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Bengals Notebook: Mixon Runs On OC Callahan's Edge; Punting Job On Table, But Money Mac Has Feet On Ground; Iron Mike Hilton

Trenton Irwin (16) didn't score, but celebrated when Joe Mixon did.
Trenton Irwin (16) didn't score, but celebrated when Joe Mixon did.

Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan may have the breezy, open air personality of his home state of California.

Even his nickname says it.


But Callahan, like the Bengals other two coordinators, has become a head coaching candidate because he knows when to get out an East Coast edge. He used it so effectively in his weekly Saturday morning meeting that running back Joe Mixon publicly praised him after Sunday's Bengals-record five touchdowns.

"Cali has that energy. To me, it was a dogfight type of meeting," said wide receiver Trenton Irwin. "It's a fight. Everyone is looking to beat us. We're getting everyone's best shot. Now, we've got to go out and fight and go get them early and we did. We definitely put it on them."

When Callahan met the media Monday, he was Cali again but admitted he can go Boston on you if needed.

"For as calm and lighthearted as I am most of the time, I'm pretty competitive myself," Callahan said. "So I thought it was a fair time of the year to show a little bit of that side of my personality, I guess, is the best way to put it … As a coach, you try and have moments where you try to deliver the message that fits where your team is."

Callahan says the meeting is part of the weekly routine. He splices movie clips with football clips to make it both entertaining and informative. But there's always a message about the next day's game.

"I thought the message this week was probably little more aggressive than others, but it seemed to have resonated. So it's good," Callahan said. "If you're always ranting and raving, it tends to lose its effect, just like anything. Like when I yell at my kids, they don't listen to me anymore. But it wasn't directed at anybody. It wasn't a negative tone. Edge is probably the right word for it."

Just exactly what were the clips?

"We'll keep that in-house," said Cali, flashing some Boston.

JOE BY THE NUMBERS: How big was Mixon's game?

The last time someone had three rushing touchdowns and caught another in a half was 20 years ago when Seattle running back Shaun Alexander did it. The other two are Paul Brown Hall-of-Famers, Jim Brown in 1965 and Dub Jones in 1951.

Mixon is the third player in the Super Bowl era with at least four rushing TDs and a receiving TD in a game with Alexander and Indy's Jonathan Taylor, who did it last year.

PUNTING BYE TOPIC: If you don't think the NFL is cyclical, what about this?

Bengals punter Kevin Huber's streak of appearing in 138 straight regular-season games is on the table this bye week as special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons mulls giving Drue Chrisman a shot in the Nov. 20 Sunday night game in Pittsburgh.

It was a Sunday night game in Pittsburgh on Dec. 15, 2013 when linebacker Terence Garvin broke Huber's jaw and sidelined him for the last two games of the regular season and the Wild Card. Those are the only games Huber has missed in amassing a Bengals-record 216 appearances.

But with Huber ranked next-to-last in the NFL with a 37.4-yard net average, Simmons said Monday a conversation is to be had on the topic. Chrisman, in his second year on the Bengals practice squad, went back there this year after Huber won the job in a training camp competition.

"We've constantly been evaluating this whole thing," Simmons said. "Obviously, our punting game has got to improve. We're not getting out of it what we need to get out of it, in terms of flipping the field. It's something we'll take a look at over this bye week and try to figure out what the best thing is going forward."

Chrisman, out of Ohio State, has been no stranger. He's been suited for pregame warmups.

"As a specialist that's on the practice squad, the one thing that's difficult to do is they don't get live game action," Simmons said. "A punter and a kicker, their heaviest day of kicking is always on game day. It's not just the punts or kicks that happen during the game, it's all the stuff that happens during pre-game warmup, it's all the kicks they have in the net. It's all the stuff that adds up. I just wanted to get Drue into a routine where he feels what a real game week is like for him. We're just trying to simulate that as close as we can."

IRON MIKE: How tough is Bengals slot cornerback Mike Hilton?

