NFL

RB Mixon's No. 1 fan surprises him at Bengals' opener

(TSX / STATS) -- CINCINNATI -- Rookie running back Joe Mixon of the Cincinnati Bengals was surprised to see his mother, Alisa Smith, when he came out of the tunnel at Paul Brown Stadium on Friday night.

His mom showed up unannounced wearing a Mixon No. 28 jersey, her unmistakable voice greeting the rookie running back as he prepared to make his NFL preseason debut against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"I'd know that voice anywhere," Mixon said. "Your mom comes to see you for your first NFL game, that meant a lot."

It was a nice surprise for Mixon. The rest was simply football.

Mixon rushed for 31 yards on six carries and eluded three would-be tacklers for an 11-yard reception in a 23-12 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a preseason opener Friday night at Paul Brown Stadium

Catching passes is another dimension Mixon brings to the offense. He also appeared to execute his blocking assignments and pass protection without flaw on Friday.

But, it was his footwork on the 11-yard catch that brought the 45,000-plus fans to their feet.

"It was a check-down, (quarterback) AJ (McCarron) dumped it off to me, I made a few guys miss to get up field and get a first down," Mixon said. "The end got up field and just made me go back inside. We won. It was great."

The response from the crowd was positive.

And, since his arrival since being drafted in the second round out of the University of Oklahoma, Mixon has said and done all the right things.

That won't quell the scrutiny.

If Mixon, who was suspended for a season at Oklahoma after punching a woman so forcefully it resulted in facial fractures performs well, the national pub won't all be positive. For now, he's handling things well.

"Once I got that first carry, the first-game jitters got out of my system; I adjusted," Mixon said. "I had a couple of runs with the linemen opening some holes for me and I just tried to explode through them.

"When coach puts me out there, he expects me to make a play. That's what I try to do. I don't try to do nothing spectacular. Just try to go out there and bust my butt for my teammates and put them in the best position to win."

Cincinnati has two veteran backs, Jeremy Hill, who is coming off a pair of subpar seasons, and Giovani Bernard, who is coming back from a torn ACL, and a revamped offensive line with three new starters.

Mixon's role is yet to be determined. But, the moves he displayed on Friday show why the Bengals took the risk and drafted the embattled running back.

"His touches with the ball, I thought he did a nice job," said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. "He was one ankle (tackle) from having a little bit more."

Notes: Quarterback Jeff Driskel was impressive in the second half, rushing for a team-leading 36 yards including an 18-yard touchdown. Driskel's 8-yard scoring pass to rookie receiver Josh Malone made the score 20-12. Driskel completed 8 of 9 passes for 97 yards. "He had one incomplete pass," Lewis said. "He can make something out of a broken play with his athletic ability and speed." ... Running back Jeremy Hill, who is coming off two subpar seasons, rushed for 26 yards on seven carries behind a revamped offensive line that has three new starters. "I thought he did well," Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton said. "He ran the ball hard, and that's what he can do. I thought it was a great job by him putting his head down. We ran the ball well."

Cornerback William Jackson III got the start in Friday's preseason opener against Tampa Bay and finished with three tackles. He started over Adam Jones, who is suspended for the first regular-season game because of an offseason incident. Jackson added muscle weight during the offseason and is coming back after missing his entire rookie season due to injury.

Updated August 12, 2017


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