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Joe Mixon is just starting to hit his stride

The fifth-year running back is headed for a big finish to the season.

Syndication: The Enquirer Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

Joe Mixon is loved by Cincinnati. Fans, players, and coaches have long valued his passion, loyalty, and talent.

Unfortunately, the running back was drafted when the roster was in need of an update and the o-line was on a downward decline. That meant that his talent and charm were lost on most.

Now, though, Mixon is on a winning team with an improved o-line. He is thriving and getting the recognition he deserves.

Last week, the veteran put up 165 yards and two touchdowns against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Just a week earlier, he had 123 yards and two touchdowns on the ground against the Las Vegas Raiders. Over the last two weeks, he has a league-high 58 carries and 288 yards.

More encouragingly, the run blocking seems to be finally coming around. As we discussed in our postgame show, the Bengals were like a moving wall against the Steelers’ defensive line. They gave Mixon the kind of blocking he’s lacked for basically the entirety of his career.

But while his line is playing more like a unit, Mixon is also delivering the hits. Last week, an astonishing 134 of his yards came after contact. If you count his yards after getting hit, he still would’ve led all rushers in Week 12.

And he’s just getting started.

As the weather gets colder and games begin to get more physical around this time of the year, you can expect Mixon to continue to be a big part of Zac Taylor’s game plans and go on a bit of a run here late in the season, starting with a great matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.

We preview that game with Sports Illustrated’s Fernando Ramirez in the video below:

You can also listen on iTunes or using the player below: