Bengals running back Joe Mixon didn't know he'd be able to play Sunday until 30 minutes before head coach Zac Taylor had to give his inactive list to the officials. Five hours later Mixon gave Taylor the ball he had just received for his career-high and breath-taking three touchdowns in the historic 33-25 victory over the Jaguars at soaked Paul Brown Stadium.
Not only was it the first NFL win for Bengals rookie quarterback Joe Burrow (and he got a game ball, too), but it was the first time since Boomer Esiason engineered a 42-7 victory over the Steelers on Nov. 6, 1988 that the Bengals threw for at least 300 yards and ran for 200 yards in a game, according to Pro Football Reference.
Mixon said he spent three hours in the hospital Saturday trying to figure out what was wrong with his chest and reportedly had X-Rays. He was trying to catch his breath.
"I think I slept wrong. I slept wrong, came to work and then I don't know. It was like, I couldn't breathe," Mixon said of Friday night. "(It) hurt to run in walk-through … I didn't know if I would play, this morning see how I felt and doctors loved up on me and I was able to go out there and make some things work."
It was his best work and his offensive line's best work of the season. With 151 yards (the second best of his career), Mixon nearly matched the 164 yards he scrounged out in the first three games. The offensive line that came in with a league-high 14 sacks, also got a game ball after giving up just one. The defense also got a game ball.
"The O-line played really, really well today," said Burrow after he became the first rookie quarterback to string together three straight 300-yard games. "They've taken a lot of heat the last couple of weeks, and I was super happy for those guys to have the game they did. They're going to continue to build on it. I know they are."
BATES MOTEL: Jags quarterback Gardner Minshew II found the Bates Motel as frightening as Hitchcock Sunday.
Safety Jessie Bates III said the Bengals had to cage the elusive scrambler and they did it by mirroring Minshew up the middle instead of on the perimeter because he likes to duck in between the tackles. Bates was there for his team-high ten tackles and nose tackle D.J. Reader and end Carlos Dunlap sniffed out Minshew on a third-and-four up the gut that forced the Jags into a field goal on a key early stop. Minshew had come in with 60 yards on 12 carries, but he could only get nine yards on two carries against the Bengals.
"Our d-line did a really good job of just cage rushing him," Bates said. "Usually he doesn't really get outside the pocket on the outside. He usually goes through the middle of our defense. I think our D-line did a really good job. Our coaches had a really good game plan to keep him in the pocket and we executed it pretty well. I feel good about that."
Bates found himself matched up on old friend Tyler Eifert, the former long-time Bengals tight end from his hometown of Fort Wayne, Ind.
On the Jags' first third down, Bates jumped on Eifert's route in the middle of the field, deflected it high in the air and linebacker Jordan Evans caught it on one of his first defensive snaps of the year.
"He went to Bishop Dwenger (High School), which is a rival of my high school (Snider High School). We always joked around when he was here," Bates said. "He's a Fort Wayne guy, so I have a lot of love for him. But when we are playing against each other in between those lines its war.
"The running back was on the side of Tyler Eifert. I knew that inside fade would come from the running back. I just got a good jump on Minshew and I made a play."
Then with the Jags on the way to rolling up 429 yards themselves and scratching to come back from 27-13, on the last play of the third quarter on second-and-seven from the Bengals 25, Bates ranged over inside the 10 on the sideline and popped Eifert to knock out the ball. On the next snap Evans blitzed to sack Minshew.
Talk about a big day. How about Evans with rookie Logan Wilson out with a concussion?
Eifert had two catches for 22 yards in his PBS return.
BYNES SPEAKS: The Bengals play in Baltimore next Sunday, but they got a preview of what they'll face down there. Bates said Bynes, the former Raven, gave "a hell of a speech on adversity," Saturday night.
"Bynes is undrafted, he's been in ten years, he's been on a national championship (team), he's won a Super Bowl," Bates said. "Him just being able to talk about his experiences and how that Super Bowl team, they started out 2-5 or whatever. How they came back and they won a Super Bowl. We're trying to build that culture and that mindset here in Cincinnati."
SLANTS AND SCREENS: The great A.J. Green continues to try and find it. He had just one catch for three yards and it was on the Bengals' first play. That's his fewest yards in a game he didn't get hurt. He missed a few plays when he rolled on his wrist late in the third quarter, but he came back to finish.
"We're not going to worry about guys getting their touches and targets. There are enough weapons to where we can win football games, and someone might have one catch for three yards," Taylor said. "And there might be one where you have 10 catches for 150 yards. Going back to the unselfish players and high-character guys we have on this team ... they understand that they just want to win. A.J. was as happy as anyone in that locker room. His time will come."
Something about the Jags. He had just one catch for seven yards in the 2018 game against Denver before he left in the second quarter with a season-ending toe injury. In Jacksonville in 2017 he had one catch for six yards before his blowup with Jalen Ramsey got him ejected …
Alex Redmond became the third right guard in four games for the Bengals and the running game happened to pop when he was in there. Mixon blew out a 23-yard touchdown on third-and-one that appeared to be aided by Redmond and center Trey Hopkins as Redmond turned his man away.
"When you see Joe hit the hole as hard as he can in the hole behind you and your guy doesn't even reach, doesn't even know the ball gets hit right behind him it's a pretty good feeling," Redmond said. "Especially when he just rips it right behind your guy. It was awesome. Joe played his heart out today. I think Joe plays his heart out every single game. Hand that guy that ball he's scratching every inch he can get he's going to get them. Playing with Joe, Joey Burrow, guys like that I feel like this team could be real good."
It was a big day for Redmond. Two years ago he started 15 games at right guard. Last year he hurt his elbow and started just two games. He got cut this training camp and when he didn't get a big market, he signed with the practice squad less than two weeks ago. Thirteen day later he's part of the Bengals' first 500-yard game in four years.
"I feel like with health it's one of those things," Redmond said. "One day you are 100 percent and the next day you get rolled up and you're battling with an ankle injury or this or that. Obviously I didn't get many reps in this training camp, but I feel like that time away from football kind of helped me heal my body and I feel ready to go."
They pretty much put him in at right guard on Wednesday. He wonders about Monday.
""I think really you're competing to make sure you have a job every day." Redmond said. "My tomorrow here isn't promised. I have to stay humble and hungry. My job isn't given to me. I have got out there work and make sure I solidify that spot every day. Is it up in the air? Sure, but I'm going to be the first one trying to get at it."