The Bengals were without their top two receiving threats, A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham, for the first-round playoff game, and their solution was for the offense to feature three running backs, with Bernard teaming with Jeremy Hill and
Burkhead drew the first two touches of the game, racking up 23 yards on an end-around on his only carry of the day and adding 34 yards on three receptions over the course of the game. He managed just 76 yards on 16 touches during the regular season.
Bernard displayed excellent athleticism on his 17-yard score in the first quarter, grabbing a short pass across the middle of the field and hurdling over a defender on his way to the end zone. While he's seen his role in the running game reduced in recent weeks, Bernard remains an integral part of the passing attack, catching touchdowns in back-to-back games over the last two weeks.
Bernard ends the regular season with 680 rushing yards on 168 carries and 349 receiving yards on 43 receptions along with seven total touchdowns. He'll square off with the Colts in the first round of the playoffs Sunday.
After yet another huge performance in Week 16 against the Broncos
The Bengals rode Hill to victory Monday, on the strength of his second 140-yard game in a row. He rushed for 147 on 22 carries, including an 85-yard touchdown, and pushed
An injury disrupted Bernard's season, but Hill hasn't shown any reason to consider giving the job back since he's been healthy. In the five games since Bernard has been healthy, he has 56 carries and 14 receptions, while Hill has 86 carries and nine receptions, with four touchdowns and 514 all-purpose yards. Bernard will still be around, but moving forward into next season, Hill looks like the back to own in Cincinnati, though both should have some value.
Bernard caught all five of his targets for 45 yards and ran eight times for 36 yards. He has 184 yards from scrimmage in the past two weeks.
Bernard should figure heavily into the receiving game again when Cincy visits the Steelers in Week 17.
Getting the start Week 15 at Cleveland only days after offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said he wanted one running back to dominate the carries,
So why did
When Bernard was sidelined by a hip injury in Weeks 9-11, Hill carried the load and looked like a natural with it, averaging 120.3 yards on the ground. He likely cemented the feature role with his performance in Week 15, relegating Bernard to more of a backup role.
You wouldn't know it just by looking at the box score, but given the way the carries were distributed over the course of Week 15, Hill looks like a must-start for Week 16 against Denver, and Bernard looks like an advisable sit. Most likely, the Bengals won't be running away with that game.
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