Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said he wasn’t surprised that rookie running back Joe Mixon was frustrated by his lack of carries Sunday in the 29-14 loss at Pittsburgh , but he wished he hadn’t voiced it during a postgame interview.
“You like to handle things inside the building,” Lazor said. “But hey, we’re all adults.
“You might not be aware of it, but in the last two games that we won, somewhere between probably two and five of our skill position players were probably (upset) at me after the game,” Lazor added. “That’s NFL football. Not everyone is going to be happy with their touches all the time. Some guys handle it better than others. Some of them it shows by the look on their face. Some of them by their body language you can tell. It’s not the first time.”
Mixon rushed seven times for 48 yards in the first 21:30, including a career-long run of 25 yards to set up the first Bengals touchdown, and a 17-yard rush five plays before the second touchdown.
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But Mixon didn’t have a single carry over the final 38 minutes and 30 seconds.
“It’s frustrating,” Mixon said after the game. “I mean, I’m seeing (Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon) Bell get the ball 35 times. I get it seven in the first half and then don’t touch the ball again. Jeremy (Hill) got one touch in the second half. It’s frustrating to us running backs. We’re in the room and we feel like we’re part of the offense. If it worked in the first half, why not do it in the second half.”
Bell turned his 35 carries into 134 yards, which didn’t impress Mixon much.
“I feel like I could do way more than (Bell) did,” he said. “I only got seven carries. I can’t showcase nothing if I don’t get the ball. There ain’t nothing else I can say.”
Hill (four carries, 7 yards) was the running back for the first series of the third quarter, and Giovani Bernard (three carries, 8 yards) was in the backfield for the second series.
The first drive featured a Hill 1-yard run as part of a three and out.
The second possession lasted two plays. Bernard ran for 8 yards on first down, then Joe Haden intercepted an errant Andy Dalton pass that bounced off the right hand of A.J. Green.
“There were a couple plays we chose to put someone else in for particular things, nothing to do with Joe, and it worked out that way,” Lazor said. “There were some plays when Joe was in the game and the defense they chose to play got us to pass on some run-pass options. That’s always part of the game. Then you get to that point in the game where it’s a passing game to try to catch back up to win the game. The key is to win the game. You don’t worry about how you do it. It’s just to win the game.”
During his postgame press conference, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was brief when asked why Mixon didn’t carry the ball over the final 38 minutes.
“He was in there in the third quarter, and whatever plays we called were called,” he said.
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Lewis, like Lazor, was disappointed that Mixon voiced his frustration.
“Should show maturity,” Lewis said. “It’s all a part of it. Just like everybody else. Everybody wants to be out there all the time. But we’re not going to create a run when we’re down by 12 or 15.
“I saw a ball go on the ground when he received two balls thrown to him, which are the same situation,” Lewis added, referring to a Mixon fumble that he recovered himself on his first touch of the third quarter. “We’ve got to handle it all the time the correct way and be strong enough not to be led into questions after the game which unfortunately you don’t know enough about.”
Lazor deferred to Lewis when asked why the team uses Hill on the first series of each half even though Mixon has become the primary back.
“I think it’s a good opportunity for Joe to get a feel and a scope for the game, of what’s occurring,” Lewis said. “There’s going to be some things Jeremy has been through that he hasn’t been yet.”