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Quick Hits: "AFC North Is Mayhem,' As Bengals Prep For Hurst's Old Team In A Tie For Top; Mixon Convenes O-Line Only Meeting; Rookie Gunter Getting His Kicks

Jeff Gunter (93) goes high for block.
Jeff Gunter (93) goes high for block.

Center Ted Karras, who said two weeks ago it could be like this, has a patient wife who waited for him to watch the end of all three games that ended in the rest of the AFC North teams losing before they took a rare Sunday walk.

While running back Joe Mixon watched the Bengals forge a three-way tie in the division on three different TVs, head coach Zac Taylor went back into first place for the first time since winning the North last year working the phone at his son's flag football game.

"The AFC North," said tight end Hayden Hurst after Monday's walkthrough, "is always mayhem. The games are always crazy, no matter who it is."

Hurst, the former Raven, knows all about that when he returns to Baltimore this Sunday night (8:20 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 5) when the pair of 2-2 teams hash out first place.

"Two wins means nothing, but it's a good start," Karras said. "Now the division is even up after a fortuitous weekend in our division. Now it's just a race. I kind of segment the season. We've got six weeks to the bye. I'd like to go on a little run."

It was Karras, the newcomer from New England, who was in this very spot two Mondays ago, in front of his locker, calmly reciting how the Bengals could go from 0-2 to back to even in a span of ten days.

They did, taking last Thursday night's win over the Dolphins into the weekend.

"The character of this team, the men in this organization," said Karras of how the Bengals rebounded. "They did a great job working and we kind of put it together. We had two big wins. Thursday was very special to me."

Karras, wearing a "Cincy," ball cap, cited not only the night of the White Bengal, but the win over the team he once played for two years ago. The same team that beat his Patriots twice last year.

"I still live down there," Karras said. "And I saw a lot of those guys all the time."

By the time Mixon got off the couch, he wasn't surprised they were in first again.

"It was cool. I sat on the couch. I've got three TVs that I was flipping through the NFL Game ticket," Mixon said. "I was just checking all the games, so probably I watched about eight of them. I was definitely scrolling. Seeing that, definitely for us, as long as we're taking care of business, that's all that matters and everything else is falling into the way it's supposed to. At least for us."

MIXON MEETING: With the run game starting the season, Mixon called a linemen-only meeting Wednesday the day before the Dolphins game.

"It was pretty much just building that chemistry and having them see what I'm seeing on certain blocks," said Mixon, who met with pretty much all of the offensive line. "Or if they could just torque a guy a different way or if they could just cut somebody off backside or I could just hit this a little faster or hit backside. Just little things that we didn't see over the course of time. Like I said, I'm very optimistic. I haven't lost (any) confidence in the run game and what I'm capable of and I know they're capable of."

Mixon is averaging just 2.7 yards per his 82 carries. He has two fewer carries than NFL leading rush Saquon Barkley, but is tied for 20th in rushing. Still, he thinks the run game is close to breaking out.

"We've just got to keep on building, putting it together. We've got Joe Burrow," Mixon said. "We've got a very unselfish offense. We definitely look forward to putting up numbers and obviously winning games, which is most important."

HURST THIRST: Hurst, the Ravens' No. 1 pick in the draft in 2018, says it's going to be "weird," on the other sideline Sunday night. And he says he's already coming off an emotional game last Thursday night when he scored his first Bengals touchdown on a two-yard pass from Burrow with 1:52 left in the 27-15 win before the biggest crowd in Paycor Stadium history.

"It was the culmination of all the crap I've been through," said Hurst, the former baseball draft pick working on his third NFL team. "To seal the game and having the confidence in me to make that call in the first place … It was surreal."

The call, a gut-check third-and-two with a mere five-point lead, was headed to a tight end.

"Mitch was the first read that got covered," Hurst said of Mitchell Wilcox. "Then it came down to me. One of us was going to get it. I'm glad I was the one that popped open."

Hurst continues to rave (n) about his chance here.

"All I've ever asked for in the NFL is an opportunity," Hurst said. "The coaching staff that is transparent and honest with me. I'm finally getting that."

EVERYTHING BUT THE BALL: Rookie defensive end Jeff Gunter hasn't stopped smiling since he pulled off the Bengals' first blocked field goal in five years Thursday with 4:22 left in the first half and the Bengals leading, 7-6.

The 6-4, 263-pound Gunter came barreling up the inside with both arms raised because that's how special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons teaches it and tipped Jason Sanders' 52-yard try.

"He's come close a couple of times," Simmons said Monday. "He's long and a young guy trying to find his way who made a play."

Let Gunter tell you how big it was.

"I felt like it changed the momentum of the game. It took away three points from them and we scored (three) plays later," said Gunter, a seventh-rounder from Coastal Carolina. "To do something like that on primetime national TV for a seventh-rounder … It's something I'll remember for the rest of my life. It was my first big play in the league."

And he wants another one because he forgot to get the ball.

"I'll remember to get that one," Gunter said.

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