Cincy embraces arrival of 'Bengal weather'

CINCINNATI -- The tropical temperatures that lingered around this city all day Wednesday made it hard to even fathom that before the week was over, ice-box chills and snow-globe scenes would descend upon it once again.

Indeed, a biting breeze is coming. And Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is embracing its arrival with open arms.

Welcome to December in the Ohio Valley. Or what Lewis calls "Bengal weather."

This is the time of year when winds can be treacherous, clouds ominous and precipitation perilous. It's the time of year in these parts when Mother Nature can be her own 12th man of sorts. Footballs don't move through the air with the same ease as they may have earlier in the year.

The Bengals like knowing that, and hope their opponents underestimate it.

"That's part of us. That's part of our toughness," Lewis said about playing in such cold weather. "It's just the way we're put together."

It's weather like the below-30s temperatures and freezing rain/sleet/snow wintry mix that's headed to Cincinnati before Sunday's clash with the Indianapolis Colts that helps give the AFC North its rugged, smashmouth character. Teams that play in the division have long been known for having solid run-stopping defenses and ground games that like to plow right through the middle of them. The offensive flair and finesse that some West Coast and Southern teams have is foreign to those who call the AFC North their home. Just ask the San Diego Chargers.

Three days after practicing through an early afternoon snow shower, the Bengals found themselves in 70-degree Southern California last Sunday. When they took the field, they ran at the Chargers much like they expect to do the rest of the season. Of the Bengals' 61 plays, 38 came on the ground. Those 38 carries resulted in 164 yards, paced by BenJarvus Green-Ellis' 92 yards and a touchdown.

Since it can be difficult passing in the harsh conditions that are expected the rest of the year in Southwest Ohio, the Bengals now realize they will have to keep the ball in the hands of their running backs. Consider last week's game in comparative paradise an anomaly. Lewis' "Bengal weather" is here for the remainder of Cincinnati's season.

"We figured the last four games, we have an opportunity for four bad-weather games," offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said. "So establishing some kind of running game is going to be important to keep the clock moving, keep our defense off the field and try to get something."

Safety George Iloka, a Houston native, said he and his teammates are ready for the climate change that's on the horizon.

"We're used to it, and I played in Boise, so I'm used to cold games," the Boise State product said. "I don't know how other teams that play indoors or in warmer weather like San Diego [deal with it]. It might get to be too much for them. But for us, it's not really a big deal."