CINCINNATI — Any dismay over how Super Bowl LVI ended is water under the bridge for Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon and coach Zac Taylor.
Mixon, who was off the field for the team’s final offensive drive in the 23-20 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, including a third-and-one and a fourth-and-one situation, told reporters Friday that he would have been pushing should be harder to get onto the field.
On Saturday, Taylor said he raised the issue with Mixon and has no qualms about how Mixon is expressing itself about the situation.
“You really need to get excited about this situation,” Taylor said. “He handled it brilliantly[ly]. That is greatly appreciated. He knows it. It’s one of the reasons you want to go back to those moments, you know?”
With the team running its two-minute offense and the Bengals needing points to extend or win the Super Bowl, Cincinnati selected substitute Samaje Perine. He was unsuccessfully stopped on Cincinnati’s final drive and was the target of a hasty and random pass attempt on the final fourth and one that sealed the Rams’ victory.
On Friday, after refusing to speak to the media during the OTAs and during the first two days of training camp, Mixon suggested he should have essentially checked himself into the game during that final drive.
“It was just a thing caught in a moment,” Mixon said during an impromptu post-practice press conference on Friday, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. “I really should have taken the initiative and just said, ‘Hey, I’m coming in.’ But you know, it was the heat of the moment.”
Mixon told reporters that he primarily worked with the team’s two-minute offense in the postseason. But in the final two minutes of every game in 2022 in which the Bengals were tied or trailing by eight points or fewer, Perine had 21 offensive snaps compared to Mixon’s 13, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Later in the offseason, Taylor acknowledged that he probably would have approached the situation a little differently.
“Whether Joe’s in there or not, he certainly deserves an opportunity at a key moment in a key game to try and get it for us as our featured back,” Taylor said in February, three days after the loss. “But again, that’s just one of the choices you’re making right now and you have to move forward with it.”
Nor did Taylor have any qualms about Mixon’s recent comments on the situation. During Saturday’s practice session at Paul Brown Stadium, Taylor and Mixon addressed a crowd of 28,283 who turned out to see the reigning AFC champions. Mixon, who is coming off his first Pro Bowl season, signed autographs, played tag with fans and caused huge cheers at practices throughout the day.
Taylor said his running back’s actions during Saturday’s Showcase practice session were simply not for the fans and cameras in attendance.
“It’s just his interaction with everyone he meets,” Taylor said. “He’s one of the most genuine players I’ve ever met. He’s definitely valued by everyone here in this organization.”