What Joe Mixon’s career day means for the Bengals – Cincinnati Bengals Blog
CINCINNATI — Everything about the Cincinnati Bengals has come under scrutiny in the first eight weeks of the season topsy-turvy.
Running back Joe Mixon topped the list. Less than 10 months after reaching his first Pro Bowl, Mixon was mired in an unproductive season. It featured a lack of big plays in the running game, clear levels of underperformance, and even a meeting with the offensive line to make sure everyone was on the same page.
However, three quarters of happiness against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday changed the outlook. Mixon had a career-high 211 scrimmage yards and a franchise-record five touchdowns in a performance that could mean big things for an offense that needs to perform at a high level if the Bengals are to return to the playoffs.
“Some games the receivers are going to catch a lot of balls for a lot of yards, and other games where we run the ball and are detailed in the running game,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said after the game. “I think those are things you have to have if you want to have the type of season that we want to have.”
Going into the 42-21 win over the Panthers, it was clear that Mixon was going to be heavily featured. The Bengals were able to get some good first-down wins, which allowed them to rely on the ground game.
Prior to Sunday, Mixon had struggled. In the first eight weeks, Mixon rushed for 54 yards below expectation, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, sixth-worst of all running backs. In Week 9 against the Panthers, he rushed for 74 yards above expectation.
Despite the slow start, Mixon remained optimistic things were about to change. And on Sunday, they finally did.
“I knew that at some point the dam would break, and it happened today,” he said after the game.
Speaking to reporters last month, Mixon drew parallels to his 2019 season, in which he had an even worse start to the year before finishing with 1,137 rushing yards.
As they did that season, the Bengals called fewer running plays that feature a wide zone scheme, which allows Mixon to choose which lanes to attack, and opted for more forward-oriented plays. gap, which tends to feature an offensive lineman shooting as Mixon attacks. a specific opening.
After Sunday’s game, Bengals center Ted Karras agreed the running patterns were more diverse and the varied approach was successful.
Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said Cincinnati’s main philosophy has always been to include multiple looks.
“You can’t sit in a running program in the NFL and expect to be successful,” Callahan said. “In the end, you will be understood.”
It also helps that Mixon had a vintage performance.
“Joe finally ran with the demeanor and the passion and the energy and the things that he’s always done,” Callahan said. “It finally appeared [against Carolina] – broke tackles, ran hard, ran aggressively.”
The Bengals (5-4) will need Mixon to play at a high level with the stakes high after their bye week. Cincinnati has the second remaining strength in the league schedule, according to ESPN Analytics. Cincinnati is currently trailing the division-leading Baltimore Ravens, who have a much easier schedule, and are outside of a congested battle for an AFC wildcard spot.
But the offensive numbers are heading in the right direction. The Bengals are fifth in the NFL in points per practice and fourth in the league in touchdowns per practice, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Cincinnati’s big day against the Panthers was the team’s second non-star game without injured receiver Ja’Marr Chase. And Mixon knows what that means if he can continue to play well during Chase’s return.
“When Chase comes back and we start to open up the offense even more, because the running game is going on and the passing is going on,” Mixon said, “I feel like it’s just going to get crazier.”