ANALYSIS: 5 takeaways from Bengals' win over Jaguars

Cincinnati running back Joe Mixon scores career-high three TDs in 33-25 win

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Joe Mixon wasn’t even sure if he would be able to play after he woke up feeling something squeezing in his chest Saturday. He couldn’t breathe well and spent three hours in the hospital but was cleared to play Sunday and showed no signs of struggle.

The fourth-year running back reached the end zone three times to help lead the Cincinnati Bengals to a 33-25 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in front of 6,243 fans at Paul Brown Stadium, for their first victory of the season.

Mixon helped balance out the Bengals' offense, rushing for 151 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries and added 30 yards and another score on six catches while Joe Burrow became the first rookie quarterback to throw for 300 yards in three straight games.

Here are five takeaways from the win:

1. Running game is the answer

Mixon hadn’t rushed for more than 70 yards in any of the first three games and was still awaiting his first touchdown, but he got going in the second half to finish with his first three-touchdown game and the second-best rushing performance of his career (he had 162 yards rushing in the 2019 finale).

The Bengals are 4-0 when Mixon scores multiple touchdowns in a game.

With the Bengals trailing 13-10 coming out of halftime, Mixon found open space around the right end on the first drive of the second half and ran in for a 34-yard touchdown to give the Bengals a lead they wouldn’t lose. On the next drive, he went up the middle for a 26-yard score to extend the cushion to 14 points.

“I mean, with the football in my hands, it’s liable to go (for a touchdown) on any play,” Mixon said. “These past couple of weeks have been a little tough. But the thing was, nobody was noticing we were so close. It’s always one block away, one play away. We were able to execute those things today. I’m just so grateful to be able to play here each and every day and I never take nothing for granted, especially my teammates. It’s just been great.”

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

2. Improvement on the line

The Bengals signed Alex Redmond off the practice squad to start him at right guard, and he seemed to get the job done after Fred Johnson and Billy Price had struggled the last two games filling in for injured Xavier Su’a-Filo.

Redmond was waived with final cuts after not practicing most of training camp because of an undisclosed injury. He said he knew he would either end up at home on the couch on Sundays or somehow back playing for the Bengals but felt like he still had more to prove Sunday after what he called a “pretty shaky” performance to start out.

The whole offensive line showed improvement Sunday, facing an inexperienced Jaguars defensive line that had recorded just three sacks through the first three games. Burrow was sacked just once with 2:49 left to play, and the Bengals finished with 505 yards of offense, including 205 on the ground.

“I think the line did a great job,” Mixon said. “Everybody looks at my stats and yeah, it was up to par today for everybody else, but the line did a great job, the receivers did a (heck) of a job blocking how they have, and I think everybody is taking great initiative and being better all-around as a team. I think everybody is doing a great job. We had great playcalling today and how we did today on offense, that’s the standard and that’s what it should be every week.”

3. Points left off the board

The Bengals scored one touchdown on four trips to the red zone, but it could have been three as they missed out on two plays in the end zone that should have resulted in 11 more points in the first half. Tyler Boyd had a 16-yard touchdown reception negated by a Trey Hopkins hold in the first quarter, and Cincinnati instead settled for a 35-yard field goal that Bullock pushed through for a 3-0 lead with 2:41 left in the first quarter.

After Jacksonville responded with a touchdown drive, Cincinnati reached the red zone again only for Burrow to be intercepted in the endzone on a third-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Drew Sample seemed to have his hands on the ball but had it ripped away by Myles Jack as he was hitting the ground.

Cincinnati ended up scoring on every possession of the second half, though it settled for field goals on the last three.

4. Same weakness on defense

The Bengals once again gave up field goals at the end of both halves, as that struggle to close in the two-minute drill continues.

Cincinnati tied the game at 10 with just under a minute left in the first half when Mixon caught a short pass and hurdled over a defender to get into the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown reception, but the defense couldn’t keep the Jaguars from moving down the field for a field goal in the final seconds.

Jacksonville also added a 30-yard field goal with 12 seconds left in the game to cut an 11-point deficit down to eight. Cincinnati recovered the onside kick to seal the win.

“That’s something we are going to talk about,” safety Jessie Bates said. “Obviously, that’s been a weakness of our defense. We just got to get in that situation more in practice. Guys need to not be so sped up. Yeah, the game speeds up but our minds need to be very calm and very balanced. It’s something that we have to continue to improve on, but we are gonna focus on the positives right now. We just got a win and it’s a great feeling.”

The Bengals did limit the Jaguars to 89 yards rushing on 20 carries and got to Gardner Minshew for three sacks while keeping him in the pocket much of the day, and Bates jumped a route to deflect a pass that was intercepted by Jordan Evans in the first quarter. Minshew completed 27 of 40 passes for 351 yards and two touchdowns.

5. Burrow’s first win

It took the Bengals 13 games to get a win last year, but just four with Burrow.

Burrow said the game ball from his first NFL win is going back in the bag to be used again. He cared more about the win than becoming the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to throw for 300 games in three straight games but said there is more to accomplish. He completed 25 of 36 passes for 300 yards and one touchdown with one interception.

“Just celebrating with the guys (afterward), it was a lot of fun, but you know, it’s one game,” Burrow said. “There’s 12 more so you know we’re gonna enjoy this for five hours and then come back to work tomorrow, correct the mistakes and move on to Baltimore.”

Bengals coach Zac Taylor said after three close games, including a tie last week, the team knew it was on the verge of that first win, so it felt different than the waiting period in 2019.

“We’ve been expecting to win,” Taylor said. “And so it’s just this is the first game we finished, and that’s all it is. It’s not the same. You know, last year, when you get to 13 weeks, man, you really do feel that, so this isn’t the same feeling because we’ve expected this to come and we know there’s more coming around the horizon.”

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