1. Mixon takes charge
Mixon carried the ball 27 times for a season-high 129 yards and two touchdowns to help the Bengals overcome a rough day for quarterback Jeff Driskel, who completed 14 of 33 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown with one interception.
It was the fourth time in his career Mixon has topped 100 yards rushing in a game and the first time he’s done it in back-to-back games. He had 111 yards on 26 carries last week and now needs just five yards to reach 1,000, which he said is “crazy” to think about.
“It’s taking what they give me to get to the second level and that’s when I’ve got to be the best of my ability,” Mixon said. “I’m just very happy we’re on this path, and I’m just going to try to keep plugging on the train and whatever happens at the end of the season happens. But it just feels good to go out there and put on a show for the fans and come out with the win.”
Mixon’s first touchdown gave Cincinnati a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter after he had broken through for a 47-yard carry. Then, with the Bengals clinging to a seven-point lead, he finished off a short drive with a 15-yard touchdown for the final points with 4:04 remaining.
2. Erickson rewarded for patience
Special teams penalties have all too often impacted Alex Erickson’s returns, like the hold by Auden Tate on his 31-yard kick return to open the second half, so when he burst through for a 77-yard return in the fourth quarter, he couldn’t help but look around for a flag.
There were no penalties that time, though, and that was what set Mixon up for the game-sealing touchdown.
“I was just celebrating and praying there were no flags,” Erickson said. “I didn’t know if there was or wasn’t. I know how hard these guys are working to give me space, and you’ve got to live with a few of the flags because I know they are working their butts off to get me opportunities to get big returns so I appreciate all their effort.”
Erickson also had two catches negated by illegal blocks before that return.
3. Defense steps up
The defense held the opponent to less than 300 yards for the second straight week, this time limiting the Raiders to 297 yards.
Cincinnati caused two turnovers, including a forced fumble and recovery by Darqueze Dennard and a forced fumble on a sack by Sam Hubbard, which Carlos Dunlap recovered, and Oakland converted just three of 14 third downs. The Bengals held the Raiders to field goals on three of their trips into Cincinnati territory.
“I think we just played a complete game, covering up on the back end and allowing (the pass rushers) to get home, working our pass rush games and sticking to the game plan, everyone having faith and staying together throughout,” Hubbard said. “We had our lulls in the third quarter (offensively), and the defense was able to step up and hold them to a bunch of field goals and then they picked it back up when they needed to.”
Hubbard finished with two sacks and three quarterback hurries to complement a huge game for Geno Atkins. After struggling to make plays in recent weeks, Atkins broke through for arguably his best game this season as he finished the day with three sacks on Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.
Atkins had just one sack in the eight previous games after recording six in the first five games of the season.
4. Boyd’s big day cut short
Tyler Boyd topped 1,000 yards receiving for the season but left the game with a right knee injury at the end of the first half. He said the injury is “nothing too serious” and he expects to play next week.
The injury didn’t take away from his big day, though.
Boyd had three big catches on the Bengals’ first scoring drive, including the touchdown haul to make it 7-0, and finished with four catches for 38 yards to reach 1,028 yards for the year. Cincinnati’s offense fell into a lull without him, managing just 36 yards in the third quarter before adding 10 points in the fourth quarter for the win.
The milestone was especially meaningful coming off a disappointing second year in the league when he struggled with injury and finished with just 225 yards.
“Obviously it’s a huge milestone, a goal I always wanted to accomplish coming into the league,” Boyd said. “Now that I’ve done it, I’m on to the next goal now. I’m going to think about it and let it marinade but it’s time to reset my goals and think other spectacular things I can overachieve. It was a great day for me.”
5. Bengals give themselves a chance
The Bengals didn’t control their own destiny after losing seven of eight games prior to Sunday’s win.
Getting their sixth win of the season briefly kept them in the AFC North division race but the Bengals were elminiates when the Steelers beat the Patriots later Sunday. The Bengals already were eliminated from the wild card race.
“It’s such a fine line between winning and losing,” Erickson said. “We were playing not our best ball, but we were playing hard, especially last week where we fought and played well enough to win but just couldn’t make enough plays in crucial situations and today we were able to not even have to get ourselves down to that point and we were able to ice the game when we had the opportunity and that’s what we have to do to win. We deserved to win.”
Bengals at Browns, 1 p.m., WHIO-TV Ch. 7, Ch. 12, 700, 1530, 95.3, 101.1, 102.7, 104.7