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Going through ‘mud’ makes Super Bowl sweeter for Bengals’ Joe Mixon

LOS ANGELES — The infusion of talented stars Joe Burrow, Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase in the past two seasons has helped propel the Bengals into Sunday’s Super Bowl against the Rams at SoFi Stadium.

But running back Joe Mixon has been posting big numbers in Cincinnati since 2017 without a winning season to show for it until this season.

“Going through all that mud just makes it that much better to be here,” Mixon said Friday after the Bengals’ practice on the UCLA campus. “There were tough times, but I never lost faith in being a Cincinnati Bengal. I always saw the potential we had and the quality of the people we were getting. We were always one or two players away from winning, and now that we have them, it’s rounding into form.”

Mixon has eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing in three of the past four seasons and was on his way in 2020 when his season was cut short by injury, but the stats haven’t translated to victories.

The Bengals went 7-9 in his rookie season and 6-10 in 2018, which got Marvin Lewis fired. Zac Taylor took over and went 2-14 in his first season and 4-11-1 in 2020. The Bengals went 10-7 this season, then won three playoff games to reach the Super Bowl.

Mixon and wide receiver Tyler Boyd are two of the offensive standouts who suffered through those losing seasons.

“They’ve seen it,” Higgins said. “They’ve been 2-14 and 4-12. They’ve been on the teams that were the laughingstock of the NFL. Now that we’re doing what we’re doing, they just keep telling us they want to keep it going because they don’t want to go back to that.”

That’s the plan for the Bengals — to use the success of this season and build a legacy of winning. To never hear the “Bungles” nickname again.

But Mixon said he wouldn’t change what he went through to get to this point.

“I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way,” he said. “We had those tough years, but now we’re reaping those benefits. There have been greats who have never made it to this game. I’m sure there are guys who would give up their whole bank accounts to be able to experience this. For me to come from a team that was a laughingstock, it just means that much more to me.”

Final preparations

The Rams had a 22-minute walk-through practice Saturday before sequestering in the same hotel they stay in the night before all home games.

In a game in which nothing is normal, the small bit of familiarity could allow the team to find some normalcy.

“I feel good,” coach Sean McVay said. “These guys are locked in for the task at hand. I feel good about the leadership of our group. They understand what a great opportunity they’ve earned.”

Uzomah should play

Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah is listed as questionable, but he’s expected to play two weeks after being carted off the field with a knee injury in the AFC championship game.

Taylor has maintained optimism throughout the week and gave no indication to the contrary after Saturday’s final walk-through at UCLA.

After the brief session, the team went to SoFi Stadium to take a team photo and soak in the scene.

“Guys are locked in and ready to go,” Taylor said.

Roster moves

Both teams elevated two players from the practice squad to the active roster.

The Bengals activated defensive tackle Mike Daniels and wide receiver Trent Taylor. The Rams elevated defensive backs Blake Countess and Eric Weddle.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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