Even after the stomach flu and the Dolphins’ eight-man front held Joe Mixon
to 50 yards last Sunday in Miami, he still has the edge on Cleveland's Nick Chubb
, who is on track to win the NFL rushing title, since the ninth game, 655-650.
Only the Titans’ Derrick Henry
has more yards than Mixon and Chubb during that same stretch.
Mixon has been reaping the rewards of offensive line coach Jim Turner’s mid-season autopsy of the run game that has translated into a full recovery. As Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson noted, it makes you wonder. In the last seven games, he’s averaged 94 yards per contest. Over 16 games that translates to 1,504 yards. It also would have broken Rudi Johnson
’s single-season Bengals rushing record of 1,458.
Mixon’s effectiveness has had a big impact on head coach Zac Taylor’s play-calling. Down 23 in Miami, the Bengals had to chuck it to tie it and threw 18 straight times, 17 if you count the spike. Mixon’s last carry in regulation went for five yards with eight minutes left.
But Taylor called Mixon’s number on the first two snaps of overtime and even on second-and-nine on the next and last series.
Gone, apparently, is the mindset of the opener in Seattle, when the Seahawks jammed the box like the Dolphins did and the Bengals threw it 16 of the first 19 snaps.
Mixon carried it 21 times in Miami as opposed to six in Seattle.
“We’ve learned our lessons. You can’t just abandon it,” Taylor says of the run game. “It’s happened early in the year. Those are things we learned from.”
Suddenly, Mixon is just 27 carries away from 279, which would be the highest for a Bengals back since the 278 of BenJarvus Green-Ellis
in 2012. After battering the Dolphins front (which mirrored how former Pats defensive signal caller and current Dolphins head coach Brian Flores held Taylor’s Rams to a field goal in the last Super Bowl), Mixon knows what Taylor is saying.
“We can’t let them dictate how the game is going to go,” Mixon says. “Whatever they line up in, we have to execute.”
With Mixon 25 yards from 1,000 again, wide receiver Tyler Boyd
is 13 yards from becoming the first Bengal receiver to go back-to-back for 1,000 in four years when A.J. Green
got 1,000 in each of his first five seasons. Mixon offered a friendly bet (“No funny business”) on who gets it first but was surprised Boyd didn’t take it.
“He’s one catch away from it,” said Mixon, who’ll need seven carries if his 3.9-yard average holds up. “I just told him I’ll probably get a big one for him and I’ll get 1,000 first. ... It’s just the competitive side of us.”
Meanwhile, Mixon will be going up against a unit that's been the NFL's second-worst run defense the past four weeks and gives up 3.5 yards per carry before first contact, most in the NFL. ...
Also of interest. ... As ESPN's Mike Clay notes, John Ross
had his first big game since Week 2 on Sunday, hauling in 6 of 13 targets for 84 yards against Miami. Ross was on the field for 80 percent of the offensive snaps, which was his highest rate
since he played every snap in Week 3.
Ross had been limited to six targets and 43 percent of the snaps in two games since returning from injury in Week 14.
Clay added, however, that Ross benefited from the Bengals running 60 pass plays in what was an overtime loss, so he's best left on the bench against a decent Browns pass defense in Week 17.