Will Bengals Finally Air It Out?

CINCINNATI (AP) - All the elements are in place for the Cincinnati Bengals to finally air it out.

The Bengals (8-3) have morphed from a four-win team into the AFC North leader by changing the way they do things on offense.

Instead of having Carson Palmer throw the ball around, he's handing off to one of the most balanced running attacks in the league.

Surely, with Detroit's last-ranked pass defense coming to town, it's a good time to let it fly.

"That's not our offense," said receiver Chad Ochocinco, who spends far more time blocking than catching these days. "It's not what we do. We are a Nebraska-style, run-the-ball (offense). We've got everything in except the option. That's what we do."

The new style has taken them a long way. They're one victory from clinching only their second winning record in the last 19 years and moving one step closer to the division title.

It'll be tempting to stray from the formula against the Lions (2-9), who couldn't even slow down Cleveland's historically bad passing game two weeks ago.

Brady Quinn threw for a career-high 304 yards and four touchdowns in Detroit's 38-37 win. How bad is the Lions' pass defense?

To put it in perspective, Quinn and the Browns visited Cincinnati last week and managed a total of 169 yards altogether, the fewest by a Bengals opponent in 26 years.

Now, imagine what Carson Palmer and company could do if they tried. Will they? Or will they stay with the grind-it-out style that actually had the home fans booing during a 16-7 win over the Browns last Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium?

"We've taken heat for that, but it's been a winning formula for us, and it's been a winning formula in this league," said Palmer, who threw for only 110 yards against Cleveland.

"We're going to go about our business the way we have for the past however many weeks. If the pass is there, we'll take it. But we're run-first."

He's not exaggerating. The Bengals haven't thrown for more than 261 yards in any game this season. Palmer hasn't passed for 300 yards since the final game of the 2007 season - he missed all but four last year because of an elbow injury.

The elbow is fine, but the emphasis has changed. The Bengals now load up with extra blockers, going with a power style that has been highly efficient.

They've had three running backs top 100 yards in a game this season: Cedric Benson, Bernard Scott and Larry Johnson. The only other time in franchise history that three Bengals rushed for triple-digits in one season was 1970.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)