Following Sunday's home win over San Diego, Cincinnati is now 2-0 while remaining on top of the AFC North Division, but there are issues. Marvin Lewis explains:
"We’ve obviously got to take care of the football better than we did with the fumbles, particularly by our backs. We’ve got to do a better job that way," Lewis said. "Defensively, we had a breakdown there at the end we can’t have, especially in that situation. We’ve got to learn how to protect the score and protect the lead. We’ve just got to keep going. It’s early, it was a good football game, another good opportunity for us to learn while moving forward, and I think that’s the best part of it. We’ve got a lot of stuff we can keep coaching and correct, and continue to reinforce, which is good.”
Bengals running back Jeremy Hill didn't have a fumbling problem in college. But he suddenly has one as a pro. It got him benched Sunday in a game against the Chargers that the Bengals won any way, thanks in part to excellent depth at running back. Hill lost the ball twice, and was benched. Giovani Bernard responded with 123 yards rushing. That partly satisfied Lewis.
“Oh, we left some points (on the field),” Lewis said. "We missed a couple throws by inches, and we had to settle for field goals a couple times, and we miss one field goal, so there’s a lot of opportunity for scoring that we let get away from us that we can keep getting at. Gio was carrying the ball, but we can’t have a back fumbling the football either. Jeremy’s a talented young player, and we’ve got to keep the football. That wasn’t part of his deal last year, and we can’t let it creep in.”
Lewis was asked if the tandem of Hill and Bernard is the best one-two punch at running back he's had. The coach basically said, not so fast.
"I don’t know," he said. "There’s a few years when I started out here we had Corey Dillon and Rudi Johnson. Corey Dillon was pretty doggone good.”
Quarterback Andy Dalton certainly likes what he sees behind him in the Bengals' backfield right now.
“Gio’s always ready to go, and Gio’s so electric with the ball," Dalton said. "You never know what’s going to happen when he’s got it. He stepped up and played real big today. He works real hard and I’m happy for him. He deserves it.”
Dalton said he spoke with Hill, a 1,000-yard rusher last year as a rookie.
“Yeah, definitely. You never know what’s going to happen in a game, and it’s unfortunate for him, but we can’t turn the ball over, fumble the ball," said the QB. "I know he’s disappointed that that happened. But you’ve got to keep him into it because you never know what’s going to happen in a game where he could come in and he could be a big player for us, and help us win the game, and that’s what I told him. I said, ‘Regardless of what happened, keep your head in it because you’re going to help us win this game.’”
Dalton agreed that points were left on the field: “It was a tough win for us, and offensively, there’s a couple throws I really wish I could have back. We had chances to score touchdowns and we had to settle for field goals. That falls on my shoulders. But we did enough today to get the win and that’s all that matters.
"I think the big thing is when we had the turnovers on offense, the defense picked us up, and I don’t think they scored off the turnovers (we had), if I’m right. But that’s what we expect. It’s a team game. It’s not always going to be what the offense is doing; the defense is going to help out, and it’s the same thing where if the defense is struggling the offense is going to pick them up, and that’s what happened.”
Hill was a stand-up guy in the postgame locker room. He credited Bernard, took ownership of the fumbling problem, and said he will be more careful going forward.
"I’m going to keep pounding. I can’t let this (the fumbles) affect me. I’m going to do my thing. I’m just going to be me," Hill said. "That stuff is behind me now. It is what it is. We all know what happened, and it’ll get us beat in another game. I’ve just got to continue to get better. Gio obviously did a good job of stepping in there and finishing the game for us. We needed that from him. We were able to overcome my turnovers and win the game. That’s all that matters.”