While every Cincinnati Bengals fan and player has sad and frustrating memories of the end of Super Bowl 56, running back Joe Mixon's memories are tinged with something more: regret.
Mixon, one of the NFL's best running backs last season, was not on the field for those last few plays in the final 48 seconds of the game. Even though the Bengals had several chances to move within field goal range against the Los Angeles Rams and turn the 23-20 deficit into a tie, he wasn't out there. If the Bengals had converted on third-and-1 or fourth-and-1, it could have sent the Super Bowl to overtime and changed the outcome.
Mixon hadn't talked about how he felt being on the sidelines at the end of Super Bowl 56. But on Friday, almost six months after that disappointing finish, he opened up about it for the first time.
“I mean at the end of the day, like I said … who was out there at the end of the day, whoever is out there, I have no doubt in my mind that they should make the play,” Mixon said via the Cincinnati Enquirer. “You know what I’m saying, coach got caught up in running two minute and through the playoffs, he had me in two-minute. It was just a caught up in the moment thing. I really should have taken initiative on myself and just been like, ‘Hey, I’m coming in.’ But you know it was the heat of the moment.
"Third down, third-and-1, obviously I want to go run in but when we going no huddle, we have to hurry up and keep it going so you know like I said, it sucks and obviously I know I would have been able to help and do whatever to get that one yard, but it’s over with. It’s last year and you know obviously we’re in 2022 so we’re trying to go ahead and do whatever we can to repeat and get back in that same situation and when we are in that situation, damn sure you know I’ll be in.”
Mixon, Taylor relationship is just fine
While Mixon now feels regret at how he handled that situation, the person in charge of him actually being in the game (or not) was head coach Zac Taylor. Taylor chose backup Samaje Perine to be on the field in that final minute, a decision he said he simply has to live with.
"Whether Joe is in there or not, he's certainly deserving of the opportunity in a key moment in a key game to try to get it for us as our featured back," Taylor said three days after the Bengals' Super Bowl loss. "But again, that's just one of the decisions you make in the moment and you've gotta move forward with it."
On Saturday, Taylor told the media that he and Mixon have discussed how those final minutes played out. They came to a full understanding, and now it's all water under the bridge.
"You absolutely should feel passionate about that situation," Taylor said via ESPN. "He's handled it outstanding. That's much appreciated. He knows that. It's one of the reasons you want to get back to those moments, you know?"
Regret is one of the most unforgiving and unsatisfying emotions to feel, and it's not something that can be washed away by a single conversation. But learning from what happened is essential to moving on from it, and both Mixon and Taylor appear to have done that. The next time a situation like this arises, they'll be ready.