The Bengals made history with their first back-to back division championship in the lifetime of the franchise a few days ago when the NFL cancelled their game against the Bills.
But quarterback Joe Burrow waited to hand out the cigars (Tabak Especial) that running back Joe Mixon bought at the Party Source until there was a win to celebrate and it came Sunday at Paycor Stadium, 27-16, in the regular-season finale against the Ravens team they'll play here again next Sunday night (8:15-Cincinnati's Channel 5) in the Wild Card.
As the cigar smoke swirled and the music thumped, they saluted history by going back in time to take advice from Bengals legend Chad Johnson, the pioneer of the 21st century NFL end zone celebration.
That's how running back Joe Mixon coined a celebration rivalling any unveiled by The Ocho.
It came after his one-yard touchdown run gave the Bengals a 10-0 lead with 1:11 left in the first quarter. Mixon pulled a quarter out of his glove, waited for his mates to gather, flipped it and they all kicked at it.
"It worked out perfectly," said Mixon, who was the keeper of the coin and got to flip it as the celebrant.
With the Bengals fuming about the NFL's decision to compensate for the cancelled game by making the Bengals win a coin flip for home field against the Ravens if they lost Sunday, Johnson, who knows how to torture the NFL office, tweeted that the Bengals should celebrate a touchdown by flipping a coin.
Everyone saw it, but it took another No. 85 to bring the idea to Mixon.
"We talked about it. Once I saw Chad post it on Twitter, I went up to Joe and said, 'Bro, we have to do that flip. We have to do that coin flip,'' said wide receiver Tee Higgins.
"He said, 'I'm going to bring the coin. Whoever scores first, I'll get the coin out and give to you and we'll flip it. He just happened to be the one that scored first. Joe and I said if it lands on tails, we're going to give it a kick. It landed on tails and we kicked the hell out of that."
For Mixon, the toughest thing was trying to figure out where to put the quarter while he was playing.
"I might hide it in my tape. Or I might put it in my shoe," Mixon said. "I don't want it to flip or whatever. So I was like, I'll put it on the side of my glove."
Asked if he had just pulled off the best Bengals celebration in history, Mixon said he thinks the one where The Ocho took an end zone camera and panned the stands was pretty good. But he said given Sunday's circumstances, "It might be. But I'll let him determine that."
He just hopes Ocho comes through on his Twitter promise to pay the fine for what he believes is the best celebration all year. Mixon is probably going to get docked because, thanks to Chad, props are banned in celebrations, stemming, in part, from the "Tiger Hood," putt when he putted the ball with a pylon.
Mixon won't get hit with the $30,000 fine like Ocho did in 2009 after he donned a sombrero and a poncho in a celebration. Or the 25 grand from 2010, when he was fined for using an electronic device during a preseason game. He also posted a message on a social media site during a game.
"They said Chad would cover whatever fine there is. I'm going to holler at Chad. If he said it, I'm sure he's a man of his word," Mixon said while Higgins lowered his voice to ask aloud, "Chad, you got us? Please."
CAPPA CONCERN: Center Ted Karras made good on his vow to wear an AFC North champion hat and shirt and to take pictures.
"I'll be posting later," he said.
But he was subdued because there were crutches in the adjoining locker belonging to right guard Alex Cappa, a crushing blow for that re-built offensive line that has been so good in the eight-game winning streak. It was Karras and Cappa who agreed to terms on the first day of free agency back in March and have meant so much to keeping quarterback Joe Burrow clean up the middle.
"It puts an asterisk. I'm a little less jubilant," Karras said. "I can't stress enough when I've gotten a lot of credit this year, 60 percent of it goes to Alex Cappa. He's like having another center on the field. I'm going to have to step up with the communication this week."
Cappa had his ankle rolled in the pocket late in the third quarter and the talk around his locker was he was out for the rest of the playoffs. But when he rolled by on a scooter, he was asked how he was doing and he smiled said, "Great. We just won the division."
