Leg BabyESPN staff writer3 minute reading
CINCINNATI — No running back in Cincinnati Bengals history had a game like Joe Mixon’s on Sunday.
Mixon set the franchise record for most touchdowns in a single game in his team’s 42-21 rout of the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. Mixon scored five times, with a 14-yard touchdown in the third quarter setting the record. The mark was previously held by three players: Larry Kinnebrew (1984), Corey Dillon (1997) and Marvin Jones Jr. (2013).
Mixon said he knew it was going to be a game where the rushing attack was going to be emphasized as he had his second or third carry of the game.
“I’m just really excited to come through and deliver for my teammates,” Mixon said after the game. – It has been long overdue.
Mixon had four rushing touchdowns, matching Dillon’s mark 25 yards ago against the Tennessee Titans. The running back also had one receiving touchdown, a 12-yard catch at the end of the first half.
Mixon had 211 total yards from scrimmage — 153 rushing, 58 receiving. He became the sixth player in the Super Bowl era with at least 200 scrimmage yards and five touchdowns in one game.
Things started to click from the team’s opening game. Mixon caught a delayed screen pass from quarterback Joe Burrow and turned it into a 35-yard gain. He capped that possession with a 2-yard rushing score in what was a preview for the rest of the game.
Bengals players and coach Zac Taylor are raving about Mixon’s big outing — from the varied running concepts to blocking from the offensive line, tight ends and wide receivers. Mixon credited Taylor for sticking with the run and allowing the running back to establish a rhythm.
But one of the big catalysts for Sunday’s offensive performance was an impassioned speech from Cincinnati offensive coordinator Brian Callahan during a team meeting the day before the game.
“The way Callahan took us on Saturday, I just loved how he came into that meeting with an edge,” Mixon said. “Basically everything he said, we made it happen today. So we talked it into existence.”
It was a game Cincinnati (5-4) needed, especially on the ground.
Before Sunday’s performance, the Bengals’ rushing attack was under considerable scrutiny. On Sunday, Cincinnati ranked 30th in the NFL in rushing yards per game (81) and yards per rush attempt (3.54).
Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst said Cincinnati’s eagerness to impose its will on Carolina was crucial to improving the team’s ground efficiency.
“We wanted to go out and break those guys and that’s what we did all day,” Hurst said.
Many of the questions surrounding Cincinnati’s lack of rushing success centered on Mixon. Coming off his first Pro Bowl selection, the sixth-year running back performed below standards. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Mixon entered Sunday rushing for 54 yards below expectations. On Sunday, Mixon went 74 meters above the projected model.
He said Sunday he was unaware of the swirling talk. His teammates informed him of what was being said about him and their instructions were to block it all out.
“To be honest, that’s exactly what’s been going on,” Mixon said. “But my teammates know what kind of player I am. And most importantly, I know what kind of player I am.”
Cincinnati was looking to avoid back-to-back losses and fall below the .500 mark before the bye week. With the win, the defending AFC champions will stay within at least one game of Baltimore, which is atop the AFC North before the game against the New Orleans Saints on “Monday Night Football.”
Burrow, who was 22-of-28 passing for 206 yards and two total touchdowns, said Sunday’s win over the Panthers was the team’s first complete game performance of the season. And when it came to Cincinnati’s star running back, Mixon’s record-setting game was the type of outing Burrow and his teammates expect.
“He’s been the same guy every single week, working hard,” Burrow said of Mixon. “He’s not having the production that I know he’s wanted. Today, a big breakout game for him. Hopefully we can carry that momentum after this bye week and keep it going.”