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In the midst of a lost season, the Bengals never quit fighting

Cincinnati nearly pulled off miraculous finish in Miami after they had every reason to throw in the towel.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Miami Dolphins
Tyler Eifert
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Just when you thought it was safe to count the Bengals out, they stormed back from a 35-19 deficit with two touchdowns in the final 33 seconds to force overtime. The Bengals eventually succumbed by a score of 38-35, but the fight that head coach Zac Taylor has talked about throughout this lost season was definitely there.

It was on display when Andy Dalton found Tyler Boyd for a 3-yard touchdown pass with 29 seconds left. Dalton hit Tyler Eifert on the 2-point conversion attempt to pull the Bengals to within 35-27.

It was on display when Jordan Evans recovered a Randy Bullock onside kick to give Cincinnati the ball at its own 46-yard-line.

It was on display when Eifert went up between two Miami defenders to pull down Dalton’s 25-yard Hail Mary with no time on the clock.

And it was on display when Dalton scrambled around the right end for the 2-point conversion that sent the game to overtime.

“Just guys making plays, making plays when you’re number is called,” said receiver Tyler Boyd, who finished with a season-best 128 yards and two touchdowns on nine receptions. Boyd is now just 13 yards short of his second consecutive 1,000 yard receiving season.

“We did a great job just making plays for each other,” Boyd said. “We just know that the guys that’s playing will never quit. Guys did a great job of finding it in themselves to dig deep. I believe everybody believed we were going to win.”

Cincinnati could not get anything going in the overtime period, and Miami eventually drove to the winning field goal at the end of the overtime period.

“[It] just sucks for us to come all the way back and not get it done in the end,” Eifert said. “It just stings coming all the way back and not making enough plays in overtime to finish it off.”

But the fight that was lacking early on when the Bengals dug themselves a 21-6 hole at the end of the first half showed up in the second half.

“[We] just kept fighting,” Eifert said. “Guys just keep fighting, and that’s all you can really ask for. No one laid down and gave up. So many of those scenarios we go over, almost daily. It was nice to execute when we had the opportunity. Got to make more plays down the stretch.”

Dalton got off to another sluggish start, completing barely 50 percent of his passes through the two quarters and failing to punch it into the end zone after driving to Miami’s 1-yard-line on the Bengals’ only trip into the red zone in the first half.

But he stormed back to finish 33 of 56 for 396 yards and four touchdowns, with no interceptions and a passer rating of 104.5.

“Our guys were making plays,” Dalton said. “Guys made plays when we needed to at that point in the game. In those crucial moments at the end of the game, we were able to make some of these plays that allowed us to tie it up.”

They never gave up.

“[It] speaks to what kind of character we got in this locker room,” Taylor said. “I know they were tired, they were hurt, winded, but they gave us everything they had.”

In the end, it wasn’t quite enough, but it gave Cincinnati plenty of hope for the future.

“At some point, this is going to serve us well,” Taylor said. “We know we can fight back from anything. Our guys settled in and showed who they really are.”