Joe Mixon continues to trend up with career day in another Bengals loss

CLEVELAND -- In a year filled with rough performances, Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon didn't have any problems Sunday.

Mixon had the best game of his career in the Bengals' 27-19 loss to the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. He totaled 23 carries for 146 yards and Cincinnati's lone touchdown.

Mixon bested his previous career high of 129 yards in a win over the Raiders last season.

While the Bengals (1-12) spoiled Mixon's career day and maintained their position as the worst team in the NFL with three games remaining, Mixon showed why he will be an asset for a rebuilding Cincinnati franchise moving forward.

The third-year running back surpassed the 100-yard mark for the second time in his past five games. It's a promising trend for the AFC's leading rusher in 2018 who struggled at the beginning of this season.

Mixon has four games with 20 or fewer rushing yards. But as the offensive line has steadily improved throughout the season, Mixon has found his form. In the past four games, Mixon has averaged 106.3 yards per game.

Mixon probably should have had more yards against the Browns (6-7). On first-and-goal at Cleveland's 2-yard line, the Bengals opted to pass instead of handing it off to Mixon. Quarterback Andy Dalton was sacked, which caused the drive's demise and resulted in a field goal. Mixon expressed his frustration when he returned to the sideline.

But with another strong performance, Mixon showed why he could be worth a long-term investment as Cincinnati looks for pieces to build around. Next season will be the final year of Mixon's four-year rookie deal, which both sides could re-evaluate after this season.

If Mixon can rush for 211 yards in his final three games, he will eclipse the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight season, especially impressive during a tough season with the NFL's worst team.

Describe the game in two words: Missed opportunities. The Bengals mustered one touchdown on five red-zone drives and committed eight penalties for 99 yards.

Pivotal play: The Bengals had a chance to tie the game midway through the fourth quarter. But on fourth-and-goal at the 4-yard line, Dalton took a draw play up the middle and was stopped 2 yards short. It finished Cincinnati's second 16-play drive in as many possessions. Both put the Bengals inside Cleveland's 5-yard line. Cincinnati had only three points to show for both possessions that took 15:33 off the game clock.

QB breakdown: Dalton struggled in his second game back as the starter. He was 22-of-38 passing for 262 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. Dalton's turnover, a throw behind wide receiver Auden Tate, was picked off by Cleveland's Denzel Ward and returned for a 61-yard touchdown. Dalton also missed Alex Erickson down the right sideline at the end of the first half. Sunday's performance didn't bolster Dalton's case to be a starting quarterback for a team in 2020.

Silver lining: The Bengals entered Week 14 with a minus 12 turnover margin, the third-worst in the NFL. Cincinnati was plus 1 on the day after forcing two turnovers. Linebacker Nick Vigil and safety Jessie Bates each had an interception off Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield.