A little patience can go a long way - especially when you have Joe Mixon on your side.
Mixon, the fifth-year running back of the Cincinnati Bengals, was held to just 26 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries in the first half of Sunday’s 32-13 win over the Las Vegas Raiders. But he exploded for 97 yards and a score on 19 carries in the second half as the Bengals broke open what had been a close game through three quarters.
“You know, that’s kind of how rushing goes in the NFL,” said Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow after the game. “It’s tough to run the ball in the first and second quarter when guys are fresh. And then, you know, as you wear on teams that’s when the dam breaks in the second half. You know, we kept at it, and we knew exactly what kind of game it was going to be.”
Burrow was efficient as he completed 20/29 passes (69%) with one touchdown and no interceptions. His 148 yards passing was a career low, but it set the stage for Mixon’s heroics.
“He gets better every day,” Bengals’ receiver Tyler Boyd said of Mixon. “All you have to do is turn that tape on and at the end of the games, that’s where he gets even better.”
The more time ticked off the clock, the better Mixon got. And the harder he ran. Mixon ripped off runs of 11, 18 and 19 yards in the second half, and his 20-yard touchdown scamper with 3:51 left to play opened up a 29-13 Cincinnati advantage and put the game out of reach.
“I done heard it,” Boyd said. “The guy I’m blocking, he wanted me to stay on him blocking so he doesn’t have to tackle him. Guys out there (opponents) are saying he’s running hard. Guys don’t want to tackle him. It’s stealing now at that point.”
His effort against the Raiders vaulted Mixon into the top five of NFL running backs with 759 yards on 180 carries for an average of 4.2 yards per carry. He is fourth in touchdowns with nine, and has accounted for two more scores as a receiver.
“I think the unique trait about Mixon is his explosion,” Boyd said. “He can do it all,” Boyd said. It’s not just the run downhill. He can hit you up. He can shake you. He can catch the ball. He can do anything you want him to do. That’s why he’s out there and that’s why he’s one of the best running backs in the league.”
Mixon is especially dangerous when the weather starts to turn cold. Sunday was Mixon’s 12th 100-yard rushing game of his career, and nine of them came in November and December. In 2018, in his one previous year under current offensive line coach Frank Pollack, Mixon had three 100-yard games in December on the way to the AFC rushing title.
“The weather turns and to be real, man, with the history of me being in Cincinnati, usually November and December become them games where they lean on me,” Mixon said. “And I’ve been really doing big things and finishing very strong.”
And that’s exactly what he is going to have to do this year as the Bengals face the NFL’s fourth-toughest schedule over the last seven games of the season. In addition to games against the Steelers, Ravens and Browns, Cincinnati also has to face the Chargers, 49ers and Chiefs.
“I’m ready for it,” Mixon said. “I’m ready for whatever they throw me. I know sometimes, it might be more of the run. Sometimes, more of the pass. But I definitely look forward to playing November, December, because like I said, we have everything and every team that we need to get in the playoffs.”