It was a big day for Jeremy Hill on Sunday as he put together one of his most productive days ever in a Cincinnati Bengals uniform. With 168 yards rushing (a career high) and one touchdown on nine carries, as well as 24 yards receiving on two catches, he was absolutely electrifying. Sunday was Hill’s first 100+ yard day since Week 16 of his rookie season when he went off for 100 yards on 23 carries in a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The only comparable performance he has ever had came in a 30-0 win over the Cleveland Browns in Week 14 of his rookie season. He recorded 148 yards and 2 touchdowns on 25 carries that day. You could certainly make the argument that he was more potent this time around, even though he only found the endzone once. His lone touchdown came on a 74-yard sprint past Andrew Whitworth on the right side of the line in a highlight that is definitely among his best plays ever.
The touchdown itself was a statement, letting the NFL know the Bengals are not to be slept on, even though they are currently sitting with a losing record after 7 weeks. But, it was Hill’s touchdown dance after the play that really puts a smile on your face.
If you’ll recall, Hill vowed that he wouldn’t celebrate after big plays this year, because he was more focused on improving after his rough 2015 campaign. Through the first six weeks of 2016, he made good on his promise by electing to hand the ball to referees and shaking his teammate’s hands after scoring, rather than bringing attention to himself with flashy dances. That said, after breaking off a 74-yard touchdown run in a pivotal division game, it’s nice to see Hill playing well and getting excited again.
“For us it’s getting that confidence and rhythm we’ve been missing, especially since we got some big runs,” Hill told Jim Owsczarski of Cincinnati.com. “I feel like we haven’t had big runs in so long here. Just getting those and big plays in the run game are really going to help our team out.”
The dance itself, according to Hill, was meant to pump his teammates up in a game where they - particularly the defense - seemed to lack fire and drive. It’s one thing to vow to not celebrate so you can focus on improving your own game. But, it’s something else entirely to celebrate with your teammates to instill a sense of pride and confidence in what you’re doing.
“It was good for us today to get some confidence going, as far as our run game. We got to hit a couple big ones,” Hill said after the game. “The one I had on that on that first drive, I wish I could have back. Gio gave me crap for it. All in all, I think we did a way better job just getting hats on guys and allowing our backs to get up field. Rex (Burkhead) came in and did a great job as well. We’ve just got to continue off that.”
Being able to fire up his teammates was a big deal for Hill. It was a chance to build some momentum not only to put this game away, but to help turn the 2016 season around. This version of Jeremy Hill seems to be entirely focused on his teammates and how his performance impacts them, so he was sure to give them credit for their roles in his big day.
“The offensive line blocked their tails off all day, giving me lanes. Gio and Rex came in and did their things too,” Hill said. “I think that’s the biggest thing I took from it, everybody stepped up when they had the chance to make plays. First we gotta continue to do that and build from there.”
Back in August, when Hill discussed his plans to not celebrate this year, the general perspective around his celebration abstinence was that the maturity he was showing was a good thing. But, celebrating isn’t always a bad thing, especially when it comes on the heels of excellent performances.
Personally, I thought it was really cool to see him out there having fun with his performance. It has been a while since we saw Hill putting on the kind of dominating performance that he became known for in his spectacular rookie season. If you ask his teammates, they’ll tell you all about the fantastic mentality he has developed lately, which makes you want to do nothing but root for the guy.
“He really ran hard,” Andy Dalton said. “He broke off with a big run and just before the run I said, ‘Are you going to come out and get Gio on the board?' And he said, ‘No, now I’ve got to get on the board.' And two plays later it happened. just goes to show what his mindset is and his attitude is.”
What Hill said following the game is exactly what you want to hear from a player who is such a crucial part of the offense. Now, the exciting part is getting to see if he can use this performance and his newfound confidence as a springboard going forward. Here’s to a long Bengals career for Hill, filled with many, many more touchdown celebrations!