The Cincinnati Bengals’ are getting things in gear at the right time. Fortunately, Joe Mixon is right in the middle of the upswing.
Well, you knew it had to happen sooner or later. With all the hoopla and anticipation smoldering in the Cincinnati air, something had to give. What went down? Joe Mixon finally hit the century mark against the Browns. The first-year back from Oklahoma had 114 yards rushing on 23 carries and posted 5.0 yards per carry. Well, actually, 4.956. But, for the effort and excitement he generated, he should get that stat rounded up.
It was there. All of Bengals Nation knew it was boiling beneath the surface. There was a hint of what he could do against the Green Bay Packers in Week 3. Mixon put up 62 yards rushing and compiled 101 total, with 39 yards receiving.
Then, there was the Heinz Field breakout that saw him put up 48 yards on seven carries in the first half against a Steelers team not known for defending the run.
Before you choke on the laughter, the Browns aren’t that shabby on defense. In fact, coming into Sunday’s matchup, Cleveland was a respectable foe against the run. Even after Mixon’s triple-digit day, they’re still in the top 10. So, that smirk should take a back seat. Give the young man some credit. He was able to take what the defense gave him and generate the yards Bengals’ fans have been waiting for. Geez, enjoy the frickin’ win before the primetime woes descend upon the city.
What the offense needed
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Recently. Mixon had shown frustration over the lack of playing time and wanted to prove he was the man for the job. After all, he was drafted to be the future of the running game. Why not give the guy a chance to prove his worth. But, under the watchful eyes of Marvin Lewis, rookies tend to disappear into the shadows of PBS.
After Lewis called Mixon’s hand, the young back has slowly shown improvement in patience and vision. Instead of trying to hit a home run with each carry, he’s learned to take what’s in front of him. He’s pecking away until the perfect hole opens and then he makes a Corey Dillon style juke to daylight.
With Mixon able to follow a gradually improving O-line (please, oh please get better), Andy Dalton will be able to utilize the play-action to freeze defenders and get some separation. It was evident on the touchdown toss to Tyler Kroft from the Cleveland 1-yard line. Mixon was able to draw enough attention on a fake leap into the end zone and give Kroft the distance he needed.
When Mixon is working on all cylinders, the play calling will become more fluid and fans can expect to see some gadget plays in the future. Having a running back who demands attention can open a few doors.
Trying to keep it going
When the Pittsburgh Steelers roll into town for Monday Night Football, Mixon should be salivating. Heck, Bill Lazor and the offense should be doing cartwheels. It’ll be a chance for young Mr. Mixon to show that his Week 7 performance against the Stilluhs wasn’t a fluke.
Although he was able to shred a decent Browns defense, the respect won’t come until it’s under the lights against a division rival like Pittsburgh. But, was Marvin Lewis pleased with Mixon’s performance?
"“Yes, obviously it was Joe’s largest output of the season. There were a lot of good things from him. He just has to continue to grow as a young player. But, it was a good day. I thought the interior of our offensive line did a nice job yesterday. It was tough sledding in there against those big guys they have, particularly Shelton (Danny Shelton), but we did a good job.”"
It was indeed a good showing for the Bengals’ young back. But, now, it’s time to lace ‘em up tight and get ready for Steelers Week.