It started early, and it didn’t stop. And the man at the heart of it didn’t know it was coming.
Bengals running back Joe Mixon set a franchise record on Sunday with five touchdowns against the Panthers. He visited by phone with PFT for a few minutes after the game.
“I didn’t know at all,” Mixon said when asked when he knew it would be such a big day for him. “Just, you know, staying ready from when my number was called. The past few weeks and had been going not how I thought it would but, you know, I just basically stayed true to myself and stayed true to the game, man. Without the big guys in front, the receivers, and tight ends, it wouldn’t be happening. I just stayed true to it.”
Mixon knew that there was a general plan to embrace a more smash mouth style against Carolina.
“Coach [Zac Taylor] called it up, and we came out being physical,” Mixon said. “We came out being physical and we basically did whatever we could for him to keep calling them plays and running plays, and he actually stuck to it. I mean, we were just coming through to deliver.”
Making it more impressive was the fact that the Bengals were blown out by the Browns just six days ago. I asked Mixon the plan for putting that one behind them.
“Really just to come in, go to work, and get that bad taste out of our mouth,” he said. “It was only right for us to come to work with confidence and knowing the team that we are and still playing with that fire and that edge to us and we came to work, and we preached all week we’ve got to come out and execute and not beat ourselves and that’s exactly what we did.”
Some have said there’s a Super Bowl hangover for the Bengals. I asked Mixon what his reaction is when he hears that.
“To be honest, man, we’re not even paying attention to it,” Mixon said. “Because we’re the Cincinnati Bengals and we were in the Super Bowl last year, then everybody [put] all these expectations on this. But at the end of the day, the only expectation that matters is ours, and we’ve just got to keep on coming through and going to work and basically staying true to the game.”
Here’s the best argument for the existence of no hangover. Just like last year, the Bengals enter the bye at 5-4.
“It was very important,” Mixon said regarding moving above .500. “It was very important, man. The fact that we’re sitting exactly where we were last year. I mean, that’s a great feeling, especially to come out with a win right before the bye. It was huge, and we needed it and we came through and got it.”
And now they have two weeks to get ready for a trip to face the Steelers.
“We just got to basically go through the corrections because we still got room to get better and go off to the bye week, enjoy it, don’t get too high, don’t get too low,” Mixon said, “and get our bodies right leading up to Pittsburgh.”
Now’s the time for the Bengals to make their move. And it will help if, after the bye, they can get receiver Ja'Marr Chase back.