‘Fab Five’ getting it done for Bengals’ offense

Cincinnati Bengals' Tee Higgins (85) celebrates a touchdown reception during the second half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

Credit: Jeff Dean

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Cincinnati Bengals' Tee Higgins (85) celebrates a touchdown reception during the second half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

Credit: Jeff Dean

Credit: Jeff Dean

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon was so excited about the team’s offensive weapons going into this season he dubbed them the “Fab Five” during training camp. Mixon, quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receivers Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and Ja’Marr Chase have lived up to the nickname.

It’s truly become a “pick your poison” question for opposing defenses, and the Bengals need that to be the case this week as they try to keep up with one of the best offenses in the league.

The Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) come to Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday, and Cincinnati can clinch the AFC North title with a win. The Chiefs rank fourth in the NFL at 28.1 points per game, but the Bengals aren’t far behind at 27.3 points per game.

“I think guys going out there and doing the little things right, playing fundamental football and just playing for one another,” Boyd said Monday. “I think we have a lot of guys who aren’t being selfish. They’re just going in there and doing their jobs even when they’re not making plays. I think that’s the biggest part of how our offense is so good. We care about one another. Once our number is called we always come through and make it.”

The Bengals offense enjoyed its best game in a 41-21 win over Baltimore as Burrow threw for a franchise-record 525 yards and Mixon, Higgins and Chase all topped 100 yards from scrimmage. Boyd would have hit 100 as well had a 32-yard touchdown catch not been reversed on review. He finished with 85 yards on three catches.

It was the kind of game they all knew they were capable of playing all along.

“It’s a good feeling,” Chase said of the offense. “It’s something we’ve (thought) we could do the whole time. This is the first time we’ve reached this point. We’re just waiting for the next opportunity and building and learning from each other.”

Mixon and the three starting receivers all came into the season with lofty goals for themselves and one another.

So far, three of them – Mixon, Higgins and Chase -- have reached the goal of 1,000 yards. Boyd needs 208 yards receiving to reach that milestone as well, and Burrow, although not one to talk about individual statistics, is 129 passing yards away from besting the franchise single-season passing record of 4,293 yards set by Andy Dalton in 2013.

Chase said the Bengals are pulling for Boyd to get to 1,000. He has two games left in the regular season.

Boyd is more concerned about achieving something he hasn’t been able to in his five previous seasons with the Bengals. He was drafted in the second round in 2016, after Cincinnati’s last playoff appearance. The team hasn’t had a winning record since then and at least is assured that now, but Boyd believes the win against Baltimore showed the Bengals are playoff ready.

Cincinnati would have even more confidence with a big game against the AFC’s top-seeded team. Kansas City is the first in the conference to clinch a playoff spot.

“It’s a huge milestone for me (to be one game away) because I’ve never achieved that yet in my whole career,” Boyd said. “For me I’m super pumped up. I’ll be jacked up because I’ve never experienced that. That goes for any other players, too. It’s like rewarding because we’ve worked all season, month to month, week to week. It gets dragged out. Guys might lose your mental (toughness), but guys stayed focused for a long period of time and good things come out. In the end it’s always rewarding.”

Two years ago, the Bengals were the worst team in the league and looking ahead to the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft, which they used to select Burrow. Higgins was the team’s second-round pick in that draft, and this year, Chase came on board as the No. 5 pick.

Boyd said adding more weapons for Burrow to throw to was key because teams are loading up on corners and good defensive backs to try to match up with offenses like Cincinnati’s. He remembers feeling hopeful the Burrow pick would transform the offense, but wasn’t sure how quickly the team could turn things around.

Just two years later, the Bengals are in a position to reward themselves.

“I knew we were getting all the right people in and I knew our draft picks were studs,” Boyd said. “We just had to put everything together. We just had to build a new chemistry with all the new guys and everybody applied quickly and early when their name was called. It just happened quicker than I thought.”'

SUNDAY’S GAME

Chiefs at Bengals, 1 p.m., CBS, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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