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Joe Mixon’s fourth quarter helped fuel the Bengals’ comeback. Get used to it

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Bengals running back Joe Mixon struggled in the first half. However, his fourth quarter performance helped fuel Cincinnati’s comeback against Miami.

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

With 6:58 remaining in the third quarter, Joe Mixon snuck behind C.J. Uzomah for an eight-yard gain. It was significant for a number of reasons. The most prominent being:

  1. It was the longest gain of the afternoon for Mixon;
  2. It was the first positive sign of a rejuvenation effort, with the Bengals losing 17-0 and appearing lifeless in their defeated effort.

After a minimal one-yard gain on the ensuing play (bouncing outside), Andy Dalton was sacked for a 10-yard loss — in fairness to the veteran quarterback, he expertly avoided Charles Harris’ stunt (why aren’t you sliding back, Trey Hopkins?), he ws dropped by a blitzing Jerome Baker (after shuffling away from Bobby Hart).

Granted, Mixon’s eight-yard gain didn’t add much to Cincinnati’s narrative on Sunday, but it was the first leap toward an amazing momentum shift that would lead to Cincinnati’s eventual victory.

Consider that when Cincinnati defeatedly jogged into the locker room at half-time, Mixon had only generated 19 yards rushing on 10 carries. Poor offensive line production was a fraction of the problem, but Dolphins defensive coordinator, and former Bengals linebackers coach, Matt Burke, often stacked the box (and blitzed the hell out of Dalton). It took time for Cincinnati to adjust.

“Sometimes teams are going to put eight people in the box, but at the same time, you have to work on it,” Mixon said after the game. “The receivers will open the run game and we will open up the pass for them.”

Truth.

The symbiotic relationship between the running game and passing game began to bear fruit.

On Cincinnati’s ensuing possession, with 3:24 remaining in the third, Dalton connected with A.J. Green for 21 yards and Tyler Boyd for seven, setting up an first down from Miami’s 28-yard line.

Dalton handed off to a hard-charging Mixon who glided behind Clint Boling’s monster block on Vincent Taylor. There there was the double-team effort by Trey Hopkins and Alex Redmond, while Cordy Glenn’s predator-like approach ascended into the second level. The resulting 12-yard run put Cincinnati at Miami’s 16-yard line.

Two plays later, Mixon hauled in Dalton’s floater on the first play of the fourth quarter. Once Mixon hauled the football, he redirected around linebacker Kiko Alonzo, and leaned into the endzone for the touchdown.

“Third and fourth quarter is when everything shifted and we got the job done,” said Mixon.

Mixon, out the last two weeks with a knee injury, ran the football 12 times in the second half and generated 74 yards rushing. Of those 74 yards, 53 came in the fourth quarter. Mixon powered through for 11 yards with 7:27 remaining in the fourth, and bounced for 31, eventually setting up Randy Bullock’s game-leading field goal with 3:33 remaining.

Cincinnati didn’t look back, completing their second comeback in as many weeks.

“The way you guys have won games the last two weeks, how exciting is it? It’s great,” said Mixon. “We are just looking forward to putting (a game) all the way together, all four quarters. We are either scoring every drive or stopping them every drive, whatever we have to do to be successful. The vibe over here is crazy, and I can’t do anything but be proud of my teammates and coaches. They do a great job of preparing us all week. The players have to come out here and execute. We got off to a slow start today, but we finished.”

That’s all that matters.