While the 29-17 loss to the Denver Broncos was a disappointment for the Bengals this week, there’s certainly a positive takeaway in Jeremy Hill’s performance on the ground.
Hill struggled mightily the past two weeks from a yardage standpoint, but he came back this week to do well in the running game. Hill had his best performance of the season in multiple aspects. He had 97 yards on 17 carries, the most yardage he’s had in a game this year, along with his highest yards-per-carry this year (5.7 yards). Hill also had more touchdowns than he’s had in the previous two games combined, as he pushed the ball across the goal line twice.
Hill continued his strong goal line running that we’ve grown accustomed to by putting up his second and third touchdowns of the season this week.
Hill shot out of the backfield like a cannon on his first touchdown, and showed resilience as he bounced off tackles and blocks to find his way to the goal line on the second score.
On top of that, he was able to come back from two sub-par yardage performances to get almost 100 yards for the first time. This was aided by a 50-yard run, his longest of the year and actually the longest rushing play he’s had since Week 16 of the 2014 season when he had an 85 yard rushing touchdown against the Broncos.. Hill’s longest run in 2015 was a 38-yard gain in Week 17.
Hill would go on to record his first touchdown of the game later in the drive during which he picked up the 50-yard gain.
Hill’s 97 yards were a pleasant surprise after a 31-yard performance against the New York Jets and a 22-yard performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers. But, he wasn’t boasting about his personal stats after the game, instead, he remarked on what could have been.
“It was alright. A lot of stuff we wish we could have back, and a lot of stuff we wish would’ve helped our defense, especially in the fourth quarter by keeping them off the field,” Hill said. “We have a ways to go as far as the running game, and it starts with me.”
The change between this week and the past weeks is much-appreciated by fans, and it was a huge aspect of the team’s offense. His 97 yards accounted for the vast majority of Cincinnati’s 143 total rushing yards, and also accounted for nearly a third of the total offense, as the team racked up 332 total yards.
But, Hill isn’t satisfied, and rightfully so as the Bengals lost.
“Not at all,” Hill said when asked if he was pleased with his performance on Sunday. “There’s so many more plays that we left out there. Obviously, it wasn’t enough to win the game, so we have a ways to go.”
Still, Hill’s game helped to make up for an unproductive performance from his dynamic duo partner, Giovani Bernard. Bernard had just 5 carries for 8 yards, and a long of 4 yards. He was out-gained on the ground by Andy Dalton, who surprisingly ran for 40 yards on the day.
Not only is this the best performance of Hill’s season thus far, but it is one of the best he’s had going all the way back to last season. Hill only topped 97 yards once last season, when he ran for 98 yards against the Cleveland Browns last December. Aside from that, this was Hill’s best rushing performance in the past two seasons.
Hill has clearly had a change in mentality this year, as we’ve all seen from his hand shake celebrations, opposed to dance celebrations, after touchdowns. Hopefully, that change in mentality can lead to better production this year, and we can see consistent performances just like the one we saw this week from Hill.
97 yards and 2 touchdowns is about as much as you can expect from a running back, and if the Bengals can get that performance from Hill on a consistent basis, their running game will be in great shape and they should win games.
Unfortunately, Hill’s effort wasn’t enough for the Bengals to win Sunday’s game.
“We can’t let that discourage us,” Hill said of the loss, “and we have to continue to work and continue to keep grinding during the practice week, get ready to go out there Thursday night, and put out a better performance.”