Larry Johnson never managed to run for 100 yards in a game in seven games with the Chiefs this year. But in just his second game with the Bengals, he carried 22 times for 107 yards and led Cincinnati to a 16-7 win over the Cleveland Browns.
The Bengals had a ridiculously conservative game plan, running the ball over and over and over again, mixing in a few short passes, and basically just assuming that if they didn’t make any big mistakes, there was no way the Browns’ offense could put enough points on the board to win the game.
That game plan worked. With Johnson leading the way, the Bengals had a total of 210 rushing yards on 45 carries, and quarterback Carson Palmer completed 13 of 24 passes for 110 yards, with a touchdown and no turnovers.
Now the Bengals are 8-3, including 6-0 in the AFC North, and they’re heading into December as heavy favorites to win the division. They won’t catch the Colts for home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, but the Bengals have a good chance of earning the No. 2 seed and the first-round bye that goes with it.
The Browns, meanwhile, continue to play some of the most uninspired football in the NFL. Brady Quinn had a couple of nice plays, but none with his arm: He scored the Browns’ only touchdown on a nine-yard run and caught an 18-yard pass on a trick play from wide receiver Josh Cribbs, but when Quinn was passing he averaged less than three yards per attempt, completing 15 of 34 passes for 100 yards.
The Browns are 1-10 and just playing out the string, but the Bengals are contenders. And there’s no bigger surprise this season than a team in contention having Cedric Benson and Larry Johnson as its 1-2 punch at running back.