The Cincinnati Bengals started slow against the Miami Dolphins, but finished strong with a 23-point fourth quarter and scoring twice in the last 29 seconds of the game. That statement will never not be ludicrous.
The offense was extremely impressive down the stretch, facing adversity and finding a way to stay alive. This is the same unit that averaged just over 15 points per game entering this week, so to put up 35—with 23 coming in one quarter alone—is nothing short of astonishing.
Let’s take a look at the scoring drives from this weekend and the progress that the Bengals have made offensively.
Third Drive of the First Quarter
After going three-and-out on their first two possessions, the Bengals finally put a drive together as the first quarter ran into the second quarter.
The first play of the drive was ruled a sack, although Andy Dalton scrambled and managed to get back to the line of scrimmage before running out of bounds.
On the second play he got the rolling with a great pass to Tyler Boyd.
The Bengals were in an empty formation with three receivers (trips) to the left and two receivers (twins) to the right. From outside in the receivers to the trips side were Alex Erickson, C.J. Uzomah, and Boyd.
Erickson releases outside and runs vertically to take his man out of the picture. Uzomah releases inside to pick the defender responsible for Boyd. He hitches up, but the intent of his route is to get Boyd open.
Boyd wheels around to the outside and Dalton delivers a great pass between the defender trailing Boyd (after getting around Uzomah) and the defender over the top who falls off of Erickson’s route when he sees the throw.
This was excellent placement by Dalton. The completion was good for 19 yards and a first down.
The Bengals picked up another first down on the ground and came out in empty again on second-and-10. This time Dalton worked the twins side of the formation where Joe Mixon lined up wide and John Ross lined up in the slot.
Mixon ran a hitch route and Ross outside-released and ran vertically outside of the numbers. Despite tight coverage, Dalton threw an excellent ball and Ross made the reception for a 34-yard gain. This put the Bengals in the red zone.
A couple of runs by Mixon gave them first-and-goal on the four yard-line, but unfortunately three more Mixon runs wasn’t good enough to get them into the end zone.
The Dolphins were hell-bent on not getting beaten by Mixon and buckled down to get the red zone stop.
Randy Bullock kicked a 20-yard field goal to get the Bengals on the board.
12 Plays - 78 Yards - 6:29
Result: Field Goal
Dalton Stats: 2/3 for 53 yards
Final Drive of the First Half
The Bengals went three-and-out on their next three drives but got the ball back on their own 15-yard line with a little under a minute to play. They started the drive with this play.
This was an excellent play call. It was low risk, had potential to get the clock rolling, and most importantly it got the ball in the hands of one of their best players.
Tyler Eifert got the initial block that gave Boyd some room to work on the screen. Then Boyd broke a couple tackles and was able to pick up 14 yards before running out of bounds.
If Boyd had been tackled for a short game, the Bengals probably would have let the clock run and gone into the half, but this created an opportunity for them to drive down the field and score.
Dalton and head coach Zac Taylor were aggressive on this drive, taking a few deep shots to Ross, but they were unsuccessful,
Dalton did complete short passes to Erickson, Eifert, and Giovani Bernard .
Then on fourth-and-one from the 46-yard line and with only 11 seconds remaining, Taylor made an incredible play call.
Everybody knows about Ross’ speed and after the Bengals took a couple of shots deep to him on this drive the Dolphins were not about to give up a long score to the Ross.
Taylor used this to his advantage. Ross released vertically and threatened the defender enough to get him to turn his hips to the inside. Ross then cut to the outside where Dalton delivered him the ball. After making the catch for a 12-yard gain he ran out of bounds. The Bengals had a 1st down in field goal range with seven seconds remaining.
A very smart play call.
Randy Bullock actually missed the 52-yard field goal, but since Billy Price was called for a false start, he got another shot from 57 yards. He nailed the 57-yarder, which is now a franchise record.
8 Plays - 46 Yards - 0:51
Result: Field Goal Good
Dalton Stats: 5/7 for 39 yards
Second Possession of the Second Half
The Bengals were forced to punt on their first drive of the second half, but bounced back on the second drive.
Last week I talked about how the Bengals offense struggled to deal with adversity. Specifically, how a drive could be derailed by a penalty or a sack that threw them off schedule.
They proved me wrong on this drive.
It started with a false start by Fred Johnson on first down. Then after Mixon picked up nine yards on the replay of the down and Dalton was then sacked on second down.
