goal line touchdown runs to cap off drives and pave the way to a Bengals victory. The nose for scoring is a coveted trait going into playoff time, and his 11 total touchdowns through 14 games bode well in the weeks ahead.

However, some familiar issues plagued Hill on the afternoon as well. First, Hill sat on the bench for the first quarter of the game. The reason for that is currently unknown. When asked in his postgame press conference why Hill started the game on the bench, Lewis responded, "We started Giovani today." Then when asked, if that was "just the decision", Lewis responded, "Mhm." Time will tell if Lewis or maybe offensive coordinator Hue Jackson will provide more context into that. And, according to Jeremy Rauch, when Hill was asked why he sat for the first quarter, he answered, "I don't know man. Ask Hue or Marvin."

Then, when he got into the game, he was unable to find any opportunities for big plays with a long gain of just nine yards, while also adding yet another lost fumble. The third lost fumble of the year for Hill proved somewhat costly as it led to a touchdown by the 49ers.

Subsequent to the fumble, Hill was benched for the next couple of series, with Hue Jackson giving Giovani Bernard the bulk of the touches. This happened earlier in the season as well when Hill put the football on the ground twice against the San Diego Chargers. Some believe those issues have haunted the second-year back all season long.

Hill had more carries late in the game, but his 19 carries for 31 yards also played into another lingering issue--yards per carry. Already with the aforementioned 3.6 yards per carry entering Sunday, a 1.6 yards per carry average against the 49ers' 31st ranked run defense just isn't getting it done. Bernard didn't fare much better at 2.4 yards per carry on the afternoon.

The Bengals' defense carried them to a win with four turnovers, but, it was evident that Jackson wanted to pound the ball in AJ McCarron's first start and it just didn't work. Blocking up front was inconsistent, but the whole approach to running the football needs to be improved.