Leg BabyESPN staff writer4 minute reading
CINCINNATI — In case it wasn’t clear enough, Bengals running back Joe Mixon reminded everyone how Cincinnati feels about coin flips.
Mixon trolled the NFL with a coin-flip touchdown celebration after his score in the first quarter of Sunday’s 27-16 win over the Baltimore Ravens. After Mixon scored on a 1-yard touchdown run, he pulled a coin out of a glove and flipped it in the end zone, followed by an emphatic kick through the air after it landed.
The celebration highlighted the emotions after the NFL approved a resolution Friday calling for a coin flip to determine the site of a potential Cincinnati-Baltimore game under certain conditions.
With Cincinnati’s win, the Bengals left nothing to chance.
“The best part of it all was that we got it [win]”, Mixon said after the game.
Mixon fueled the team’s locker room celebrations after Cincinnati (12-4) won the first back-to-back AFC North championship in franchise history.
He bought about five boxes of cigars which the players enjoyed in the locker room. As for the coin he used in his touchdown celebration, he said he bought it from team coach Caitlyn Wilson for $100 to poke fun at a situation that left Cincinnati reeling.
Had the Ravens defeated the Bengals on Sunday and the two teams had finished the regular season facing each other in the wild-card round of the playoffs, a coin flip would decide whether that game would be in Cincinnati or Baltimore. The scenario was part of a proposal approved by the league to account for the canceled game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals last Monday after Bills safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest.
Three days after Hamlin was hospitalized at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, the NFL’s competition committee approved a set of potential playoff scenarios to account for the Bills-Bengals cancellation.
Cincinnati’s players, coaches and front office were upset at the prospect of not playing a home game at Paycor Stadium despite winning the AFC North title.
On Thursday, Mixon tweeted out a section of the rulebook that dealt with playoff seeding in the wake of canceled games. Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn sent a memo to all clubs to vote against the proposal that was ultimately approved, according to ESPN’s Seth Wickersham. And on Friday, Bengals coach Zac Taylor spoke out about the rule changes.
“But it seems like there are positives for a lot of teams and only negatives for us,” Taylor said Friday. “So we have the option to play for a coin flip. It can only affect us negatively. We don’t have the option to play for a coin flip that will affect us positively.”
All consternation over the rule changes went towards being contested early Sunday afternoon. One drive after Mixon scored, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow found wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase for a 26-yard touchdown to give Cincinnati a 17-0 lead with 14:06 left in the first half, and Cincinnati took a 24-7 lead in break.
The Bengals, like every other team around the NFL, wore black “Love for Damar” t-shirts in support of Hamlin, who has made significant progress but remains in critical condition at UCMC. Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd, who knows Hamlin through growing up in Pittsburgh and attended the same college, wore Hamlin’s Bills No. 3 jersey during pregame warmups. Boyd said he had thought about wearing something with Hamlin’s number on it.
He met with Hamlin at the hospital earlier this week and said that while the conversation was limited, it was uplifting.
“I didn’t even need an answer,” Boyd said. “As long as his eyes were open, he could move, he could remember, that’s all I needed.”
The game ended up presenting more challenges for Cincinnati as well. In the third quarter, Bengals starting right guard Alex Cappa was taken to the locker room with a left ankle injury and was eventually ruled out. Cincinnati was already without right tackle La’el Collins, who is out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL in his left knee.
Adding to the injuries, the Bengals were unable to pull away from a Ravens team that opted to play third-string quarterback Anthony Brown over backup Tyler Huntley, who dealt with shoulder and wrist injuries throughout the week. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore’s starting quarterback, missed his fifth straight game with a left knee injury.
Cincinnati’s defense beat Brown. He was 19-of-44 passing for 286 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. He also lost a fumble in the end zone for a Bengals touchdown after defensive end Trey Hendrickson sacked Brown and knocked the ball loose.
With Cincinnati’s offense sputtering after halftime, the defense did enough to ensure the Bengals finished the season by winning 12 of their final 14 games and avoiding the dreaded postgame coin toss.
Burrow, who was 25-of-42 passing for 215 yards and 1 touchdown, was not thrilled with his performance. But as he smoked his cigar, rapped and danced along to Future and celebrated with his teammates, he relished the feeling after a long and challenging week.
“It’s always nice to celebrate with the guys you work so hard with and to accomplish something together,” Burrow said. “It’s a special feeling that I don’t think many people get to experience. I always cherish those moments.”