Joe Mixon stole the show on Sunday as his five touchdowns led the way in a 42-point performance by the Cincinnati Bengals. But let’s not overlook everything else that happened. Because let me tell you something, that defense was on fire.

On Sunday, an initial three-and-out series by the Bengals’ defense set the tone for what would be the theme at Paycor Stadium all day long. The defense opened the game with three consecutive three-and-outs. It would go on to allow only three drives longer than four plays (two of them in the fourth quarter).

In total, the Bengals allowed 13 first downs to the Carolina Panthers. That’s bad, but it becomes terrible when you find out 12 of those came until the second half.

For two-quarters of football, the Bengals allowed only 1.9 yards per play and ONE first down.

Whether you’re playing Patrick Mahomes or P.J. Walker, those are outstanding numbers. Carolina simply couldn’t get anything going against a banged-up defense that missed multiple starters including cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton.

Speaking of defensive backs, how about Eli Apple returning to action with a fantastic game? The cornerback got himself a pass deflection while being in the right spot all day long.

Somehow, while you could complain the Bengals finished the day with zero sacks, only one QB hit, and a lone tackle for loss, I’d argue it’s even more impressive they dominated even without any of that.

That happened in part thanks to Trey Hendrickson’s work in the trenches. The Bengals’ defensive end didn’t light up the stat sheet but he managed to generate pressure consistently throughout the game, leading to Top 3 recognition across the league by Next Gen Stats.

While we could nitpick and point out that Baker Mayfield moved the ball quite well in the second half, it’d be difficult to ignore the Bengals were up 35-0 at the half. Not to mention, some starters didn’t even make it to the end of the third quarter before being pulled out.

While Cincinnati struggled against the Cleveland Browns in Week 9, the win over the Panthers served as a strong reminder that the team still ranked 9th in the NFL in defensive DVOA by Football Outsiders.

Once more, the league was reminded that this is more than a flashy offensive team led by Joe Burrow.

Lou Anarumo’s defense is legitimately a good one. Being able to overcome significant injuries with a great game like Sunday’s should not be ignored.

Featured image via Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Mixon is a top ___ RB in the NFL