Bengals quarterback Brandon Allen appears ready to play next week after leaving Sunday's 19-7 loss in Miami midway through the fourth quarter. He confirmed that when Dolphins linebacker Shaq Lawson sacked him he fell on the ball and lost his wind.
"It was just my wind. I knew what it was," Allen said. "I've had it done before, and I was trying to get the words out that I was fine, but just wasn't really able to get my breath back for a while there so I couldn't really spit out those words."
Rookie wide receiver Tee Higgins, who had five catches for 56 yards, got hurt on the Bengals' lone play longer than nine yards in the second half when he said he "tweaked," a hamstring vaulting over safety Bobby McCain on the last play before the two-minute warning during his 22-yard catch-and-run from Ryan Finley.
Although it looked like he was done for the day, Higgins sounded like it wouldn't keep him out next week against Dallas.
And if he has to vault again, he says he will.
"I'm a playmaker. Playmakers try to make plays and I tried to make a play. So if it comes about again, I'll do it again," Higgins said. "100 percent. That's who I am. Just go out there and try to make a play. I call myself a playmaker, so that's what I try to do every play."
Higgins is on pace for 70 catches, which would be a first for a Bengals rookie receiver.
But there is concern over left tackle Jonah Williams, carted off the field with a right knee injury.
They also lost slot cornerback Mackensie Alexander during the game when he was examined for a concussion. That left the Bengals with three cornerbacks when they couldn't activate Darius Phillips from injured reserve because he was ill.
"We weren't in a position with the way the inactives were working to get another (cornerback) up there," said head coach Zac Taylor. "(Cornerback) Jalen Davis was up so we had the four safeties and four corners. That's how we played the game."
WIDE RANGE: Wide receiver Tyler Boyd went from euphoria to ejection in about 17 minutes. His only catch of the day was a doozy, a 72-yard touchdown off a screen for the longest catch of his career and a 7-0 Bengals lead with 3:20 left in the first quarter. Then with 1:03 left in the half he was ejected along with Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard for throwing punches in the sequence that turned the game.
More on that later.
The longest play from scrimmage for the Bengals since A.J. Green's 77-yard touchdown on Oct. 8, 2017 was just exactly what the Bengals had worked on to counter the Dolphins' all-out zero blitzes. Quick throws. Screens. Motion.
On third-and-two, Boyd fanned out with tight end Drew Sample to the perimeter, took a two-yard flip from Allen, Sample screened off safety Brandon Jones, cornerback Byron Jones took a bad angle and Boyd was gone up the sideline.
"We schemed them up good and we were ready for their zero-pressure and had a lot of quick screens in the run game and stuff, but they did a good job in the second half," Allen said. "They were playing it differently, playing some double-coverage on certain guys and we weren't able to execute versus some of that press-man they were showing us and we've just got to be better. Obviously when they make adjustments, we make adjustments but we just got out-executed."
After getting just 155 total yards last week, the Bengals had 171 at the half. After getting 40 rush yards all last week, they had 36 at the half. But they would finish with just 196 total on the day and ended up with another 40 on the ground.
View game action photos from the Bengals Week 13 game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium.
CONTROVERSY AND CONFUSION: It was one of the more bizarre games the Bengals have played in recent memory. The officials took the lead with some curious calls and by the time the frustration boiled over the game took three and a half hours to sort out. The Bengals lost their leading receiver and one of their captains (Shawn Williams) to ejections in separate scrapes and then watched the opposing head coach march on their sidelines.
There was a sense the big one with about 12 minutes left in the game, which saw three ejections and a 20-minute delay to hash it out, had its beginnings with Boyd and Howard.
"I think maybe the ejections before halftime kind of set it off," Sample said. "I mean you know they're a tough football team, we were blocked in the trenches but it didn't seem really chippy until that point. But obviously it's the amount of different things happened so you know it's really hard to say.
"That felt like a college game," Sample said of the delay. "I think we did a decent job of being ready to play after those but that's just something you really can't' control. The refs, they just got to do their things we got to go out there and play when it's time to play."
To the credit of the Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, he admitted after the game he lost his poise. But what he objected to, gunner Mike Thomas' second straight penalty on belting Jakeem Grant, Sr., before the NFL's leading punt returner had a chance to catch it, Taylor didn't think were meant to be cheap shots. On the first one, Thomas hit him with his helmet and caused him to fumble. On the second one, Thomas drilled him early and when Grant didn't get up right away, Flores charged. Grant looked to be OK, but Flores didn't know at that point.
"I've got to do a better job of keeping my poise," Flores said. "But, look, I'm going to stick up for my players. They're going to stick up for each other without getting penalties, without hurting the team, but we've got to do a better job of keeping our poise as a team. I'm just going to be honest, these are like my kids. The first time, yeah. The second time I got a little upset about it, but still I've got to do a better job. I have to. I can't do anything to hurt the team. My emotions got the best of me there."
