The Cincinnati Bengals needed him to balance their offense, and pick things up when opposing defenses keyed on the passing game.
“I’m definitely starting to get to that part where I’m starting to reach my prime,” Mixon said, via the Enquirer. “I know this is definitely the very beginning, and I’m comparing myself to myself, striving to be better than I was before.”
Mixon had a career high 292 rushes, 1,205 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns in 2021. He also had over 300 receiving yards for the first time in his career, tying his previous career high with three receiving touchdowns. Mixon rested in Week 18, so the extra regular-season game didn’t help pad his numbers.
Pro Football Focus has Mixon graded out at 79.5 heading into the Super Bowl clash with the Rams, one of the highest marks of any back this season. That would also be the highest of his career after finishing with a 77.8 mark in 2018, a 75.3 mark in 2019, and a 72.1 mark in 2017.
Not bad for someone who’s “not a good running back.”
These are all his highest totals, surpassing his previous career year all the way back in 2018. He is playing his best football since Marvin Lewis was his head coach.
“When I came into Cincinnati, they always had a first and second down back and a third-down back, which was (Bernard),” Mixon said. “Pretty much everything he went through, I just learned from him and ran with it. When my number is called, I’ve got to make plays and make sure the team can count on me in any situation. We look to thrive in moments like this. If you do the little things, it goes a long way.”
This year, the third-down back has been Samaje Perine. While Perine had the same number of touches Bernard had in Zac Taylor’s offense, Mixon had more touches than he has ever had, and therefore had a larger percentage.
“It’s heartwarming to finally reap these benefits,” Mixon said. “Being a player here for five years, I feel like I’m living in a movie right now. This is a dream that I’ve dreamed of being in. Now I’m playing at the highest level in the best game in the history of sports.”
Like many players, Mixon is seeing the benefit of having patience with Taylor.