Thursday Night Football – saw the red-hot Miami Dolphins travel up to the Paycor Stadium to take on last season’s Superbowl finalists: the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Miami Dolphins have been the best team in the league over the first three game weeks. They came into this game unbeaten and strong favorites to claim the No.1 Seed in the AFC.
However, there were major questions around the fitness of Tua Tagovailoa, after suffering suspected concussion last time out against the Bills.
The Cincinnati Bengals meanwhile have had a difficult start to the season, struggling in their first few of games. For Cincinnati to win this game, the difference between the two was always likely to be the offense’s ability to push and pull the Miami defense to their will, exploiting the gaps created.
This matchup would be a big statement win for whoever came out victorious.
Dolphins vs Bengals Game Breakdown
With the Miami Dolphins winning the opening coin toss and deferring to the second half, their very tired defense took to the field first.
Joe Burrow wasted no time getting points on the board, marching the Bengals down the field for an opening possession touchdown thanks to two unnecessary penalty calls on the Dolphins defence.
With more protection from his offensive line unit too, Burrow put together a confident nine play drive capped off by a 5-yard run into the end zone by running back Joe Mixon.
The Dolphins responded well on their opening drive, with Tua Tagovailoa hitting both his wide receiver weapons Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle for big yardage to help the offense into the redzone.
McDaniel had to settle for a Jason Sanders field goal, after Chase Edmonds dropped a very catchable ball in the endzone.
After a great stop by the Dolphins defense on the next series, the Miami offense failed to capitalise in their next possession.
Wasting two timeouts the offense looked far from assured, with Tua throwing an interception when looking for a long ball to Tyreek Hill at the end of the first quarter.
Miami managed to force a turnover on downs on the next drive as an aggressive Bengals play call on fourth down failed to pay off at the Miami 24-yard line. Miami used this momentum to bring the game to within one point thanks to a 48-yard Sanders field goal.
Injury breaks up the play
However, this momentum was short lived as disaster struck the Dolphins with six minutes to go in the second quarter. Tua Tagavailoa was sacked by Josh Tupou landing right on his back, which left him motionless on the ground. A very frightening looking injury for the Dolphins franchise quarterback.
There was a prolonged break in play whilst the medics assessed his condition, which resulted in Tua being stretchered off the field.
He was sent in an Ambulance straight to the University of Cincinnati Hospital where his condition was being monitored. Luckily, it was announced as the game progressed that Tagovailoa was to be discharged from the hospital and return home with the Dolphins after the game.
There will certainly be more to come on this in the coming days and weeks around the NFL.
Bengals start to build
With the game resuming, the Bengals defense blocked Jason Sanders 56-yard field goal attempt. With the ball back in the hands of the Bengals offense Joe Burrow hit his first passing touchdown of the afternoon to Tee Higgins on a 59-yard strike.
This put the Bengals up 14-6.
Just over 2 minutes remained in the first quarter for the Dolphins to close the gap. Back up Teddy Bridgewater seemed up to the task at hand.
He completed 6/7 passes which led to a touchdown drive just before the half after a nicely designed shovel pass to Edmonds. Unfortunately, Sanders missed the extra point meaning it ended Dolphins 12 – Bengals 14 at the half.
After a slow third quarter, dominated by 3 and out’s the Dolphins have Bridgewater to thank for connecting with Tyreek Hill on a super pass for a 64-yard gain.
The Miami offense once again fails to punch the ball in for a touchdown and settled for their third field goal of the game. The Dolphins somehow take the lead despite all their issues up to this point.
Back-to-back field goals from the ever-reliable `Evan McPherson finally gave Cincinnati some control back in the game with a five point lead in the middle of the fourth quarter.
Vonn Bell provided another interception for the Bengals defense with Bridgewater desperate to impress with the Dolphins trailing 19-15.
With Dolphins veteran corner, Howard, having to leave the field during the third quarter, the Bengals targeted the Miami cornerbacks late in the fourth quarter.
Burrow sealed a 27-15 win with a wide open three yard touchdown pass to Hayden Hurst.
Key Game Takeaways / Injuries
After an impressive Offensive line performance Burrow threw for 287 yards and two touchdowns. Burrow was only sacked once during TNF, having been sacked a league high 15 times coming into week 4.
The Miami Dolphins do however, find themselves in an injury crisis having lost their franchise quarterback and veteran corner (Tua Tagovailoa and Xavien Howard, respectively).
Tua finds himself now in a heavily scrutinised concussion protocol which includes a five-step process for returning to the field.
His return date is completely unknown, and you can be sure that a return to action will not be rushed, with the league potentially revisiting the whole concussion protocol as a result of this week’s instances.
Xavien Howard has re-aggravated his groin injury and will now need to take time to recover to ensure he can be fully fit with the Miami Dolphins touted to make the playoffs.
MVP: Tee Higgins
With star receiver, Ja’Marr Chase, being heavily guarded for majority of the game, Tee Higgins stepped up and proved himself once again.
A vitally important weapon for Joe Burrow and a consistent performer in this explosive Bengals offense. His stats for the game saw him catch 7 passes for a combined 124 yards and one touchdown.
So far this season Higgins has proven himself just as trustworthy for Joe Burrow as last year’s NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year: Ja’Marr Chase. He currently has the 4th most receiving yards in the NFL.
Bengals: The Bengals have a huge divisional game upcoming next week as they taken on the Baltimore Ravens.
With 10 days of preparation and no key injuries, the Bengals look good value against the -3.5 favorite Baltimore Ravens. Especially as the Ravens have a demanding matchup against the Buffalo Bills and their high-powered offense.
Dolphins: The Dolphins also have an important divisional game next where they’ll be looking to bounce back from this damaging defeat. A winnable match-up against the New York Jets.
Questions will be asked to HC McDaniel this week whether Teddy Bridgewater can perform to the level required for Miami to get back to winning ways.