It wasn’t pretty, but the Bengals got the job done on Thursday Night Football against the Miami Dolphins. A.J. Green took control of the game early, torching Miami’s secondary to the tune of 173 yards and a touchdown on 10 catches. And aside from one play, Cincinnati’s defense looked utterly dominant, locking down a Dolphins offense which boasts a fairly underrated passing attack. With Tyler Eifert out of the lineup, the Bengals’ offense struggled to convert on third down and in the red zone, and as a result, Mike Nugent was on the field often, converting five field goals on as many attempts. Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap finally got back on track, tallying 3.5 combined sacks. Vontaze Burfict, meanwhile, tallied three tackles and a pass deflection in his first return to action.
The Bengals got off to a pretty good start, taking a 10-7 lead by the end of the first quarter. Jeremy Hill looked solid, tallying 27 rushing yards on his first five carries. Brandon LaFell’s two catches on the first drive gained 18 yards and helped propel the Bengals downfield for a field goal. But on the second drive, Green took over. The wide receiver caught a 53-yard bomb, winning a jump ball over Dolphins corner Xavien Howard, who Andy Dalton consistently targeted throughout the game. Green followed that up with a 19-yarder and a seven-yard touchdown to cap the drive and re-establish the Bengals’ lead.
The Dolphins, sporting their American cheese uniforms, were quite unimpressive throughout the first half, aside from perhaps the best play of the game, in which Adam Gase caught the Bengals in the wrong personnel. As a result, Ryan Tannehill connected with Kenny Stills on a 74-yard touchdown. Shawn Williams and George Iloka both blew their assignments on the play, as Stills torched the secondary for an easy six.
On the Dolphins’ fifth drive, after three straight Miami punts, Carlos Dunlap came up big, stripping the ball from Tannehill. Domata Peko recovered the strip-sack, giving the Bengals the ball in scoring position. Unable to get anything going on offense, Nugent split the uprights on his third straight field goal, giving Cincinnati a 16-7 lead heading into the half.
The Bengals continued to dominate in the second half. Atkins, Johnson and Dunlap all contributed to sacks of Tannehill, forcing punts on Miami’s first two drives. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, the offense continued to dominate at times, other than in the redzone. Big plays from Hill (nine-yard run) and Green (43-yard catch) led to another field goal on Cincinnati’s first drive after Tyler Boyd dropped a potential touchdown catch.
On the next Bengals drive (after the Dunlap sack), a boneheaded unnecessary roughness penalty on the Dolphins, for running into Kevin Huber after a punt, gave the Bengals a chance to continue to run off some clock. The offense capitalized on the mistake, as Hill scattered down the field on a 19-yard run and LaFell caught a deep pass for 23 yards. The drive eventually stalled again, as Nugent booted a 47-yard field goal to give his team a 22-7 lead.
With about five minutes left in the game, it appeared as though the Dolphins were finally re-gaining momentum. But that momentum would not last, as Will Clarke sacked Tannehill (his third sack in as many weeks) and Chris Lewis-Harris picked off a pass, giving the Bengals offense a chance to run the clock down and bury Miami. But, before the game ended, Geno Atkins made sure to get another sack, with the help of a Dolphins player.
The Bengals are now 2-2 after facing what will likely be the most difficult four-game stretch of the 2016 season, while the Dolphins — who have (arguably) played an even more difficult schedule than Cincinnati — drop to 1-3 on the season.