The Cincinnati Bengals had nearly six months to digest their loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI. Specifically head coach Zac Taylor, who decided to leave running back Joe Mixon on the sideline late in the game.
Trailing 23-20 on their final offensive drive, the Bengals faced a third-and-1 and fourth-and-1. A running back was on the field, but it wasn’t Mixon. It was Semaje Perine, Mixon’s backup. Perine was stuffed for no gain on third down. Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald blew up the fourth-down attempt, sealing the Super Bowl win for Los Angeles.
Taylor was asked about the decision in hindsight Saturday, and said he had talked with Mixon, who has been outspoken on wanting to be out there in the final moments of the game.
“You absolutely should feel passionate about that situation,” Taylor said, via Ben Baby of ESPN. “He’s handled it outstanding. That’s much appreciated. He knows that. It’s one of the reasons you want to get back to those moments, you know?”
There’s No Lingering Heat Between Zac Taylor and Joe Mixon
Mixon, who declined to speak with the media through the first two days of training camp, conducted an impromptu presser after Friday’s practice. Rather than voice his displeasure with Taylor, Mixon put the heat on himself.
“It was just a caught-up-in-a-moment thing,” Mixon said, via Kelsey Conway of The Cincinnati Enquirer. “I really should have taken initiative on myself and just been like, ‘Hey, I’m coming in.’ But you know, it was the heat of the moment.”
Mixon, 26, was one of the Bengals’ key players during their unexpected run last season. After recording the third 1,000-yard plus season of his career, Mixon ran for 262 yards and a score in four playoff games. In addition, he hauled in 18 receptions for 107 yards.
Being an observer late in games, however, was nothing new for Mixon. Per ESPN Stats and Information, when the Bengals were tied or trailed by one possession in the final two minutes of postseason games, Perine received more snaps than Mixon. Perine featured on 21 plays, with Mixon getting 13.
Three days after the Super Bowl, Taylor said Mixon was deserving of being in the game.
“Whether Joe is in there or not, he’s certainly deserving of the opportunity in a key moment in a key game to try to get it for us as our featured back,” Taylor said. “But again, that’s just one of the decisions you make in the moment and you’ve gotta move forward with it.”