In Monday night’s 10-6 loss to Houston, the Cincinnati Bengals’ leading rusher had 36 yards.
And it wasn’t until midway through the fourth quarter when that guy wasn’t named Andy Dalton, as running back Giovani Bernard passed his quarterback for the team lead with a 5-yard gain on his final carry.
The Bengals finished with 74 rushing yards, marking the second time in three games and third time this year they have failed to break 100.
But offensive coordinator Hue Jackson remains unconcerned — defiant, even — about the numbers.
“I’m not concerned about the running game,” Jackson said. “We’re trying to win games. It’s not about running the ball. It’s not the only thing we do. We throw the ball, too.”
It’s the passing game that is largely responsible for the Bengals entering the weekend ranked seventh in the league in total offense (376.1 yards per game) and fifth in scoring offense (26.1 points per game).
And it’s those total numbers, not the isolated running game stats, that Jackson said should be the focus.
“I don’t understand what it is you guys are looking for,” Jackson said Wednesday when asked about the run game. “The passing game, excluding parts of Monday night, it has been strong all year. We were an 8-0 football team before Monday night and nobody was complaining about anything.”
The Bengals have had one 100-yard game by a running back this season, when Bernard went for 123 against San Diego in Week 2. Jeremy Hill, who led the NFL over the final nine games last year, hasn’t rushed for more than 63, which was in the season opener in Oakland.
He’s averaging 3.2 yards per carry, which ranks 49th out of the 50 rushers in the league with at least 234 yards.
“We’ve played a lot of great rush defenses this year,” Hill said. “We understand that. The smarter (offensive coordinators) in this league don’t get stubborn and try to force it down. You’ve got to take what the defense is giving you.”
The Bengals got off to a similarly slow start last year, punctuated by a 79-yard effort in a Week 9 home loss to Cleveland.
But Hill took off after that, and the Bengals averaged 156 yards per game on the ground to finish the year with the league’s sixth-ranked rushing offense.
Hill has 111 carries this season to Bernard’s 99, even though Bernard’s 5.5 yards per carry leads the league among backs averaging at least 10 rushes per game.
“We just have to get back on track,” Jackson said as the Bengals prepare to face an Arizona Cardinals defense that ranks fourth against the run.
“That’s all. Get back on track,” Jackson continued. “I mean, up to this point nobody was having these conversations. No one was asking these questions. You’re asking because what happened on Monday night. We lost the game. When it happens like that over a period of time, then I think you can ask all the questions you’re asking. But I think it’s hard to say after one game, ‘Oh my God, what’s going on here?’ Let’s see where we are after this week.”
Injury report: Defensive end Michael Johnson showed up on the injury report with a back issue that kept him out of practice Thursday.
Cornerback Adam Jones (foot) and defensive tackle Pat Sims (knee) sat out for a second day in a row, but defensive end Carlos Dunlap (shoulder), right tackle Andre Smith (concussion) and safety Shawn Williams (ankle) were full participants after being limited Wednesday.
Linebacker Vontaze Burfict (knee) was limited for the second day in a row.