He was replaced by four-year vet Max Scharping, one of the three relatively high draft picks the Bengals claimed on waivers at this training camp's last cut.
The massive 6-6, 325-pound Scharping, a 2019 second-round draft pick, started 33 games in his three seasons with the Texans before they cut him.
"(Cappa has) really been playing unbelievable all year," Burrow said. "No. 1, Cappa's a guy you love to be around, a great locker room guy. No. 2, (he's an) unbelievable player — smart, physical, tough — everything you'd ask for in an interior guy.
"I don't know the severity of the injury, but I have a lot of confidence in the guys behind him. Max has played a lot of football, and he knows his stuff. He's going to have to step up but we have all the faith in the world in him."
Karras said he'll spend the week getting timed up with Scharping, but he says they've already got a rapport inside.
"It's a big week just getting kind of comfortable with each other," Karras said. "But I don't expect any drop-off as far as the O-line."
D-HAM LIFTS TB: To a man the Bengals said Sunday's game was easier to play knowing how much Bills safety Damar Hamlin is improving. Guys like Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd.
Boyd got a lift when he visited Hamlin after Friday's practice and saw him move around his University of Cincinnati Medical Center room. That was just four days after he watched Hamlin brought back to life on the Paycor Stadium turf after he suffered a cardiac arrest.
Hamlin, four years younger than Boyd when they both grew up in Pittsburgh, has always looked up to Boyd. Now it's the other way around.
"He was great. It brought my spirits up. It just motivated me," Boyd said. "It gave me the energy to go play this game. He was very thankful for all the love he was getting and just being able to wake up. He cherished those moments and for me it just touched me to see him up. All that other stuff, it is what it is.
"He just rose me up. Seeing him rise up and waking back up drove me. But we've got each other in this locker room. We drove each other."
Boyd had five catches for 51 yards, but not before he took a shot and went into the medical tent, where he was cleared to return. He gave a thumbs-up to the crowd, most likely to his daughter and mother. He never blinked about going back in.
"I was just trying to let everybody know I was good. It was a bang-bang play," Boyd said. "That's football. For precautionary reasons, I had to go through the concussion protocol. I'm ready to go next week."
GLADIATOR RE-RUN: On Friday, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor questioned the NFL changing its rules two days before the game, forcing the Bengals to win Sunday to avoid a coin flip to decide the site of next week's game. On Saturday night he went old school to keep the theme going when he showed his team a clip from the 2000 movie "Gladiator," a film depicting a fallen Roman general struggles in ancient times.
"The fight scene in the bowl," said cornerback Mike Hilton. "Just to show that everybody is against us. It's us against the world. Let's go knock them down one at a time. It was a great message and it definitely clicked for us."
Burrow thought the clip got the movie some new fans.
"Great movie, by the way," Burrow said. "I think after that a lot of guys went and watched it."
SLANTS AND SCREENS: Even though he missed four games, wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase led the Bengals in receiving for a second straight year. Sunday's 86 yards on eight catches gave him 1,046 yards on 87 catches. After having just one catch for seven yards on seven targets, Tee Higgins finished with 1,029 yards on 74 catches.
"We didn't call a lot of plays. Obviously we have to play them again, Higgins said. "We didn't move the ball in the second half. Our defense stepped up big and won that game for us."
Higgins said the offense wasn't sluggish because of the 15-day layoff, save for the nine minutes of the cancelled game.
"If anything it rested our bodies. We didn't execute like we were supposed to," Higgins said. "I had two drops. That's not who I am. I'm going to come in next week and grind. Make sure I get extra catches after practice." …
Mixon broke Giovani Bernard's 2013 club record for most catches by a running back in a season. He had five Sunday, giving him 60 to Bernard's 56 …
Chase finishes with 2,501 yards in his first two seasons. According to Pro Football Reference, that's the third most by any player in his first 29 games, a slot ahead of Randy Moss. The first three are all LSU with Odell Beckham, Jr. at 2,914 and Justin Jefferson at 2,688 ...