This was billed as an offensive explosion. It really did look that way early, but both the Cincinnati Bengals and Miami Dolphins offenses struggled off and on throughout the night. Part of that is these defenses doing a great job to step up on third down. Some of it was just timing issues and poor play calling. Still, knocking off the last undefeated team to climb back to .500 is a huge statement to make on Thursday Night Football, regardless of how pretty it was.
The Bengals started the game hot on offense for a change. The theme of the drive was wanting it more. Tight end Hurst set the tone by fighting for extra yards to pick up an early first down. Later on the drive he also received a late hit penalty that gained an extra 15 yards. The drive ended with a bang as Joe Mixon was aided by a push from his offensive line to score his first touchdown of the season to put the Bengals up 7-0.
The Dolphins offense came out equally as hot. Tua Tagovailoa was hitting open receiver after open receiver, but the drive stalled out after the Dolphins running back dropped an easy touchdown on Third Down. Cincinnati maintained a lead, but it was obvious this defense had to change something.
Cincinnati had a respectable drive before pinning Miami inside their own 20. The Dolphins ended up having to use two of their timeouts due to the crowd noise. Then we saw the good and bad of Tagovailoa. He tossed a beautiful ball right over Logan Wilson reach to pick up a long first down conversion. However, his next pass was a deep ball that Tyreek Hill had to come back to that was intercepted by Vonn Bell. Also, Hill got called for a holding penalty on Eli Apple that drive for those keeping track of that.
The Bengals couldn’t capitalize on the turnover, though. The offense drove down to the Dolphins’ 20-yard line when they faced a 4th-and-1. They opted to go for it and ran a sweep with Joe Mixon that failed to gain yards. It would have been huge if it worked, but it is likely a decision that we will look back on.
The Dolphins added another field goal on the following drive, and then their defense forced the Bengals into a three-and-out. Then a scary sequence unfolded as Tagovailoa was sacked and hit his head off the field. He was down for an extended period of time before he was taken off on a stretcher. He was replaced by Teddy Bridgewater who put them into field goal range, but Cincinnati’s special teams came up huge to block it.
Burrow and the offense started off their next drive looking disconnected. Then on third-and-long he hit Tee Higgins deep for a much-needed deep touchdown. It gave the Bengals an 8-point lead. The Dolphins offense led by Bridgewater took up the rest of the half to answer with a touchdown of their own. Bridgewater was a masterful five of six on the drive that was also aided by a late hit penalty. They were unable to make the point after though, so the Bengals went into halftime up by two points.
It took almost half of the third quarter for one of these offenses to pick up a first down. What looked like a track meet early turned into a slog very quickly. A combination of Cincinnati really trying to establish the run and some inaccuracy issues from Burrow left so much to be desired and points on the board.
We finally got a taste of offense again when Bridgewater hit Hill deep down the field despite him bobbling the ball. However, the Bengals defense stiffened and once again held the Dolphins to a field goal. It did give Miami their first lead of the night.
Tyler Boyd had a quiet night up until the end of the third quarter. He converted a long third down on a double pass play with a strike to Ja’Marr Chase. He followed it up with a big catch that put the offense inside the 10-yard line. The Dolphins defense did its best to keep Mixon inches from breaking the play three times and forced a field goal for the Bengals to reclaim the lead 17-15.
Logan Wilson deserves more than just a nod. He consistently made plays all game long. One of his biggest may have been on third and inches with around 10 minutes left. He nailed the running back two yards behind the line of scrimmage to force a punt.
We then watched Burrow and Higgins heat up yet again to pick up a few first downs. Chase also was wide open for an easy first himself. The drive ended up stalling at around the 40-yard line of Miami. Most teams would punt there and try to pin their opponent deep in their own territory up only two. Most teams don’t have Evan McPherson to drill a 57-yard field goal to gain a 5-point lead with six minutes left in the game.
The Dolphins were moving methodically with a running game that looked like it was just getting going. Then Bridgewater dropped back and threw a ball high to his tight end that wasn’t ready for it. That pass landed in the waiting arms of Bell for his second interception of the game. He returned it to nearly midfield setting up the last three minutes of the game.
You would think the Bengals would lean on Mixon to try and just eat up the Dolphins’ timeouts and the two-minute warning. After one running play, though, Burrow hit Chase down the sideline recognizing the 1-on-1 matchup. Setting up the Bengals 10 yards away from the end zone with just two minutes left.
Burrow, with ice in his veins, hit Hurst for the quarterback’s second touchdown pass of the game. That made the score 27-15 and effectively put a nail in this one.
The narrative here will likely be Cincinnati taking advantage of a Tagovailoa injury. However, they didn’t score a touchdown with him out there, and Bridgewater was able to actually hit on the deep ball. What I’m trying to say is this team may not have had a flashy win, but they dethroned the last undefeated team in the AFC.
Miami was a team that people were saying was a legitimate Super Bowl contender, and they very well could be. What does that say about this team staying blow to blow with them and making the plays they needed to.