Jeremy Hill took the handoff, saw the hole and hit it. Just like that, he was off for a touchdown that would finally decide a sloppy, back-and-forth game.
Hill ran 60 yards to the end zone in the fourth quarter Sunday, part of a 154-yard effort that steadied the Cincinnati Bengals to a 33-23 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars and kept them alone atop the AFC North.
The rookie from LSU made it look easy. Sounded that way, too.
"It was a great job by the offensive line," said Hill, who scored twice. "I just had to make one guy miss."
The Bengals (5-2-1) did enough ugly things to allow the Jaguars (1-8) to stay in the game until the fourth quarter. Even after Hill's long touchdown run, the Jaguars had one final chance that ended when rookie Blake Bortles — the NFL's interception leader — threw one in the end zone with 3:55 left.
Add another one to the Jaguars' collection of games in which they played well enough to stay close but couldn't pull it out at the end.
"You've got to figure out ways to win," receiver Cecil Shorts said. "That's definitely the next thing to get over that hump. As an offense, defense special teams, every category we could've done better and we still had a chance at the end."
The Jaguars headed straight from Cincinnati to London, where they'll play Dallas. The Bengals started getting ready for a big intrastate game — they host Cleveland on Thursday night with first place at stake.
"There was never any panic," Hill said. "We have faith in our guys. It was just a back-and-forth game. A huge win for us. We needed to stay on top of our division."
Some things learned at Paul Brown Stadium:
THE REAL DEAL: With Giovani Bernard inactive because of hip and shoulder injuries, Hill made his first start and produced the biggest day by a Bengals running back since Cedric Benson ran for 189 yards against the Bears five years ago. Cincinnati took him in the second round because it wanted a big running back who also is a breakaway threat. When they needed a big play Sunday, Hill provided it.
"I think that's what they envisioned for me," Hill said.
GREEN EASES IN: Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green returned after missing three games with an injured big right toe and had three catches for 44 yards and a touchdown in limited playing time. He had another touchdown catch nullified because he lined up beyond the line of scrimmage. He expects to play on Thursday against Cleveland. The Bengals were happy with how they eased him back into the lineup.
"Obviously, there's a little transition, having not played in a few weeks," said Andy Dalton, who was 19 of 31 for 233 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. "It was a good start."
BORTLES AND INTs: The Bengals dropped at least five potential interceptions, but finally came up with the one that clinched it. Bortles threw the ball directly to safety George Iloka in the end zone, his NFL-leading 13th interception. Although he had some good moments in the second half and finished 22 of 33 for 247 yards with two touchdowns to Allen Hurns, it was that one interception that finished it off.
"I tried to throw it out of the end zone," Bortles said. "It wasn't what I wanted. It didn't come out of my hand great."
SLOPPY JAGUAR KICKING: Bryan Anger had one punt deflected and another blocked out of the end zone by Taylor Mays for a safety in the first half. After the Jaguars cut it to 26-23 on Denard Robinson's touchdown run, Josh Scobee's kickoff went out of bounds, giving Cincinnati the ball at its 40. Hill ran for a touchdown on the next play.
"Our special teams unit did not perform very well," coach Gus Bradley said.
INJURIES: Jaguars guard Brandon Linder (shoulder), safety Josh Evans (shoulder) and linebacker Jeremiah George (sprained ankle) left the game and didn't return. Bengals right tackle Andre Smith sprained his left ankle in the first half, returned before halftime but sat out the second half. Cornerback Leon Hall was being evaluated for a concussion in the second half. Hill missed a series in the first half after twisting his left knee.
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