After watching a 10-point lead and their leading receiver taken out of play in the final moments of the first half Sunday in Miami, the Bengals couldn't regroup in time to stop the Dolphins in their 19-7 victory.
Riding the momentum of curious officiating at the end of the first half, Dolphins rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who threw for 111 yards in the first half, threw for more than that in a third quarter the Bengals could muster just minus-four yards of offense. Tagovailoa finished 26 of 39 for 296 yards, but produced just one touchdown against a bend-but-don't break Bengals defense.
For the second straight road game the Bengals watched a first-round pick carted off the field with a knee injury when left tackle Jonah Williams hurt his right one.
While Tagovailoa warmed up, Bengals backup quarterback Brandon Allen quarterback couldn't find the momentum that found 171 yards in the first half. When he got sacked for the fifth time in the game with 7:37 left by Shaq Lawson working against Hakeem Adeniji, the rookie that replaced Jonah Williams, the Bengals had minus-eight yards in the second half.
Allen suffered a chest injury on the play and left the game, his status for next week unknown. After going 9 of 13 for 137 yards in the first half, he finished 11 of 19 for 153 yards and the Bengals ended up with 196 total yards.
But the Bengals kept grinding, which is how their pugnacious defense played all day. Free safety Jessie Bates III forced a fumble with four minutes left and strong safety Vonn Bell carried it 36 yards to midfield and on the last play before the two-minute warning, Bengals quarterback Ryan Finley beat the blitz with a 22-yard catch-and-run to rookie wide receiver Tee Higgins. Higgins injured himself vaulting over safety Bobby McCain and left the game.
When Finley went for wide receiver Alex Erickson over the middle of the field, Erickson helped bat it into the air for an interception at the 10.
That controversial play at the end of the first half seemed to set the table for what happened with 11:54 left in the game, when for the second time in the second half Bengals wide receiver Mike Thomas was called for drilling Dolphins punt returner Jakeem Grant, Sr., before he was able to catch a punt.
With Grant injured, the Dolphins came off their sideline led by head coach Brian Flores. Bell helped restrain Flores, but Bengals safety Shawn Williams and Dolphins wide receiver DeVantae Parker were ejected for throwing punches. Also tossed was Dolphins wide receiver Mack Hollins.
At one point midway through the second quarter, the Bengals were up 13-3 after Bell forced what was originally ruled a fumble by Tagovailoa and a 55-yard touchdown return by linebacker Jordan Evans for the Bengals's first defensive touchdown of the season.
But replay took it away when they said it was an incomplete pass and that proved to be a harbinger for the rest of the day. With 1:08 left in the half and the Bengals about to go up 10-3, they lost their leading wide receiver, Tyler Boyd, on a controversial ejection for punching and penalty flag that resulted in Randy Bullock's missed 53-yard field goal that turned into the Dolphins last-snap field goal to cut it to 7-6 going into the half.
Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard appeared to give Boyd a shot out of bounds before the two exchanged slaps and it was only Boyd that drew the 15-yard flag that turned it into a long field goal.
Then Miami took the opening kick of the second half and Tagovailoa went hurry up to hit five of six in that first drive. The touchdown came when cornerback LeShaun Sims couldn't find the ball on Mike Gesicki's five-yard catch, but the killer was a 35-yard throw to zig-zagging running back Myles Gaskin.
Tagovailoa got chased out of the pocket and as the lefty scrambled to the left sideline, the Bengals dropped coverage in the middle of the field and Gaskin was wide open.
The Bengals had a tough time covering Gesicki even when they had him covered. His one-handed catch before getting blown up by Bell and Bates went for 20 yards and set up a chip-shot field goal that made it 16-7 in the middle of third quarter. Cornerback William Jackson III forced it with his third-down coverage of Parker.
Jackson did it again later to force the last field goal as Miami didn't convert a third down until the last seconds.