Bengals' Joe Mixon has 'long overdue' big game, sets team mark with 5 TDs

CINCINNATI -- No running backs in Cincinnati Bengals history had a game like the one Joe Mixon had Sunday.

Mixon set the franchise record for the most touchdowns in a single game in the team's 42-21 rout of the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. Mixon scored five times, with a 14-yard touchdown in the third quarter setting the record. The mark was previously held by three players: Larry Kinnebrew (1984), Corey Dillon (1997) and Marvin Jones Jr. (2013).

Mixon said by the time of his second or third carry of the game, he knew it was going to be a game where the rushing attack was going to emphasized.

"I'm just very excited to come through and deliver for my teammates," Mixon said after the game. "It's been long overdue."

Mixon had four rushing touchdowns, which matched Dillon's mark 25 yards ago against the Tennessee Titans. The running back also had one receiving touchdown, a 12-yard catch at the end of the first half.

Mixon had 211 total yards from scrimmage -- 153 rushing, 58 receiving. He became the sixth player in the Super Bowl era with at least 200 scrimmage yards and five touchdowns in one game.

Things started clicking from the team's opening drive of the game. Mixon caught a delayed screen pass from quarterback Joe Burrow and turned it into a 35-yard gain. He capped that possession with a 2-yard rushing score in what was a preview for the rest of the game.

Bengals players and coach Zac Taylor spread the praise around for Mixon's big outing -- from the varied run concepts to blocking from the offensive line, tight ends and wide receivers. Mixon credited Taylor for sticking with the run and allowing the running back to establish a rhythm.

But one of the big catalysts for Sunday's offensive performance was a passionate speech from Cincinnati offensive coordinator Brian Callahan during a team meeting the day before the game.

"The way Callahan was getting at us on Saturday, I just loved how he came in with an edge in that meeting," Mixon said. "Basically everything that he said, we made it happen today. So we spoke it into existence."

It was a game Cincinnati (5-4) needed, especially on the ground.

Before Sunday's performance, the Bengals' rushing attack was under significant scrutiny. Coming into Sunday, Cincinnati was 30th in the NFL in rushing yards per game (81) and yards per rush attempt (3.54).

Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst said Cincinnati's eagerness to impose its will on Carolina was critical to improving the team's ground efficiency.

"We wanted to go out there and maul those guys, and that's what we did all day," Hurst said.

Many of the questions around Cincinnati's lack of rushing success centered on Mixon. Coming off his first Pro Bowl selection, the sixth-year running back was performing below standards. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Mixon entered Sunday rushing for 54 yards below expectation. On Sunday, Mixon went 74 yards over the forecasted model.

He said Sunday he wasn't oblivious to the swirling chatter. Teammates informed him of what was being said about him, and their instructions were to block it all out.

"To be honest, that's what exactly has been going on," Mixon said. "But my teammates know what type of player I am. And most importantly, I know what type of player I am."

Cincinnati was looking to avoid back-to-back losses and dipping below the .500 mark ahead of its bye week. With the win, the defending AFC champions will stay within at least a game of Baltimore, which is atop the AFC North before its game against the New Orleans Saints on "Monday Night Football."

Burrow, who was 22-of-28 passing for 206 yards and two total touchdowns, said Sunday's win over the Panthers was the team's first complete performance of the season. And when it came to Cincinnati's star running back, Mixon's record-setting game was the type of outing Burrow and his teammates expect.

"He's been the same guy every single week, working hard," Burrow said of Mixon. "He hasn't the production I know he's wanted. Today, a big breakout game for him. Hopefully we can carry that momentum after this bye week and keep that going."