While Bengals safety Vonn Bell got in Flores' way to restrain him, Shawn Williams and DeVante Parker exchanged swings to get ejected and Dolphins back-up wide receiver Mack Hollins also got the thumb.
Taylor said he and Flores "are good."
"We'll watch the first one first of all. The second one (Thomas) got there a little too soon. That's obvious. We know that. That returner is a heck of a returner," Taylor said. "That's the No. 1 punt return unit in the league. He does not fair catch the ball at all so you have to put pressure on him. Of course we don't want to do it before the catch, we have to play within the rules. Our guys were playing hard. It's unfortunate, we hope he's fine. There is no ill will there by Mike Thomas I promise you that. He's just being a gunner trying to go down there and make a play."
It was all a bit crazy. Taylor was being asked about his team losing its cool when it was Flores that admitted he did. Taylor wouldn't answer if he felt the officials lost control of the game with 1:03 left in the first half when it appeared Howard took a shot at Boyd well out of bounds after an obvious incomplete pass. When Boyd objected, they both started slapping and got ejected. But it was only Boyd that that got the 15-yard flag.
"It's a very confusing sequence. Two guys got ejected and there was one flag was thrown, that's all there was to it," Taylor said. "There were a lot of eyes on the situation. I was right there. There were a lot of eyes on it."
Here is what NFL officiating boss Al Riveron said told the game's pool reporter from New York:
"The rule reads that whenever we have a foul in those situations, can get involved from New York when it comes to disqualifications. However, we do not have the authority to ask the officials on the field to throw another flag. So therefore, they originally had a foul on Cincinnati because they ejected a Cincinnati player. And then here from New York, we also saw a punch thrown by a Miami player and ejected him. We can disqualify a player, but by rule we cannot add another penalty."
As for saying he lost control of his team, Taylor, like Flores, thought of his players and said that he has to keep his composure like his players.
"I think our guys got put in some tough spots. Those are two core guys who got kicked out of the game," Taylor said of Williams and Boyd. "We don't ever want that, we don't want to ever throw a punch. We need those guys. We're counting on those guys.
"Everyone has to maintain their composure, myself included. We just have to live with what happened. I know they were both very frustrated with what was going on. Shawn got hurt there on a blindside block and TB felt like he got hit way late out of bounds. We have to maintain our composure and be better than that."
Higgins wondered if the delay contributed to the score staying 19-7 the rest of the way.
"It was crazy that they took so long. I guess we lost an edge," Higgins said. "You can't lose an edge when something like that happens. You have to stay ready, stay warm, stay focused and come out and fire."
Maybe the rookie had the sanest thoughts on the benches emptying.
"Once I saw that, I tried to go out there and separate guys. It's hard to do," Higgins said. "There are grown men out there. Some of them are way bigger than me. But I've just still got to step in there and take over for my teammates. They're family now. I'll do anything for family."
TURNING POINT: As that incomplete pass sailed over Boyd's head, the Bengals were about to kick a 38-yard field goal to take a 10-3 halftime lead. Instead, Randy Bullock yanked a 53-yarder and Miami had great field position for an at-the-gun field goal that made it 7-6.
"I think that was tough. Obviously losing (Boyd), having those penalties on that drive when we kind of had a good drive going. I think that definitely hurt us in the long run," said Sample after a career-high seven catches for 49 yards.
The Bengals were pretty stoic about that game-changing sequence.
"You try not to let those things affect you too much," Allen said. "Obviously it was a big ordeal going on there and I'm not going to say much about it, but it is what it is. Both guys got ejected and you have to bounce back from that and get guys to step up."
TALE OF TWO HALVES: The Bengals offense was moving and then all of a sudden it wasn't. The difference between the halves on both sides of the ball was stark. The Dolphins finally got their offense in gear, they said, by going up tempo. The Bengals said Miami's defense changed it up by tweaking their signature all-out zero blitz. And changing their fronts to hold them to four yards rushing in the half.
"They kind of attacked a different way. They really didn't bring much zero. They've done that to a lot of teams. They tried to play man and give us different fronts, different looks," Sample said. "We were hurting them on some play-action stuff in the first half, but in the second half I don't think we were able to get any rhythm … They kind of moved the front around … They were just giving us different looks and we weren't able to execute against them."
Taylor said the Dolphins never budged out of man-to-man and noted while the Bengals lost Boyd, Miami lost their best cornerback in Howard. But for the second straight game, Allen couldn't get a completion to A.J. Green, held catch-less in back-to-back games for the first time in his career.
The Dolphins defense is good at two things. Stopping you on third down with a variety of looks, which is why they keep the score down. When Boyd converted that third-and-two all the way, it was their third third-down conversion of the game on four tries. But they never made another one and missed their last eight. Without the lead or the run, the offensive line had a tough go against those third-and-long looks as the Dolphins registered four of their six sacks on third down. Jonah Williams got hurt early in the fourth quarter when he was working on Shaq Lawson on third down and Lawson came off Williams only when Williams got caught up in the wash of the rushes of end Emmanuel Ogbah and linebacker Kyle Van Noy.