Move over Joe, it’s Optimus time.
Optimus Perine is a nickname Cincinnati Bengals’ running back Samaje Perine earned as a freshman at Oklahoma after he ran for 242 yards and four scores against West Virginia.
And, while his current performances may bring back memories of those days, there is little chance of his unseating Bengals’ starter Joe Mixon, who will reclaim the job when he clears the NFL’s concussion protocol.
With Mixon out, though, Perine has made the most of his opportunities. Sunday’s win over the Kansas City Chiefs was just the latest, albeit the best, example.
Against the Chiefs, Perine turned in his first 100-yard game since he was a rookie with the Washington Redskins in 2017, finishing with 106 yards on 21 carries for an average of 5.0 yards per carry, and adding another six receptions for 49 yards.
“It was a fun football game,” Perine said after the game. “We came out and were clicking on pretty much all cylinders. We just made plays when opportunities showed up. The line did a fantastic job opening up holes, getting on blocks, and staying on blocks — just one play at a time, and (we) kept it moving.”
Perine was a big part of that, and he will continue to be a big part of the Bengals’ success, both on the field and in the locker room, as they head into the stretch run and another possible playoff appearance.
“I’m just so happy that he’s taken this opportunity and done what he’s done with it,” quarterback Joe Burrow said, “because he’s one of those guys that you love being around, brings the juice, so consistent, day in and day out. He’s gonna get you two or three if there’s nothing there, and that’s valuable.”
Perine’s grinding efforts have given the Bengals something they sorely lacked in the early stages of the season - balance. Not only did he eclipse the 100-yard mark rushing, but Ja’Marr Chase very nearly reached that mark, as well, with 97 yards on seven receptions. Cincinnati finished with 152 total yards on the ground and 286 yards through the air.
“That’s when you’re rolling,” Burrow said. “You can run the ball, you can throw your RPOs (Run-Pass Options), you can throw the ball down the field. We’re just playing really well on offense right now. It’s exciting, and there’s a lot of room to improve, as well.”
And that is something which should really strike fear into the hearts of upcoming opponents. With Mixon set to return soon, the Bengals will be able to feature a two-headed monster in the backfield that will provide that extra dimension. Perine may not start, but he will continue to be a big part of the game plan.