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Bengals Bytes (12/21): The offense is hitting the wall

The Bengals offense just hasn’t done enough the past two games, but what can they do to finally break through?

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Cincinnati Bengals v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

Joe Mixon returns to Cincinnati Bengals practice
Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon was a full participant at practice Wednesday after missing the last two games with a concussion. Mixon also was full go for Friday’s walk-through and was listed as questionable on the game status report, but the next day the Bengals downgraded him to out.

Bengals sign former UC offensive lineman Justin Murray
The Cincinnati Bengals are in the process of remaking their offensive line on the fly in the wake of losing starting tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Andre Smith to injury against Minnesota, and are woefully short on NFL experience beyond backup tackle Eric Winston.

Bengals' offense has hit the wall in past 2 games
An offense featuring Andy Dalton and A.J. Green can barely get a first down these days, leaving the Bengals on track to finish as worst in the NFL. Nobody knows how to get more out of it in the final two games.

Bengals' Lewis deserves to be remembered more for his successes than failures
If Marvin Lewis were to somehow get a contract extension, you will hear local and national sports radio shock jocks talking about all the negative things that Marvin has done over the past 15 years. You're also likely to hear about how the Bengals organization and owner Mike Brown are cheap and don’t know what they are doing. Unfortunately, most fans just react in the moments after a loss – especially in the playoffs – but don’t look at the big picture or totality of the situation. That is understandable.

How Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis bungled his message
Few six-minute, one-mile rides have had as much impact on a football team than the one the Cincinnati Bengals’ team buses made from their hotel in downtown Minneapolis to U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday afternoon. In that brief window, ESPN’s national NFL reporter Adam Schefter – an industry heavyweight known for breaking insider news, reported definitively that Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was going to step away from the team after the season to pursue other opportunities

TDBH: No. 7 goes out on 77-yard fling to beat Marvin’s Ravens
Quarterback Boomer Esiason closes out his reunion tour at today’s season finale with a final salute to the Riverfront Stadium faithful. On his last pass of the game No. 7 unfurls a 77-yard touchdown bomb to wide receiver Darnay Scott with 3:41 left to put away a 16-14 victory over the Ravens that shocks the Bengals into the offseason with volts of optimism when a 6-2 finish cushions a 1-7 start. “We’re going to come into next year the hottest thing going,” says punter Lee Johnson. Even Jeff Blake, the guy that lost his job to Esiason five weeks ago allows, “I just wish we were in this thing. The way we’re playing now I think we could make a run for it.”

Lewis, Dalton News Conference Transcripts 12/20
Complacency can set in, but that’s what you have to fight at this point. We still have two games left, there’s still competition out there and you want to win every time you’re out there. For us, that’s our mindset, and that’s got to be our goal. We still have to compete, we want to put good stuff on tape, and we want to play like we know we can

It's pronounced Fej, as in Pro Bowl alternate
Darrin Simmons, the Bengals’ meticulous special teams coordinator who has taken Cincinnati’s kicking game to places it’s never been during his 15 seasons, is shepherding another first with the help of new AFC special teams Pro Bowl second alternate Clayton Fejedelem. He’s pretty sure he’s never had a core special teamer do what Fejedelem is doing this season. Play more scrimmage snaps (357) than teams snaps (317).

Quick hits: Andre shelved; Simmons worries about Pro Bowl vote; Dalton: my job to get A.J. to Hall
The Bengals are looking at playing two new tackles Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati’s Channel 19) against the Lions at Paul Brown Stadium after right tackle Andre Smith (knee) went on season-ending injured reserve and left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi sat out with a shoulder injury. They also plucked first-year tackle Justin Murray from the Saints practice squad and signed him to the active roster. The 6-5, 304-pound Murray originally signed with Denver as a college free agent in 2016 and spent his entire rookie season on the Broncos’ practice squad. The Broncos waived him during final cuts this year and he spent the first 10 games this season on Tampa Bay’s practice squad.

AFC North Bytes

Duke Johnson says DeShone Kizer's 'confidence is probably shot' but the team is rallying around him
Browns running back Duke Johnson has watched this 0-14 season take an enormous toll on quarterback DeShone Kizer, and knows how hard it must be for the 21-year-old. "He's a young kid and he's still learning and he has all the ability,'' Johnson said Wednesday as the Browns prepared to face the Bears in Chicago on Christmas Eve. "I mean, his confidence is probably shot, but that's where his teammates and his family, his friends come in. They keep him up.''

Chris Moore, Young Ravens Wide Receivers May Need to Step up
When Ravens wide receiver Chris Moore caught a 30-yard touchdown in Pittsburgh two weeks ago, he not surprisingly got a text from his mother. She was excited that he finally made a big play (the longest of his two-year NFL career) considering most of what he did in college was go deep. “But that’s not enough for her,” Moore said. “She wants a 60- or 50-yarder. She’s expecting more.”

Random Bytes

Chris Simms' Week 16 NFL Picks
This is an exciting time of year for NFL fans because the playoff chase is hitting full stride. This year is especially exciting because there are a lot of teams still in the mix. In fact, 13 of the 16 games this week hold some sort of playoff implications. This is also a time of year that should remind everyone that the guys on the field whom so many idolize are people too. They can get just as excited and emotional as the wildest of fanatics.

Ezekiel Elliott Practices with Cowboys for 1st Time Since NFL Suspension
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott practiced with the team for the first time Wednesday since coming off his six-game suspension. According to the Dallas Morning News' Jon Machota, Elliott worked out with Dallas' first team ahead of Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks

Greg Zuerlein Put on IR Due to Back Injury; Rams Signing Sam Ficken
The Los Angeles Rams placed kicker Greg Zuerlein on injured reserve Wednesday because of a back injury, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. The Rams will sign Sam Ficken as Zuerlein's replacement. The Kansas City Chiefs released Ficken in September when they trimmed their roster to 53 players.