CINCINNATI — Joe Mixon was a one-man wrecking machine.
The Cincinnati running back rumbled for a franchise record five touchdowns, and added 153 yards rushing, as the Bengals thrashed Carolina 42-21 on Sunday at Paycor Stadium in front of 66,160 fans.
The win puts the Bengals at 5-4 heading into their bye week, which is where the team stood last year at the break — before making the Super Bowl run.
Mixon also became the fifth player in Bengals history to rush for more than 5,000 career yards.
“It feels great to be able to have a special game,” Mixon said after the win. “I knew at some point the dam would break, and it did today. I’m very excited for my teammates. The way these guys come to work and the trust we have, it’s a blessing.”
The Bengals scored four touchdowns on their first five possessions for the second time in three weeks.
The offense poured out 464 yards in 72 plays for a 6.4-yards per-play average.
Quarterback Joe Burrow threw for 206 yards and completed 25-of-31 attempts — and one touchdown to Mixon.
“It was the first complete game of the year,” Burrow said. “It’s how we expect to play every week. Run game, defense, pass game, it was all clicking today. We have to find that sauce and keep it in our back pocket for the rest of the year.”
Mixon churned past the 100-yard mark towards the end of the first half, and posted 131 yards on the ground on the first five drives.
“He ran hard,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said. “A lot of yards after contact and finished off a lot of runs there, had some big ones for us. I’m so really happy that he had the day that he had. Franchise-record five touchdowns had that great catch there with three seconds left in the half. Great job up front by those linemen, and great job on the perimeter by the receivers, the tight ends, and the run game. Awesome job and that’s exactly what we needed.”
The win comes on the heels of the Monday Night Football debacle, where the Browns smacked the Bengals around and won the game with ease.
“We were able to move past that quickly,” Taylor added. “It was easy to us to see why that game got away from us. No overreaction on our part, just keep being the same group of guys, group of men that we expect from ourselves. We expected a performance like this today.”
Cincinnati’s defense forced three-straight three-and-outs from the Panthers’ offense, which gained only 19 yards on 11 plays.
Quarterback P.J. Walker struggled against the Bengals’ secondary, and managed to complete three of 10 passes for only nine yards and a rating of 0.0.
“They set the tone,” Taylor said about the defensive unit. “We wanted to follow up a performance like we had the last time we were at home or protecting our turf. We’ve got a lot of home games here in the second half of the season coming up, so we’ve got to be able to set the tone for that. I thought our defense really answered the bell — the shutout in the first half, very few yards.”
The Panthers switched quarterbacks at the half and Baker Mayfield replaced Walker, throwing for 155 yards and compiling 14 of 20 passes with two touchdowns and finishing with a rating of 126.
This was the second game the Bengals played without wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who is sidelined with a hip injury.
He is slated to return in three or four weeks.
But Burrow spread out his targets, and fired to Tee Higgins seven times for 60 yards and Tyler Boyd five times for 44 yards.
He also found Mixon five times for 35 yards and a touchdown, and tight end Hayden Hurst five times for 58 yards.
Trenton Irwin was also a factor and had a catch for 14 yards and added a carry for 11 yards, while Trent Taylor had two receptions for 14 yards.
“Those guys were awesome for us today,” Burrow said about his core of receivers. “When you lose a guy like Ja’Marr Chase, you can’t replace him with one guy. It’s going to be by committee. We handed a couple of jet sweeps to Trent, and Trenton was robbed of a touchdown, which we would have been super excited for him. But all those guys stepped up for us.”
The Bengals have a bye week and then travel to Pittsburgh on Nov. 20 for Sunday Night Football.
“I always look forward to the bye week,” Burrow added. “You try to get some strength back you lost in the last nine weeks. I feel great. Body feels really good, it’ll be good to get back in the weight room and get my body right going into the stretch.”