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Bengals depth to be tested again, this time on offense

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis told reporters during Monday’s press conference that he hadn’t yet heard from team doctors about left guard Clint Boling’s knee injury, but he also said he didn’t need to.

“I can see it, and it looks like a torn ACL,” Lewis said. “At some point he’ll obviously have surgery, and we’ll move him to IR.”

Softening the blow of what appears to be yet another play lost for the season is the way the Bengals ran the ball after Boling injured his right knee in the first quarter.

Already without right guard Kevin Zeitler for a second consecutive game with a foot injury, the Bengals brought Anthony Collins in to play left tackle and slid All-Pro Andrew Whitworth from left tackle to left guard. And the mix-matched group, which also included Mike Pollak filling in for Zeitler, proceeded to lead the way for 164 rushing yards, just 1 yard shy of a season high.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis carried 20 times for a season-high 92 yards (4.6 average), and rookie Giovani Bernard added 57 yards on 14 rushes (4.1).

“It’s just awesome to see our offensive line and the talent and depth they have at those positions,” Green-Ellis said.

“You just look at those guys, and they’re really starting to gel together as a unit,” Green-Ellis added. “And that’s what we need. (Sunday) they made space on every play. You give a running back space and let him choose and pick a hole, it’s easy for us to get our pads down and run hard and try to run through people and inflict your will.”

Sunday’s success has the Bengals debating whether to keep Whitworth at guard for the rest of the season.

“We have some options we can deal with,” offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said. “Whit’s a very versatile guy, and he will buy into whatever we sell him. And that’s a great thing about Whit, he’s a great leader and a Pro Bowl left tackle. It might affect his Pro Bowl status, but he doesn’t care, he just wants to help the team win and that’s what we need around here.”

Lewis quickly shut down initial questions regarding the offensive line and the team’s plans moving forward, but later in the press conference he seemed to indicate Whitworth would be staying at guard.

“I think Andrew will do whatever he wants us to do and he’s up for it all,” Lewis said. “Obviously that puts Anthony Collins in. We’ve got great confidence in (Collins), so we’ve got a couple of good options, no doubt about it.

“We expect Kevin Zeitler to be back and playing this week, so as we go through the week we’ll see how things are,” Lewis continued. “We have a lot of good options. Andrew brings a toughness there, and that’s huge.”

Green-Ellis showed some toughness of his own, especially late in the game when helped the offense kill the final 4:43 off the clock with an impressive showing of power football.

“I get a lot of that Mariano Rivera stuff. People call me ‘The Closer,’” Green-Ellis said. “ I guess I’m getting a new nickname. Obviously you like to have the ball in your hands to close out games.”

That final dominating series came on the heels of a rare Green-Ellis fumble that allowed San Diego to keep the door cracked for a possible comeback.

“Obviously when you mess up, you feel like you owe people,” Green-Ellis said. “I felt like I owed the other 52 guys on the team, and I owed the whole Cincinnati Bengals organization and staff and all of our fans. When you hold the ball, you have the fate of the team in your hands. And if you lose it, it basically means you let everyone down.

“When you give up one of those, it’s like you have something burning inside of you that you didn’t even know you had,” he added. “You just get a lot more energy and power.”

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