The Bengals laid another egg on the Heinz Field turf. But, running back Joe Mixon was sure he could have helped turn things around.
When the lights dimmed at Heinz Field, after a Week 7 battle between the Bengals and Steelers, there weren’t many positive ways to spin it. Once again the Bengals got their butts handed to them by Pittsburgh (five straight) and looked horrible in the process. But, there was a bright spot that could have been exploited as a weapon in the second-half. Joe Mixon was finally looking like the running back Cincinnati took in the draft. But, for some odd reason, the Bengals went away from the running game in the final two quarters.
Look, I don’t profess to be the second coming of Bill Walsh. Yet, there is a large amount of common sense that goes into play calling and getting players into their proper packages and alignments. We can beat the dead horse some more. There’s always that excuse about the O-line being horrendous. Additionally, there’s more room for Andy Dalton not bringing his A-game to the Steel City. But, who am I fooling and why make excuses? Mixon was chewing up the Steelers like a wad of…Bazooka Joe.
When the Bengals found themselves in the middle of a winnable football game, the score was a manageable 20-14. With just a little help from the offensive line and missed tackles by the Steelers, Mixon was able to end the first-half with 48 yards on 7 carries. For those of you who love to see the gory details, that’s 6.9 yards per pop. Remember when Jeremy Hill was running like that in 2014? Well, Mixon was on the verge of doing it Sunday. But, he got lost in the shadows.
And What Was The Response?
I’m still scratching my head over this. In the last two frames of the game, Mixon didn’t touch the ball. What?? Yes, that’s right. Joe Mixon didn’t sniff the ball again. There was no evidence that he was put in the doghouse for some reason nor was there any indication that he was hurt. So, what was Mixon’s frame of mind?
"“It’s frustrating. I feel like I’m seeing [Le’Veon Bell] got the ball 35 times, and I got it seven in the first half and then don’t touch the ball again,” Mixon said, per ESPN. “[Jeremy] Hill only got one touch in the second half. It’s frustrating to us running backs. We feel like we’re in the room and we feel like we’re part of the offense. If it worked in the first half, why not do it in the second?”"
Frankly, I was thinking the same, exact thing. Did Marvin Lewis or Bill Lazor get the message about the Steelers’ trouble defending the run? Were they busy trying to flex their muscles and flaunt the recent success of Dalton and the passing game? Hey, Marv…Bill. Newsflash. Guess who has the No. 1 ranked pass defense in the NFL, after whuppin’ up on Dalton? It ain’t that hard to figure out.
But, do you have any idea where the Steelers rank against the run? Well, it ain’t in the top 10. And it was worse before stunting the Bengals’ ground attack. To be honest, Mixon had every right to question the move.
Stop Wanting To Win
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Lewis had a typical response for Mixon. You see, it’s all about waiting your turn. When a rookie is signed by the Bengals, they’re lucky to see action after at least a year “learning.” So, essentially, Lewis told Mixon to grow up.
"“You should show maturity just like everybody else. Everybody wants to be out there all the time. But, we’re not going to create a run when we are down by 12 or 15 (points). We’re not going to create it. I saw a ball go on the ground when he received two balls thrown to him, which are the same situation. We got to handle it all the time the correct way, and be strong enough to not be led into questions after the game, which unfortunately he doesn’t know enough about.”"
Excuse me? So, the short passing game is now the extension of the running game? Oh, now I get it. Whatever. The stench of nose-turned-up superiority is back. That sounds like the ka-thump of bus tires running over Mixon.
The last time I checked, Leonard Fournette and Kareem Hunt are sitting within the top 5 running backs in the NFL. Both of those players visited Cincinnati. Here’s a question. Would they be as mesmerizing if they had come to the Queen City? Here’s another head scratcher. Why draft Mixon if he can’t show his passion for playing? Is it only permissible for veterans (A.J. Green) to speak up about mediocre game plans? Interesting.
Can It Get Worse?
If the smugness meter gets any worse, it’ll get ridiculous before it gets better. Mixon will probably find himself walking the sidelines in Week 8. Hill and Giovani Bernard should be able to handle the Colts’ D. But, even that’s not a given.
The lack of adjustments in the second-half is not new to most fans and players. But, this new funky attitude from Lewis…is disturbing.
Mixon has my vote. He should have been given a chance.