He fractured the pinkie finger on his left hand in three places at some point during the second quarter in last Monday night's game in Cleveland and never came out. When he underwent surgery the next morning, he knew he'd have to sit out Sunday's win over Carolina so he could be ready for the first game after the bye on Nov. 20 in Pittsburgh.

"I just have to work to try to get that range of motion back and just try to strengthen it," Hilton said Monday. "Especially knowing how I use my hands tackling-wise. I have to still be able to be myself and go out there and compete."

Hilton says his adrenaline was running so high that he didn't realize he badly he hurt it until he took off his glove and saw his hand puffed up like a balloon. After the game, the pain set in.

"When I was sitting on the side, I definitely felt it, but I knew the team needed me and I just wanted to do what I could to help them win," Hilton said.

One of the team's best run defenders, he says he'll probably wear something to protect it. He thinks it will be more painful making tackles than catching a ball, but no matter what, as the former Steeler said last week, he's playing.

Unbelievably, he apparently got some social media blow back for missing the game and not pulling a Ronnie Lot, who had the tip of his broken left pinkie amputated so he could play in the 1985 playoffs.

"This is 2022. I'd rather be healthy for the back end of the season than re-injure myself and put the team in a worst position," said Hilton, who says amputation was not an option. "I respect Ronnie Lott. You were great."

MAC ATTACK: When Evan McPherson slid a 48-yard field goal try wide left Sunday, it marked the first time since last season's wild overtime game against Green Bay more than a year ago that he missed two straight field goals.

"Really?" McPherson asked Monday.

So it's not exactly haunting him. Monday night in Cleveland, it was a 47-yarder wide right, but if it sounds like he's not going to let it eat away at him, you're right. It's that steel-belted mindset that had as much to do with him having the greatest rookie year a kicker ever had last season.

"It's just a me thing," McPherson said. "The one Monday night, I hit it well, I just didn't play the wind right. This last one, I didn't hit it really well. You take what positives you can out of it and move on."

Darrin Simmons may be concerned, but he's not worried After all, he saw McPherson miss seven straight in practice last season before he went 4-for-4 in a playoff game. He can't remember if it was before the AFC Divisional in Tennessee or the AFC title game in Kansas City.

But it was definitely seven straight.

"I think it's a record. That's a lot of misses. It was one practice," Simmons said. "He had a couple of bad hits in a row and I said, well, we're not ending on that one. He missed again. I said we are not ending on that one. Then he missed again. Then we're not ending on that one. Then he missed again. After the seventh one I said, all right, to hell with this."

If it sounds like the movie "Tin Cup," Simmons agrees.

"Yeah, it was kind of Tin Cup," Simmons said. "We all laughed about it after practice. It wasn't something I panicked about. I didn't lose one bit of sleep over it. I know how he responds. I know how he reacts. I trust this is going to be the same way."

McPherson says the bye is coming at a good time for him and his team and he plans to use it for a trip to Auburn in case his brother Alex makes his college kicking debut.

STILL GOOD: On Monday, Bengals wide receiver Trenton Irwin got another good look at the most controversial play from Sunday's 42-21 win over the Panthers. Although the FOX TV crew agreed with the officials, Irwin thought he had his first NFL touchdown at the end of the first half when quarterback Joe Burrow hit him on a 12-yard scramble drill off a go route. He made a great juggling catch as he went out-of-bounds and it was oh-so-close trying tell if he had control before he lifted his back foot.

Irwin, the third-year from Stanford elevated for a second straight week from the practice squad in the absence of Ja'Marr Chase, thought he had No. 1 in his 11th NFL game.

One of the more engaging moments of the day was Burrow and Irwin watching the replay, certain the call on the field would be overruled.

"I think it's one of those calls if it had been called a touchdown on the field it would have stayed," Irwin said. "It was a touchdown. We were waiting for the hands to go up. We ended up scoring on the next play and I would have loved it if it had been me. But it's going to come."

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