The Cincinnati Bengals are headed to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1988-1989 season and running back Joe Mixon’s play is a huge reason why.
The team won its first playoff game in 30 seasons with a wild card win over the Raiders. A road win over top-seeded Tennessee followed, then a comeback for the ages against the Chiefs in the AFC Championship.
A team of destiny, to say the least.
After trailing 21-3 at Arrowhead Stadium, the Bengals stunned the Chiefs 27-24 in overtime to advance to the Super Bowl.
CALIFORNIA, HERE WE COME! pic.twitter.com/o91OyO2Y37
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) January 30, 2022
While quarterback Joe Burrow has gotten all of the glory, running back Joe Mixon has made plays in both the running and passing game all season. His contributions have been just as vital as Burrow’s in transforming the Bengals from a four-win team into a Super Bowl team.
Sunday was no different, as he rushed for 88 yards and caught three passes for 27 yards.
JOE MIXON 🏠📞pic.twitter.com/qDLfhg8Y1s
— PFF CIN Bengals (@PFF_Bengals) January 22, 2022
Following the team’s wild card win over the Raiders, Mixon talked about his team’s play.
“We’ve got to figure out ways to complete games. We have yet to do that. We’re definitely getting better on each side of the ball and also on special teams. I feel like we’ve yet to play our best football. And I think that within these next couple opportunities that we are able to have, I think that we’re going to put it all together here shortly.”
Joe Mixon (@Joe_MainMixon) is the first player since Steven Jackson in 2006 (Weeks 14-17) with at least 2 touchdowns in 4 straight games within a single season. #PITvsCIN pic.twitter.com/RG1pJMi5rx
— NFL345 (@NFL345) November 28, 2021
Maybe Mixon is a prophet, because following that quote, his Bengals went into Tennessee and K.C. as pretty considerable underdogs and won both games. The latter victory placed them at SoFi Stadium on Super Sunday.
On 2nd & 3, Mixon 13-yd rush .. timeout #1 KC#Bengals 24 #Chiefs 24 OT pic.twitter.com/IcBvMDXcja
— Sᴘᴏʀᴛs 24/7 (@Sports_24x7_) January 30, 2022
Mixon Had Breakout Season As Bengals’ Lead Back: First Pro Bowl Selection
This past season Mixon rushed for 1,205 yards and 13 touchdowns in the Bengals’ pass-heavy attack led by Burrow and rookie All-Pro wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. It was Mixon’s third 1,000-yard season in five NFL campaigns. He also contributed 314 yards receiving and three touchdowns, showing his dual-threat abilities as an every-down back. Mixon was rightfully named this season as a Pro Bowl for the first time.
"Super Bowl Burrow!"
Joe Mixon set the record straight for Joe Burrow's nickname ‼️
(via @Joe_MainMixon) pic.twitter.com/lLYGe2ap1R
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 31, 2022
Mixon Overcomes Pre-Draft Legal Trouble
Mixon was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the second round (48th overall) of the 2017 NFL draft.
His draft status was in question because of a misdemeanor criminal charge against Mixon in college at Oklahoma in 2014. Video surfaced of him decking a female college student, and the standout running back was charged with acts resulting in gross injury, which ultimately led to a deal resulting in probation, counseling and community service. He was suspended from OU’s football team for the 2014 season.
Public sentiment was not in his favor, and the football community counted him out as well.
READ: The NFL Should Just Say No To Joe Mixon – The Shadow League
Reportedly, at least six NFL clubs took Mixon off their draft board. Fortunately for him, that one incident didn’t destroy Mixon’s career. He put that behind him, matured into manhood, and established himself as a great teammate.
Now he’s using that familiar position as an underdog to help Cincinnati attempt to do the improbable and win the first Super Bowl in franchise history.
Mixon Believes Everybody Was Sleeping On Team Before Playoffs
Via the team website, Mixon talked about that the NFL community sleeping on the Bengals as real-deal contenders, which undoubtedly served as motivation for them every game.
“Everybody was sleeping on us, everybody not counting us in. Now, we get all the right pieces here, we got all the things that we need to be able to play in games like this and we’re able to compete for championships. That’s what Zac Taylor brought these guys in to do.”
The Bengals have long been the laughingstock of the league. Fans have shown up to Paul Brown Stadium with bags over their heads, but not anymore. The franchise transformation was swift once Burrow assumed the helm. Adding Chase to the mix was the finishing touches to having future HOF cornerstone pieces on offense.
Everybody takes the Bengals seriously now.
“Back then, everybody used to laugh at us on the schedule and be like, ‘Oh we finna play the Bengals.” Mixon said. “It’s just a stat week. Now it ain’t no laughing, ain’t no playing and joking no more, they know what’s going on, they know how we coming.”
The Bengals have arrived, and probably a year or two earlier than anticipated. Burrow has taken the league by storm, but don’t forget Mixon, who does all of the ground-and-pound dirty work that often gets overlooked.
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