Nice route by Alex Erickson pic.twitter.com/pinalwhllM— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) December 23, 2019
On third-and-11, Erickson ran a great route.
He releases to the outside, before ducking back in behind and inside of the defender who was lined up on him and in front of the deep safety,
Dalton’s pass was right on the money and the drive continued.
The Bengals got another first down on a completion to Ross, but soon faced fourth-and-three on the 34-yard line.
Despite only needing a few yards, the Bengals decided to go for it all on fourth down.
This was the same route combination we saw on an earlier deep attempt to Ross. The outside receiver hitches and this time it is Boyd who runs an outside release vertical route from the slot.
Dalton hits him in stride and Boyd scores the Bengals first touchdown of the day.
The Bengals attempted the two-point conversion, but were unsuccessful. All of the sudden, it’s a two-score game.
10 Plays - 75 Yards - 4:46
Dalton Stats: 4/6 for 75 yards
First Drive of the Fourth Quarter
The Bengals next drive ended with a fumble on third-and-long.
When they got the ball back the score was 12-35 and there was 11:05 left to play.
Mixon started the drive off right, turning a quick hitch into a 17-yard gain.
The Bengals continued to move the ball down the field with completions to Eifert and the one above to Boyd.
An Erickson reception set up first-and-10 from the 12-yard line, but then Billy Price jumped early, which pushed the ball back five yards.
This is the sort of thing that has killed drives for the Bengals throughout the year, but not this time.
A nine-yard reception by Bernard brought up second-and-six.
The Bengals came out in trips and the Dolphins matched with a five-man pressure and man coverage.
With the deep safety focused on the trips side of the formation and more specifically Cethan Carter, Uzomah ran a slant from the backside and was able to get open for the score.
10 Plays - 72 Yards - 5:01
Dalton Stats: 6/7 for 70 yards
Second to Last Drive
The Bengals got the ball back with 3:07 to play down by two scores and with no timeouts remaining.
This drive was not an easy one. They jumped offsides once again, they faced fourth down twice, and Dalton even threw an interception that was fortunately called back due to a defensive penalty.
Still, they worked their way down the field. With first-and-goal on the three-yard line, they threw three straight incompletions.
Then on fourth down, from a twins set, Erickson went out and Boyd came in.
Erickson’s route picked the defender covering Boyd and Dalton was able to sneak the past just over linebacker Trent Harris. Touchdown!
Still trailing by 10 with 29 seconds to play, the Bengals needed to go for two.
Eifert squared up the defender as was able to get open to the inside to convert.
14 Plays - 63 Yards - 2:38
Dalton Stats: 7/14 for 58 yards
Final Drive of Regulation
The Bengals were able to recover the onside-kick, but threw an incompletion on 1st down.
With no timeouts, the Dolphins probably expected the Bengals to work the sideline.
This helped open up the middle of the field where Boyd got open for a gain of 29.
The window was tight and the ball had to come in high and hard. Boyd made an excellent adjustment to bring it in, getting full extension with his arms.
This was a huge play that put them within striking distance of the end zone, but it wasn’t enough.
They had to stop the clock. To complicate matters, Boyd was injured after the catch and struggled to stand.
With no timeouts remaining, if the officials stopped the clock to allow the medical staff to attend to Boyd, there would be a 10-second run off and that would have ended the game.
Boyd crawled into position and somehow sprung himself upright. This was an incredible effort by Boyd to fight through pain and showed great situational awareness.
Boyd’s toughness and intelligence allowed the Bengals to spike the ball; which left just three seconds to play.
Dalton delivered the pass down the field and Eifert went up in the air to make the catch amongst a crowd of defenders. Touchdown!
On the ensuing two-point conversion, Dalton was forced out of the pocket and able to beat the pursuit to the end zone.
4 Plays - 54 Yards - 0:29
Dalton Stats: 2/3 for 54 yards
Unfortunately, the Bengals came up short in overtime, but this was an amazing offensive push late in the game.
The Bengals offense showed the ability to win in touch situations. They dealt with penalties and sacks and still managed to come out on top. Despite falling behind early, they fought back.
Both Taylor and Dalton showed a lot of guts and Taylor’s play calling and schemes in key situations were extremely impressive.
Although they were not able to pull off the win, the offense took huge steps in this game that speak very well of the future in Cincinnati.