CINCINNATI — A homemade sign hanging high in Paycor Stadium advised fans to “ Stay Calm and Let Joe Cook.”
The message surely was a nod to quarterback Joe Burrow, who usually stirs the pot for the Cincinnati Bengals. But it was another Joe who did most of the cooking against the Carolina Panthers.
Joe Mixon turned in his best effort of the season, rushing for 153 yards and scoring a franchise-record five touchdowns as the Bengals built a 35-0 halftime lead and cruised to a 42-21 rout of the Panthers on Sunday.
Mixon, who came into the game with three TDs all year, scored four times in the first half alone, the first three on short rushes and the fourth on a 12-yard pass from Burrow, who finished 22 for 28 for 206 yards before taking a seat in favor of backup Brandon Allen late in the third quarter.
The Bengals (5-4) bounced back from a horrendous Monday night loss at AFC North rival Cleveland to jump on Carolina (2-7) early and dominate on defense.
“To come out here today and have a complete game and pass protection when my number was called, and then deliver for my teammates, Burrow and the receivers, and be able to hit the right holes and do all the things to have a complete game, bro, I mean you can’t ask for much better," Mixon said.
Cincinnati allowed P.J. Walker just 9 passing yards and intercepted him twice in the first half, chasing the former XFL quarterback to the bench in favor of Baker Mayfield to start the second.
Meanwhile, Mixon, who came in with zero 100-yard games this season, had 113 rushing yards by halftime. An overhauled offensive line that has been criticized for failing to break open the running game pushed around the Panthers' defense.
“Great players want the ball,” Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor said of Mixon, who had seen his role reduced this season. “He's a captain. He's handled this thing really well. A lot of these guys know that sometimes their number isn't called as a much and then there's a game that's going to smack them right in the face like this one.”
Mixon also caught four passes for 58 yards. He had gained only 27 yards on eight carries in the 32-13 loss to the Browns.
Mixon became the first NFL player with 150-plus yards and four or more touchdowns from scrimmage in the first half of a game since Shaun Alexander did it for the Seahawks in Week 4 of the 2002 season.
Burrow was 5 for 5 for 69 yards on the Bengals' opening drive, the big one a 35-yard catch-and-run by Mixon to the Carolina 18. Three plays later, Mixon bulled in for a 2-yard touchdown.
Mixon's 29-yard breakaway was the big play on the Bengals' next scoring drive, which ended with a 1-yard scoring plunge by Burrow.
After Carolina's third consecutive three-and-out, Burrow put together a nine-play, 69-yard drive that concluded with Mixon's second rushing touchdown. After linebacker Germaine Pratt picked off Walker, it took Cincinnati five plays to eat up 42 yards and push the lead to 28-0.
An interception by Jessie Bates gave the Bengals another short field. Burrow finished the drive with his pass to Mixon, who added a 14-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter before he was rested.
“A complete game for us, the first complete game of the year,” Burrow said.
Mayfield threw two second-half touchdown passes, and the Panthers concluded the scoring with 1:29 left.
“We couldn’t get anything going offensively and we couldn’t get off the field defensively,” said Steve Wilks, who was named Carolina's interim coach when Matt Rhule was fired last month. "That’s on me.”
Mixon, a sixth-year veteran, topped his previous best scoring day by two TDs. He had two rushing touchdowns and caught a scoring pass on Oct. 4, 2020, against Jacksonville.
MORE CHANGES AT QB?
Walker got his fourth straight start for the Panthers over Mayfield but fell flat. The Panthers' other QB, Sam Darnold, is healthy and ready to return from injured reserve. He has not played this year due to high ankle sprain but is likely to activated this week.
Bengals: RB Chris Evans was declared out in the first quarter with a knee injury. ... S Dax Hill suffered a right shoulder injury and was declared out in the third quarter.
Bengals: After a week off, play at Pittsburgh. Cincinnati is 0-3 against AFC North opponents, including a Week 1 loss to the Steelers.