Mixon looks to light up Raiders’ defense again

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon (28) scores a touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

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Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon (28) scores a touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

Joe Mixon hadn’t thought about whether he should get some cigars for a potential celebration this weekend like he did following the Bengals’ AFC North-clinching win in Week 17, but after he was asked about it in a press conference Wednesday, he’s definitely heading back to Party Source in Bellevue, Ky., for more.

The Cincinnati Bengals host the Las Vegas Raiders in a Wild Card playoff game Saturday at Paul Brown Stadium, and Mixon said the first playoff win since 1990 would be worthy of a victory cigar.

“I think it’s definitely valuable for me to go get some because it’s been a long time since we’ve won a playoff game, so I mean, I’m definitely looking forward to it,” Mixon said.

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Mixon and most of his teammates have never been to the playoffs with the Bengals, and anyone that arrived in Cincinnati in 2016 or later has never played an NFL postseason game.

Getting to this point is “huge” but something that has been building since 2019, Mixon said in his first interview since before the team clinched.

“We’ve got guys that have been here when were in a drought, and everybody was sleeping on us and everybody was not wanting to count us in, which they shouldn’t have,” Mixon said. “We weren’t taking care of business how we should have been. Now we’ve got all the right pieces here, we’ve got all the things that we need to be able to play in games like this and where we’ll be able to compete for championships. That’s what Zac brought these guys in to do and what I’m here to do.

“At the same time back then everybody used to laugh at us on the schedule, and be like, ‘Oh, we’re going to play the Bengals, this is stat week.’ Now there ain’t no laughing and no playing and joking no more. They know what’s going on. They know how we’re coming, so now we just have to go ahead and look forward to take care of business.”

With a lot of the hype around Joe Burrow and his receivers, Mixon has somewhat quietly produced his best season, rushing for 1,205 yards and 13 touchdowns on a league-high 292 carries.

His performance at Las Vegas in Week 11 was one of his best, as he rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries – most of the yardage coming in the second half as the Bengals put together a 19-point fourth quarter to blow out the Raiders, 32-13.

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Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) and tight end C.J. Uzomah (87) celebrate after running back Joe Mixon (28) scored a touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

Credit: David Becker

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) and tight end C.J. Uzomah (87) celebrate after running back Joe Mixon (28) scored a touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

Credit: David Becker

caption arrowCaption
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) and tight end C.J. Uzomah (87) celebrate after running back Joe Mixon (28) scored a touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

Credit: David Becker

Credit: David Becker

Mixon said to be successful Saturday against an improved Las Vegas front seven, he will need to be patient. The Raiders, featuring linebacker Denzel Perryman, allow 95.1 rushing yards per game (28th most in the league), but are one of the best pass defenses.

“It was a grind out game to be honest,” Mixon recalled about the first matchup. “I mean, you had some runs that it was like really slow at first. The linebackers were teeing off, the Raiders are really solid up front. I mean, as much as people really sleep on them, I think they got a great front seven. … We just got to do whatever we can to, you know, really be as balanced as we can. We can’t let them dictate what we do.”

The running game was impacted in 2020 when Mixon suffered a foot injury and played just six games, but the Bengals revamped what they were doing in the ground attack when they re-hired Frank Pollack as offensive line coach and added the title of run game coordinator to his duties.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor said it looks like a more powerful running game in part because guys are more comfortable in his system in Year 3, but the staff also made some tweaks to what they were doing and Pollack certainly was a big piece to it. Mixon welcomed Pollack’s return – he had been there in 2018 when Mixon had his first of three 1,000-yard seasons.

“To be honest with us getting Frank back, we don’t care who’s across the board from us, we’re gonna run at you and we’re gonna dare you to stop it,” Mixon said. “I mean, that’s just his mentality. That’s his mindset. And I’m all for that. … We stick with it and stay with it, wear a defense down in the third, fourth quarter, but of course you’re gonna have to do it throughout the game. We can sustain these drives, and wear them down and I think great things are ahead of us and we just got to stick with it.”

Much like the Bengals decided to stick with Mixon. Asked what it would mean to reward owner Mike Brown with his first playoff win after the organization took a chance on him in the 2017 draft and gave him a second contract, of which he is in his first year of the new deal.

“I’m playing for my teammates and playing for the city,” Mixon said. “I really don’t think about self until it’s time to evaluate self. So at the same time I’m playing for them guys and in terms of Mike Brown, giving him you know what he’s been looking for over these years, that would be a great accomplishment. I’m blessed to be here in a situation to get another contract. At the same time I’ve got to do whatever I can to succeed and fulfill these things that I’m here to do. I’m looking forward to doing that. Everybody looks up to me, and I got to put the team in the best position to win. I know they want to lean on me and things like that. I got to do whatever I can to lead, which I will. I’m excited for it.”

SATURDAY’S GAME

Raiders at Bengals, 4:30 p.m., NBC, Peacock, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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