The Joe Mixon-less Cincinnati Bengals have resurrected their rushing attack. Cincinnati went into Week 15 having the 29th ranked rushing offense in the NFL averaging 92.3 yards per game. They’ve shattered their norm in two-consecutive games, and it’s helped them earn back-to-back wins for the first time since the 2018 season.
“I just think it's really just the guys upfront buying in and trusting us backs and opening up holes and all we have to do is hit them,” Bengals running back Samaje Perine said. “We've got to hit them full speed and we've got to hit them recklessly and I think that's what we've been doing these last two weeks and it's been paying off.”
The Bengals have amassed 321 rushing yards during their two-game winning streak. In Week 15, they ran the football a season-high 41 times. The following week in Houston, the Bengals had 33 attempts for 169 yards, which is their second-highest rushing yards total of the year.
Perine and Giovani Bernard have led Cincinnati’s ground game since Mixon was placed on injured reserve with a right foot injury on Nov. 21. Perine gained a season-best 95 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the team’s 37-31 Week 16 win over Houston. It was his best performance since the 2017 season when he was a member of Washington. Bernard’s 83 rushing yards in Week 15 was also his best rushing yards output since the 2017 season.
What makes the resurgent rushing attack more impressive, is the Bengals are doing it with a patchwork offensive line. Cincinnati started its 10th different O-line combination in the Week 16 victory.
Despite the lack of continuity up front, the offensive line has performed well run blocking the past two games. Perine credited the O-line after his best game of the year.
“Our line did a fantastic job. I just had to run. My job was easy,” Perine. “The guys upfront did it all. I just got all the accolades for it.”
The big guys up front are doing a nice job. Cincinnati’s rushed for at least 100 yards in three-consecutive games. It’s the first time the Bengals have gained 100 rushing yards in three-straight games in the Zac Taylor era, and the club did it all without their best running back in the backfield.
“I feel like it’s just the perseverance. We had games where it hasn’t been the best, but nobody sits there and points fingers. It’s just always ‘I could’ve done something better or we could’ve worked better together to get the job done.’ I feel like just staying the course and persevering is the main thing,” Bengals right tackle Bobby Hart said. “I’m gonna keep saying it's perseverance. Not worrying about last week, just focusing on the now and just trying to get better as an individual and as a unit.”
The O-line’s perseverance through adversity is starting to pay off. It should pay dividends next year when Mixon returns to the backfield.