After rushing for 154 yards on 24 carries in his first NFL start, rookie Jeremy Hill must have been excited to race home and watch the tape of his performance. Especially the 60-yard touchdown run that helped put the Jaguars away in the fourth quarter.
Then again, maybe not.
“Honestly I’m not,” Hill told me. “There are probably five or six plays that I would like to have back. Just bad reads man. Obviously the fans and people that watched the game are going to be stuck on the big play, but as runners, we get bent out of shape on the stuff that we didn’t get right.
“It’s like one of my high school coaches told me, ‘The tape is never as good as you think or as bad as you think.’ Once you go watch it you can analyze it and see.”
We’ll have to take Jeremy’s word for it that he made a few mistakes, because he was good enough to post the fifth-best rushing performance in the NFL this season.
“Running the ball is about having an attitude,” said center Russell Bodine. “Jeremy carried the ball really well. He ran with good low pads, ran some guys over, and made some guys miss.”
“He’s a consistent player,” said fullback Ryan Hewitt. “He shows up every day and comes to work. It was no surprise to anybody in this locker room – it’s what he does. Obviously we can’t wait to get Gio back, but it’s awesome to have depth like that.”
With Giovani Bernard out of the lineup with hip and shoulder injuries, Hill didn’t need to be told by coaches and teammates that he had to carry the load against Jacksonville.
“I don’t think anybody had to do that,” said Hill. “Like I’ve said, I’m a great self-motivator and there’s probably no bigger critic of my play than myself. I expect the world out of me and sometimes it’s to my disadvantage but I continue to keep pushing.”
Hill’s long TD run came when the Bengals desperately needed it. After Jacksonville scored two touchdowns in less than two minutes to pull within a field goal with 8:13 to go, Cincinnati started its next possession at the 40 yard line.
“I honestly didn’t know how (offensive coordinator) Hue (Jackson) was going to go about it,” Jeremy told me. “I didn’t know if he was going to be aggressive and try to pass or if he was just going to pound it. I really didn’t have a clue.”
Jackson’s decision was to pound it. The Bengals put two tight ends on the right side of the line and ran in that direction. Jermaine Gresham, Kevin Brock, Mike Pollak and Hewitt opened a gigantic hole and Hill did the rest, putting a great fake on safety Josh Evans before running through his attempted tackle inside the 10 yard line.
“If you look at it, everyone was blocked up and it was just up to me to make one guy miss,” said Hill.
“It was just a heck of a play,” left guard Clint Boling told me. “Everybody did what they were supposed to do. Jeremy made a heck of a run and in that situation it was huge. We really needed that, and everybody got it done.”
“He does a great job of running downhill and was awesome today,” said Marvin Lewis.
Before that play, Hill’s longest NFL run was 15 yards. The 60-yard touchdown was reminiscent of Jeremy’s LSU days where he had six rushes of 50-or-more yards last season.
“That’s what the coaches have been telling me for a while now,” said Hill. “Just get back to the old SEC way and do the things I did in college. I put the onus on myself as well to keep working and running like I used to. I had a few flashes of that today and want to continue to pick up where I left off and put myself in position.”
Halfway through his first NFL season, the 55th pick in this year’s draft is averaging 4.7 yards a carry and shares the team lead in touchdowns (5) with Bernard.
And he won’t need to watch the tape to remember his first NFL start.
“I’m going to take this with me for the rest of my life and hopefully it will give me the momentum and the confidence I need going down the stretch to help keep us on top of this division,” he said.
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