No one is going to ever point to Bengals running back Joe Mixon and say the man has tanked it. Just look at last Sunday's second half against the Browns, an all-out effort that yielded 89 yards rushing and 66 yards receiving despite that 28-0 hole.
Not only that, the Bengals radio booth of Dan Hoard and Dave Lapham pointed out his willingness to block the blitz.
Mixon may be in just in his second year, but he sounded like he warmed to the role of grizzled vet as he rallied his guys for Sunday's Paul Brown Stadium game (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12, order tickets) against the Broncos.
"I play the game with passion, energy. I try to do whatever I can to bring my teammates along to the level of play I feel we can play at," Mixon said before Wednesday's practice. "It's been frustrating because we haven't as a whole, 11 people on offense, but at the same time, a lot of people look at me as the spark, so I take it upon myself and I take it personally that I've got to go make that play and I've got to get my team going. When I do that, everybody feeds off it, whether it's offense or defense. No matter how tough the game is going, I'm never going to quit. I don't care how much we are down, I don't care how much we're up, I'm still going to do the same thing start to finish. I play off a lot of emotion."
Mixon feeds off a crowd and that's why he's asking the fans to hang in. He noticed the size of the Browns' contingent on Sunday.
"I understand the frustration, but at the same time we can't go out there and stink it up like that," Mixon said. "We have to do whatever we can. We have to go out there and put on a show. That's what they're coming to see. We didn't do that. We have to do what we can to make it more exciting for the fans, for them to sit there and want to watch and support. I understand the frustration going around the city. We're going through it, too. At the end of the day we all have to stick together and be in it as one. I don't know how else to go about it."
In the last five games, if Mixon hits his per game paces of 75 yards rushing and 27 yards receiving, he'll be the first Bengals running back since James Brooks in 1986 to catch at least 378 yards while running for 1,000. It sounds like he'd like to bring some of his guys along. He won't be checking out.
"It's tough because with the people who got hurt, injuries happen, and I just feel like with the guys filling in, we're just playing a little timid because the game speed is different. I understand, and I know," Mixon said. "The game speed is different. The schemes we go against every week are different. For the new guys that have got to fill those roles, they are playing a little slow and hesitant, but you've got to play anticipating. You've got to play and expect what you think they run. You've got to be with the reads and everything. In the next five weeks, we'll see who gives it their all and at the end of the day, that's got nothing to do with none of us all in with them as individuals. You'll know their effort. People see."
SAVAGE GAME: Five-year vet QB Tom Savage, the newest Bengal, thought it would the same-old-same-old when the 49ers released him off waivers on Saturday. There would be a few days, they'd make a move or two and call him back and … But a funny thing happened on the way to the playbook Tuesday.
"I saw an unknown number on my phone and I thought it was (the 49ers)," Savage said. "But I was excited to hear Cincinnati claimed me."
Savage knew the Bengals were interested him in that 2014 draft, when he went in the fourth round to Houston. The scouts liked his size (6-5, 230 pounds) and his arm strength even before he left Rutgers for Pittsburgh. It was at Pitt he made beautiful music with a true freshman wide receiver named Tyler Boyd, the man that just happens to be the Bengals current leading receiver.
"We were a little hesitant with a true freshman, but that first game against Florida State, the lights were never too bright for that kid," Savage said. "He balled out. I trusted him right away."
To the tune of 85 catches for 1,147 yards. When Boyd heard Savage was a Bengal, he called it "a great addition."
"He's got an arm. He can sling it," Boyd said. "That's the one thing I like about him. He can put the ball anywhere down the field and get it in tight windows."