It came a week later than the Bengals and their fans were hoping, but the Bengals have finally notched their first home win of the 2016 season! Heading into their Thursday Night Football matchup with the Miami Dolphins, the general feeling was that this game was a must-win for the Bengals if they wanted to get back on track after a poor start.
A loss probably would have meant that the 2016 incarnation of the Bengals would be skirting the edges of the Wild Card seeds at best. But, the dominating performance that they delivered evened the season record back up to .500 and showed the rest of the NFL that they’re still a contender. It was a very good, all around impressive performance for the Bengals. But, as explained by Eric Edholm of Yahoo Sports, the story of the day was how well Bengals superstar receiver A.J. Green played:
The Miami Dolphins looked good Thursday night. For exactly their first two plays.
But for most of the rest of the night, it was the A.J. Green show in the Cincinnati Bengals’ 22-7 win on Thursday night. The shorthanded Dolphins secondary, which benched high-price trade acquisition Byron Maxwell before the game, had no answers for Green, who caught 10 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown — with most of the damage done early. Conversely, the Dolphins finished the night with a mere 222 yards of offense.
Green was so good that, for a large portion of the game, his total yards gained alone was higher than the entire Dolphins’ offense. It was a performance perfectly punctuated by NFL beat writer Omar Kelly, and will not likely be soon forgotten.
I previously said DeVante Parker reminds me a lot of AJ Green. I now withdraw that statement. AJ Green is a freak of nature.— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) September 30, 2016
However, despite Green’s incredible performance, the most important thing that helped the Bengals to their big win this week was their ability to take care of the ball and dominate time of possession. The long drives came as a result of fantastic play by both the Bengals’ offensive and defensive units. At some point, as explained by Alec Nathan of Bleacher Report, it became so much more than the Dolphins could realistically overcome.
By the time the opening stanza came to a close, the Bengals secured a 16-7 lead behind an offense that was able to string together some long, balanced drives. Conversely, the Dolphins' uptempo spread attack appeared listless with the exception of the opening bomb to Stills.
Not only did the Bengals outsnap the Dolphins, 40-19, but they also mounted a time of possession edge in excess of 13 minutes by the time both clubs hit the halftime locker room.
The time of possession shook out the way it did due to the efficiency by the Bengals’ offense and the lack of it from the Dolphins’ offense. In fact, the Bengals only put up two three-and-out drives through the game (not counting the final drive which was all QB kneels), as compared to the Dolphins’ six three and outs.
The Bengals also dominated the turnover battle, forcing a fumble and an interception on the Dolphins on two of the Dolphins’ drives that looked like they could potentially produce points. Dolphins’ quarterback Ryan Tannehill even knew playing like that couldn’t possibly lead to anything good.
Tannehill: One of the worst performances I've seen from our offense in a long time— Gregg Rosenthal (@greggrosenthal) September 30, 2016
As much as the Bengals truly dominated most aspects of this game, the end result didn’t really do the performance justice. In the end, as discussed in The Los Angeles Times, the Bengals’ final score was reduced quite a bit by the number of times the Bengals had to settle for a field goal.
During the first three quarters, Green had 166 yards on catches while Miami had 152 total yards. The Bengals' season-long problem of stalling out near the goal line forced them to settle for Mike Nugent's season-high five field goals.
It was a problem of the Bengals’ general inability to make things happen in the red-zone. Settling for five field goals against a bad Dolphins team worked this time. But, it probably won’t work when they play better teams, such as nearly every other team they play for the rest of the season. Perhaps, as Trey Wingo of NFL Live Tweeted, things will be better when the team’s biggest red zone threat finally returns.
You can tell the Bengals are really missing Tyler Eifert. Mostly in the red zone— trey wingo (@wingoz) September 30, 2016
Had the Bengals been more efficient in the red zone, they could have realistically scored 50 points in the game. That kind of performance shows a glaring inability to take advantage of key situations. Ultimately, it didn’t matter on Thursday. But, as Michael David Smith of NBC Sports explains, it’s not what the Bengals coaches want to see in a game where the Bengals were expected to dominate anyway.
The Bengals turned in a dominating performance in Thursday night’s 22-7 win over the Dolphins, but coach Marvin Lewis still saw a lot that needs improvement.
Lewis wasn’t pleased that the offense scored only one touchdown, with five field goals.
“We’re moving the football, but we need to finish more drives with touchdowns,” Lewis said. ‘Occasionally you’re going to get stopped, but we have to make sure we’re not doing things to stop ourselves and that we finish more drives.”
Still, it was a good win for the Bengals to re-instill some confidence that may have been lost over the last two weeks, dropping tough games against the Steelers and Broncos. The overall feeling for the Bengals and their fans was captured and tweeted by Kareem Elgazzar of the Cincinnati Enquirer after the game.
As always, there were some more interesting tweets about the game that deserve a mention:
Whitworth: We got out of this month w/o being in the negative, but the reality is we're nowhere close to where we need to be. #Bengals— Kaci Kust (@KaciKustCN2) September 30, 2016
And NFL Network will indeed show one more Tannehill led Dolphins possession tonight. You're welcome, America.— Rich Eisen (@richeisen) September 30, 2016
How the Dolphins saw A.J. Green pic.twitter.com/DS1zMxYSqy— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 30, 2016
Issue someone who knows Dolphins well raised to me: Who is your leader? It's not the QB. It's not the highest-paid player. Big void there.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) September 30, 2016