The Bengals’ 147 yards rushing in the first half surpassed its single-game best of 133 yards rushing in the season opener against the Steelers. Cincinnati, which came into the game with the NFL’s 29th-ranked rushing offense (648 yards, 3.5 yards per carry), totaled 241 yards and averaged 6.2 yards per carry vs. the Panthers.
It was the first game in the Zac Taylor era in which the Bengals have recorded four rushing touchdowns and the first time overall since 2015 in a 36-21 win over the Chiefs. Mixon is just the second Bengals player since 2007 to record three rushing touchdowns in a single game, according to Pro Football Reference, and he was the first to record five scores in one game. The NFL record is six touchdowns, which has been achieved by four players.
Carolina had been making strides the last three weeks since Steve Wilks took over as interim head coach, following the firing of Matt Rhule, but the Bengals made any progress unnoticeable Sunday, even while playing with a secondary decimated by injuries.
The Panthers turned the ball over twice, managed just one first down and netted just 32 yards of offense in a scoreless opening half before turning the keys over to former Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, who lost his starting job to P.J. Walker while out with an ankle injury. Germaine Pratt and Jessie Bates both recorded interceptions, and the Bengals offense had more points (35) than Carolina’s offense had in net yardage (32).
Mayfield, who was 6-1 in his career against the Bengals, had some success in the second half, leading the Panthers down the field for a touchdown on the opening drive and then adding another score in the fourth quarter. He connected with tight end Tommy Tremble for an 8-yard touchdown and hit Terrace Marshall on a 21-yarder. Carolina also added a rushing touchdown on the last complete drive.
“I thought our defense really answered the bell with the shutout in the first half, very few yards,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “We (gave Carolina) the short field there to start the second half, which was disappointing, and we gave up a touchdown there, but aside from that, I thought that they really answered the bell today.”
Cincinnati responded to Carolina’s first score with an 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, capped by Mixon’s fourth rushing touchdown of the day, and that ended Burrow’s day. Brandon Allen replaced him on the next drive. Burrow finished with 206 yards passing and one touchdown.
Mixon played one more drive before his day was done, as Samaje Perine took over as the featured back. Evan McPherson missed a 48-yard field goal on that possession, marking his second straight game with a failed attempt, and the Bengals ran out the clock on their final drive.
The Bengals’ defense was playing its first game without No. 1 cornerback Chidobe Awuzie, but also was missing cornerbacks Mike Hilton and Tre Flowers, who were out with finger and hamstring injuries. Eli Apple returned from a hamstring injury that sidelined him in Week 8, and rookie Cam Taylor-Britt earned his second start, this time replacing Awuzie.
Rookie safety Dax Hill then suffered a right shoulder injury that ended his day in the third quarter.
The bye allows for some time to heal, and the Bengals are hoping defensive tackle D.J. Reader will be available to return as early as the Week 11 game at Pittsburgh.
SUNDAY, NOV. 20
Bengals at Steelers, 8:20 p.m., NBC, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7