Benson, Ground Game Lift Off

BATON ROUGE, La. - Bears first-round draft pick Cedric Benson was minding his own business on the bench Sunday, expecting to get a couple carries and be through with his day's work -- just like every other Sunday.

"I was sitting on the sidelines the first half and came into this game and I was thinking like "oh, man it will probably be the same thing like every game; I may not see the field until the fourth quarter or so," Benson said.

It didn't quite work that way.

Thomas Jones aggravated his sore ribs and it meant Benson would play his biggest role so far this season in the Bears' 20-17 win. Benson finished with 79 yards on 14 carries, including runs of 36 and 27 yards.

"Thomas gave me a break," Benson said. "I don't know what happened to him, but he told me that I was going to be up. I came out for after halftime and was in the first drive.

"I was like, "wow, this is early.' I wanted to make the most of the opportunity."

Benson carried for 29 yards on the 65-yard game-winning drive in the closing minutes.

The 27-yard run started that drive and he credited a block by fullback Bryan Johnson, who was seeing his first action of the year, for springing him.

"I came right off his (rear)," Benson said. "You get in the zone when you get out there and you just start rolling. Prior to the snap you can hear things, but when he snaps the ball it's zone time. It's all reaction."

Benson didn't get rolling immediately. Adrian Peterson replaced him on the Bears' third possession of the second half, and broke a 36-yard run one play before bolting in for a 6-yard touchdown that gave the Bears a 17-10 lead with 7:29 left in the third quarter.

Peterson finished with 58 yards and the Bears ran for 183 yards as a team on 32 carries. Jones had 40 yards on 11 tries before going to the bench.

"The offense, of course, got the ball moving," coach Lovie Smith said. "I was really pleased with how our running game looked. Cedric Benson, Thomas Jones, Adrian Peterson all did a great job of carrying the football, and what can I say about the offensive line that I haven't said. The same thing has happened (with them) each week."

Jones' status will be evaluated today. He didn't wear a flak jacket in the game, but did have extra padding over his injured ribs before aggravating it.

"He doesn't have a cracked rib or anything like that," Smith said. "It's just, as noted, a bruised rib."

So with so many running backs gaining yards, who should be starting?

"They're all very good players; write it any way you want," center Olin Kreutz told reporters. "I appreciate you trying to drag me into that one.

"Want to know about (quarterbacks Rex) Grossman and (Kyle) Orton, too?"


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