If you want to know how the Bengals offensive line did Monday in Super Bowl LVI.V, don't go to the websites and the podcasts. Go to the adjoining lockers of center Ted Karras and left guard Cordell Volson about a half-hour after the Bengals beat the Rams.
There is head coach Zac Taylor coming by to shake their hands, leaning into them to make sure they hear him above the music and passing along his appreciation for keeping quarterback Joe Burrow relatively clean.
"He got a cheap one on us in the second quarter," Karras said of the Rams' mobile Hall of Fame exhibit named Aaron Donald.
Taylor looked at Volson, grabbed his arm, let it go as he walked away and said, "I appreciate what you did."
What they did was make sure Donald didn't dismantle the game. Sure, he had a hell of a night. Like Karras said, "He had another good Aaron Donald game." A sack, a hit, five hurries.
He had similar numbers when he waited to steal Taylor's Super Bowl ring 19 months ago on the big game's last snap. Heck, he almost always has similar numbers. In the opener in Seattle, he had five pressures. But this time with a tender Burrow throwing 49 passes, the offensive line gave Burrow enough time and room to keep the ball 36 minutes. And, yes, Burrow, helped his guys out by getting every ball out in what seemed less than two seconds. But the carefully crafted game plan around Burrow's calf held together and frustrated Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford almost as much as the marauding Bengals defense that sacked him six times. It's only the fifth time since 2021 the Bengals had the ball at least 36 minutes in regulation.
"All our guys just fought all night," Volson said. "What can you say about that guy? He's so quick and strong. You just tried to keep fighting and fighting every snap."
Karras was encouraged that the offense finally popped an explosive play when Burrow hit wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase off a fake toss to the other side and rolled out for a 43-yard throw that's their longest of the season.
"Our skill guys are going to bust out the big plays and we have to hold up our end of the bargain," Karras said. "They're going to break some defenses down. We did all right. We gave him a cheap one in the middle of the second quarter (as Donald beat Volson inside). I need to get over to him more. But he didn't ruin the game, which he can do.
"You'd like to do a little bit better. And 19 points, I think that's a little bit sloppy for us. We owe a higher standard than that. I think six hits is too many with this unit. Obviously, that's a special player over there. We did enough to win, corralling him, but there's a few plays when we look back that we could have done some better things... The old (George) Halas rule. Hold them to 20 or fewer. We won with 19, but we can get more.
Karras didn't see any signs that Burrow's right calf was hurting, only that he wanted to play.
"He was adamant all week, and to stay physically and emotionally ready to go, that's who he is and I think we did enough around him to win. He really did a great job. He had great command. I didn't see him grimace at all. He was moving around enough."
No rest for the wicked. Karras quickly invoked the name of the Titans Pro Bowl tackle Jeffery Simmons, Sunday's foe in Tennessee (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) coming off a two-hurry game in Cleveland.
"We're going to have another great D-tackle we're going against this week in (Jeffery) Simmons. Obviously, a different style," Karras said.
JOLTIN' JOE: Burrow was his clutch back-against-the-wall self and Pro Bowl sacker Trey Hendrickson was a monster with two sacks, 1.5 more lost by penalty, seven hurries, and 10 pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.
But the guy who probably had people talking around the water cooler Tuesday morning was running back Joe Mixon. Mixon scored their only touchdown with a quick, powerful 14-yard run and he had the ESPN booth buzzing with his jump cut between tight end Drew Sample and left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and the ensuing second effort that converted a fourth-and-one to keep the clock ticking under 11 minutes with a 16-9 lead.
The road got tough later in the game as the Bengals built a ten-point lead and the Rams loaded up for the run. But Mixon's 65 yards on 19 carries also helped keep Donald at arm's length.
Mixon quietly continued his climb up the Bengals' all-time lists. He has now carried the ball 1,359 times and passed Bengals Ring of Honor nominee James Brooks, into fourth place. His 41st rushing touchdown puts him four behind another Ring of Honor nominee, Corey Dillon, in third place.
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The AFC North is a tough division for sacks Hendrickson has three in three games, but Pittsburgh's T.J. Watt is the NFL leader with six and Cleveland's Myles Garett is third with 4.5 ...
Wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase's seven third-down catches is one behind the AFC leaders ...
Middle linebacker Logan Wilson's two interceptions have him tied with many in the league and trailing the three of old friend Jessie Bates III and Jordan Whitehead ...
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The Bengals special teams are among the NFL leaders with their ranks of No. 3 and No. 8 defending punt and kick returns, respectively, while ranking fourth and 16th in punt and kick returns ...