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Run defense struggles early, as Bengals cruised

Panthers defense

CINCINNATI – Jaycee Horn put it simply in a somber visitor's locker room at Paycor Stadium. Carolina's defense knew what to expect from the Bengals on Sunday, but the group didn't execute the plan.

Horn said Carolina had prepared for "a lot of quick game" from Cincinnati's offense and felt ready before the matchup started. But it quickly got away from the Panthers, who went into halftime down 35-0 and never put up a convincing fight in a 42-21 loss.

"(We) got exactly what we knew was coming," Horn said. "Just didn't do a good job stopping it."

The defense wasn't the only unit that let up in Cincinnati, as the Panthers struggled through an abysmally slow start on offense to multiple penalties on special teams.

But the run defense was particularly bad. The Bengals blew past their previous season-high rushing performance (133 yards) before halftime, and running back Joe Mixon had one of the best days of his career. Cincinnati, which entered the day ranked 30th with an average of 81.0 rushing yards per game, put up 241 yards on the ground Sunday.

Interim coach Steve Wilks said it was a "combination of everything" that played into the defense's lack of efficiency, from failure to set edges to hand technique while getting off blocks.

Mixon finished with 22 attempts for 153 yards, the third-highest single-game total of his career. He also broke a Bengals franchise record with five total touchdowns (four rushing, one receiving).

"They did a good job with their rushing plan," defensive end Brian Burns said. "Joe Mixon played a great game. But I think it comes down to us. That's our mistake.

"(Mixon) is a big, quick back. … He's a hard guy to tackle."

The Bengals were coming off a lifeless loss to the Browns on Monday night when they put up just 36 rushing yards on 10 carries.

"We didn't execute the way we wanted to," Burns said. "They didn't really do anything that we didn't know was coming. It just comes down to execution, making tackles. There were a lot of missed tackles."

Burns dealt with what was announced as a neck injury early in the game. He said afterward that he felt "fine" and chalked it up to "nicks and bruises." He wasn't the only starter dealing with discomfort, as defensive tackle Derrick Brown battled an illness before the game and attempted to power through, eventually exiting the game after halftime. Cornerback Donte Jackson was active but didn't play as he continues to recover from an ankle injury.

Defensive back Myles Hartsfield continued to add to his workload in an injured secondary. Safety Jeremy Chinn (hamstring) remains on injured reserve, and Juston Burris (concussion) was ruled out before Sunday.

Hartsfield said he felt like the defense wasn't "playing together" against the Bengals, though he agreed that he'd need to look over film from the loss before pinpointing other issues.

"It's just the communication part, trusting each other, being in your gap," Hartsfield said. "Not trying to make somebody else's play, making the plays that come to you and your gap, especially in the run game; (it's) just being able to trust the people around you that they'll go do their jobs, so you can do your job."

Horn described an "upset, disappointed" mood in the locker room. And Wilks, though surprised by what had ensued, knows there's not much time to reflect before Thursday's game with Atlanta,

"Did I expect us to play the way we did? Not in a million years," Wilks said. "I'm not going to question the effort. (We've) got to watch the tape and see (every play) exactly from every angle. But I'm proud of those guys, and I'm looking for us to come back tomorrow and bounce back."

View best in-game photos from Carolina's Week 9 game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

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