The Bengals vowed to run the ball better and while they pounded the first half clock Sunday, wide receiver Tyler Boyd broke a screen pass for the longest play his career on a 72-yard touchdown that gave them a 7-6 halftime lead over the Dolphins.
But they lost Boyd when he and Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard were ejected with 1:08 left in the first half on curious officiating that cost the Bengals their leading receiver and the Dolphins the NFL's leading interceptor.
With the Bengals in field-goal range on third-and-10 with 1:08 left in the half, quarterback Brandon Allen overthrew Boyd on the sideline and the Bengals argued that the officials missed Howard giving Boyd a shot more than five yards out of bounds. When Boyd objected and the two tangled, it was only Boyd that got hit with the 15-yard unsportsmanlike after the two exchanged slaps rather than punches, but enough to get them tossed.
It wiped out what had been a very strong half for the Bengals and turned into a huge six-point play. Pushed back because of the flag, Randy Bullock pulled a 53-yard field goal left and the Dolphins were able to coax a 48-yard field out of Jason Sanders at the halftime gun.
After managing just 155 yards and only 40 of them on the ground last week, the Bengals offered 171 total in the first half and got 36 yards rushing with 11 carries from the running backs after just 15 runs last week. They kept the ball for 16 minutes.
Allen looked a bit steadier after last week's debut and was 9 of 13 in the half for 137 yards. And the Bengals defense had Dolphins rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa flummoxed, although he was 12 of 19, but for just 111 yards and they stoned him on 0-for-4 on third down.
The Bengals broke out on Boyd's play. With Miami inching up seven men on the line, Allen burned them with the blitz.
Boyd's longest play of his career came on a screen pass that went for about two yards to the perimeter on third-and-two. The screen popped when Boyd got a great block from tight end Drew Sample on the left sideline and Dolphins cornerback Byron Jones tried to undercut the play and when he whiffed, Boyd was off on the Bengals' longest play since A.J. Green's 77-yard touchdown catch on Oct. 8, 2017.
The play came with 3:20 left in the first quarter. Facing the Dolphins' top-ranked third-down defense, Allen used quick passes to convert three of their first four third downs and they were 3 of 6 in the half.
_The Bengals defense came out strong, pitching a three-and-out on the first series and then on the next one got off the field on third-and-six, thanks to the Wilson guys. With safety Brandon Wilson blitzing, rookie linebacker Logan Wilson dropped into coverage and deflected Tagovailoa's pass.
After each team had the ball twice, the Bengals had the yardage edge, 48-22, as well as field position and blanked a Miami offense that had scored 90 points in the first quarter this season.
Then on the third series, three Bengals' penalties gave the Dolphins first downs and one, cornerback William Jackson III's pass interference against wide receiver DeVante Parker, wiped out Jackson's interception.
But on second-and-goal from the Bengals 3, linebacker Josh Bynes and safety Vonn Bell made a monstrous stop on the run for nothing and on third down, when Tagovailoa chose to hand it off instead of pass, the Bengals stacked it up.
View game action photos from the Bengals Week 13 game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium.
_Sanders, the kicker, scored on funky fourth-down-run featuring a formation that was so funky it was illegal when the end man didn't report as an eligible receiver and Sanders had to settle for the chip shot field goal that cut it to 7-3 early in the second quarter.
_During that drive, Miami lost left guard Ereck Flowers to injury and had to re-shuffle the offensive line.
_Ever so briefly the Bengals had a 13-3 lead in the middle of the second quarter when strong safety Vonn Bell levelled Tagovailoa on a third-down blitz just as he tried to unload it. Not hearing a whistle, linebacker Jordan Evans picked up the ball and jogged 55 yards into the end zone for what was ruled on the field as the Bengals' first defensive score of the season.
The play was negated, but it did turn into another Miami punt.
_The Bengals came out right away trying to run it and pounded it the first three snaps of the game. Running back Giovani Bernard beat blitzing linebacker Roberts for a nine-yard on the first snap with the right side of the line sealing it off.
_After sitting him last week, Michael Jordan got the start at left guard with Quinton Spain getting another start at right guard.
_On the third straight run, Bernard lost a yard up the middle and on third-and-three, Allen had rookie wide receiver Tee Higgins open deep down the left sideline against cornerback Byron Jones, but his pass took Higgins out of bounds. Higgins had four catches for 34 yards.
_On Kevin Huber's first punt, the Bengals had a big-time answer for Jakeem Grant, the Dolphins' leading NFL punt returner. Huber drilled it 51 yards and gunners Brandon Wilson and Stanley Morgan Jr., dropped Grant at the Miami 9.
_But Allen picked on Howard once too often on the Bengals' second drive of the game. Higgins beat Howard on two straight third down passes. On third-and-seven, Higgins got inside Howard on a slant and then on third-and-two Higgins got leverage on the outside to convert Allen's quick throw.
But on the next snap, from the Bengals 45, Allen went play action and had Boyd behind Howard for an instant down the left sideline. But Allen underthrew it and Howard picked it off at the Dolphins 16 for his eighth interception of the season.