CINCINNATI (AP) -With their offensive line finally intact, the Cincinnati Bengals' offense is up-and-running. They'll find out soon whether it's too late to make a difference.
The Bengals rushed for a season-high 177 yards Sunday during a 38-31 victory over the New York Jets, ending their four-game losing streak. For the first time all season, the Bengals (2-4) showed a little balance.
``That's usually how we run games,'' said right tackle Willie Anderson, who played with foot and knee injuries.
Until Sunday, it hadn't been their style this season. The Bengals went into the game with an offense that was totally out of whack.
Cincinnati had become one-dimensional, relying almost exclusively at times on Carson Palmer's passes to receivers Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The Bengals had 1,424 yards in the air, only 411 on the ground in the first five games.
When the Jets stacked their defense to cover Johnson and Houshmandzadeh, the Bengals committed themselves to running the ball behind an offensive line that included all five starters for the first time this season.
The result was impressive. Kenny Watson ran for a career-high 130 yards and three touchdowns, filling in for the injured Rudi Johnson. The Bengals ran the ball 41 times and threw it only 21.
They'll need to run the ball again Sunday in a pivotal game against Pittsburgh (4-2), which can contain Palmer and the passing game if that's all the Bengals have going for themselves. A victory over the Steelers would move the Bengals to within one game of the first place in the AFC North.
``It's big,'' coach Marvin Lewis said. ``It's something that for the last three years, we've really looked at hard in this division. To have a chance to be successful in our division, you've got to be able to run the football efficiently. We don't want it to become a one-dimensional game for us offensively.''
The Bengals struggled to run the ball earlier in the season in part because the offensive line was regularly getting shuffled. Anderson, left tackle Levi Jones and center Eric Ghiaciuc all missed games.
All three were in the lineup for the first time Sunday, and it showed.
Palmer completed a 56-yard pass to Johnson on the second series, but the Jets did a good job covering the receivers the rest of the half. So, Cincinnati decided to come out running in the second half.
On their possession, Watson carried the ball 10 times for 55 yards in a 14-play, 76-yard drive to a touchdown. It set a tone.
``They were not going to let us throw the ball,'' said Palmer, who finished 14-of-21 for 226 yards. ``They double-teamed Chad and T.J. virtually every play. They were taking the mind-set they were not going to be beaten by the pass.
``It came down to what we were going to do upfront. What were our big guys going to do? Were they going to blow some big holes open and give Kenny a chance? There were big holes everywhere.''
That one drive reminded the Bengals of how good they can be when they can run the ball.
``When you have balance, it makes the passing game easier,'' Anderson said. ``But the biggest plus is it gives the defense a rest. With all of our weapons, it makes it a good day for the guys up front.''
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