Does it seem like more often than not the Bengals view Giovani Bernard as an afterthought? It’s happened since he’s joined the team, really. He’s never just been handed a chance, he’s earned everything he’s received by playing well or due to injuries to other players.
With Jeremy Hill on Injured Reserve and Joe Mixon banged up for the last few weeks, Bernard has seen more playing time and has shined in the opportunies he’s been given.
In the Bengals’ 26-17 win over the Lions, Bernard continued to be one of the only good parts of the Bengals’ bad season. Mixon left the game early with an ankle injury and though he was never ruled out, he didn’t play another snap after the injury occurred.
As a result, the Bengals called upon Bernard to lead the team against the Lions and that he did. Bernard had 116 yards and a touchdown on the ground to go with 52 receiving yards. And not only was the Bengals’ win due in large part to his success, but after the game, he actually apologized for not doing more to help the team win.
Giovani Bernard said he wants to apologize to #Bengals DC Paul Guenther and HC Marvin Lewis for scoring that last TD. Said he should’ve went down at the 1. Said he got kinda lost in the moment of an open end zone.— Jim Owczarski (@JimOwczarski) December 24, 2017
Dear Gio, nobody is upset that you didn’t go down at the one-yard line. You deserved that touchdown to cap off a great game.
The touchdown was Bernard's second rushing touchdown of the year (the first came just last week) but his fourth overall after catching touchdown passes in Weeks 3 and 4. This all is part of a comeback season for Bernard who battled through a remarkably quick recovery on his ACL, which he tore late last year but returned from in training camp this summer.
The Bengals’ run game has been overwhelmingly bad this year and just when everyone expected it would get worse, it actually got better. The Bengals’ offensive line saw Clint Boling move to left tackle, Christian Westerman receive his first start at left guard, Russell Bodine remain at center, Trey Hopkins start at right guard and Eric Winston at right tackle against the Lions. With all that movement and inexperience, you’d think the Bengals’ run game would be a disaster in Week 16. Then, Mixon’s injury happened, making things look even worse.
But, Bernard gave the game his all and then some. He looked determined to make plays and get a win and he helped the Bengals to do just that. His 116 yards on the ground were 39 more than his season high this year (77 vs Pittsburgh in Week 13). Those 116 yards were also a high for any Bengals running back in a game this year. Mixon previously had the single-game rushing yards record with 114 yards against the Browns, but Bernard topped that by two on Sunday.
Bernard deserves major credit for persevering and helping the Bengals to scratch out a win on Sunday. He may be an afterthought when it comes to this coaching staff, but he shouldn’t be and he continued to prove why on Christmas Eve.