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Three Down Look: Bengals Get Back on Track in Sin City

Cincinnati toppled the Raiders 32-13 in a crucial game for the playoff run.

CINCINNATI — The Bengals beat the Raiders 32-13 on Sunday in Las Vegas. The performance wasn't always pretty, but Cincinnati rode a strong running game, paired with a bounce back defensive performance to snap a two-game losing streak.

Evan McPherson chipped in three 50-plus yard field goals to help the Bengals sneak out points when they need them. The road trip to Sin City marked a massive swing in Cincinnati's playoff hopes. 

According to FiveThirtyEight, the Bengals now have a 50% chance to make the postseason. 

Here's our Three Down Look on how they cashed in on the road.

Defense Embodies The Black Hole

The Bengals' defense swallowed up everything but the tight end on Sunday, and it flummoxed Derek Carr and the Raiders. Las Vegas averaged a solid 5.9 yards per play, but they only entered the red zone twice. The tight end was their only weapon after the defense turned the tide across the first half.

Darren Waller posted seven catches for 116 yards but Carr primarily only targeted his tight ends and running backs. The veteran quarterback finished 19-of-27 for 215 yards and one touchdown. He targeted his running backs and tight ends 19 times. Meanwhile, his wide receivers were only targeted six times. 

The Raiders franchise signal-caller finished with -8.7 total EPA and never got into a rhythm against a sound Bengals defense at all levels. Sam Hubbard and company got outmuscled early on—but bounced back with a vengeance. Hubbard is one of the top run stoppers in the NFL, and he showed it against Oakland with five tackles (three for loss) and one sack.

The Queen City native ranks fifth in ESPN's Run Stop Win Rate and showed why against Las Vegas. The Bengals swarmed to the ball all afternoon and owned the money moments, holding the Raiders to 1-of-7 on third down.

The Bengals needed a bounce back from their entire team and the defense held things steady all game long in the desert.

Mixon Mows Down Silver & Black

Joe Mixon is asserting himself as a no-doubt top running back in the NFL after another bell-cow outing against Las Vegas. Mixon finished with 123 yards rushing on 30 carries—good for 4.2 yards per attempt.

He added a pair of punishing touchdowns, including a 20-yard run that effectively ended the game late in the fourth quarter. When Mixon gets going, his running style and swagger take over a game. He hit cutback lanes with extra juice on Sunday and was rewarded accordingly.

The statement game marked just the eighth time in Mixon's career he's eclipsed 120 rushing yards. Cincinnati is now 6-2 in those games, including a 30-16 victory over Vegas in 2018. When Mixon gets going like that, the Bengals have been very hard to beat.

He now ranks top 10 in the NFL in rushing yards, attempts, and touchdowns after one of his best performances. Those numbers are crucial for a Bengals team with five of their final seven games at home. The AFC North usually requires a sound rushing attack and Mixon spearheaded that on Sunday.

McPherson Puts On A Record-Breaking Show

The rookie kicker answered the bell (nearly) every time on Sunday in a game that stayed tight throughout. McPherson scored a career-high 14 points, making all four of his field goal tries and 2-of-3 extra points. His three 50-plus yard makes in one game tied the NFL record. He also broke a Bengals record held by Horst Mühlmann, who made four field goals of 50-plus yards for Cincinnati in 1970. McPherson is now 6-for-7 on 50-plus yard attempts 10 games into the season.

The performance marked the third time since 2016 that a Bengals kicker made four or more field goals in a game. Any doubts that the Bengals used their 2021 fifth-round pick on the wrong player are quickly fading. McPherson is a weapon that the Bengals can lean on when the offense isn't quite in-sync.

For more on this game, watch the video below.

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