MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - Jason Sanders' 37-yard field goal at the overtime gun gave Miami a wild 38-35 victory and the Bengals the draft's No. 1 pick. It ended a crazy shootout between Cincinnati quarterbacks past and present.
The Dolphins' Ryan Fitzpatrick, hitting the 419-yard mark with a 14-yard catch-and-run to wide receiver Isaiah Ford that set up the winning kick, ended up outdueling Andy Dalton's 396 yards on an effort that turned Fitzmagic into Amazing Andy when Dalton erased a 23-point lead in the last 6:11 and 16 points in the final 29 seconds to force OT.
Defensive end Sam Hubbard's team-leading seventh sack with 4:30 left in overtime and wide receiver Alex Erickson's ensuing punt return to the Cincinnati 31 gave the Bengals a good shot to finally win it. But a C.J. Uzomah false start forced a third-and-six. That's where Dalton couldn't hit well-covered wide receiver John Ross and the Bengals had to give it up with 3:25 left and never got it back after the Dolphins converted their third possession in overtime.
Dalton's 25-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tyler Eifert at the gun and his scrambling two-point conversion threw one of the wildest Bengals games (not mention one of the most significant) ever into overtime at 35 when they scored 16 points in the final 29 seconds.
After one of their former quarterbacks hit them with four touchdown passes, it appeared that Ryan Fitzpatrick made sure the Bengals secured the first pick when he shot them to a 35-12 lead with 11:12 left in the game.
That No. 1 pick is usually reserved for quarterbacks and on Sunday Fitzpatrick, who backed up the Bengals' last No. 1 pick in 2003, USC quarterback Carson Palmer, went toe-to-toe with Dalton, the Bengals current franchise quarterback.
But Dalton threw four touchdowns himself and gave the Bengals a glimmer when he fired a two-point conversion to Eifert with 29 seconds left to make it an eight-point game and linebacker Jordan Evans recovered an on-side kick. Dalton then fired a 29-yarder to wide receiver Tyler Boyd to put the ball on the Dolphins 25 with four seconds left and then he launched a semi-Hail Mary to a leaping Eifert in the middle of the end zone.
Boyd ended regulation with his fourth 100-yard game of the season with nine catches for 128 yards.
Dalton ended the Bengals' second-half touchdown drought that stretched back to Oct. 20 on a 34-yard touchdown pass to Boyd streaking down the left sideline on fourth-and-three. Boyd swept by cornerback Nik Needham and made a nice stretching catch before staying on his feet long enough to fall on the pylon with 3:38 left in the third quarter. That cut the Dolphins' lead to 28-12 when Dalton couldn't hook up with Boyd on a two-point try in the back of the end zone.
That gave Dalton 200 career touchdown passes, the first Bengal to do it and the 45th in NFL history. He later got No. 201 on an eight-yard pass for Uzomah's first touchdown catch of the season and No. 202 on Boyd's 84th catch of the season with 29 seconds left. No. 203, of course, went to Eifert.
Running back Joe Mixon, the man who has carried them the second half the season, was saddled by a virus and a sore calf, and he didn't get much room, either. He had just 42 yards on 18 carries after rolling up 282 yards in the previous two games.
Dalton also did extend his Bengals' record for 300-yard games to 28. He went 29 of 42 for 305 yards at the two-minute warning, 386 at the end of regulation and finished with 396. Fitzpatrick countered with 26 of 42 for 344 yards through regulation, 419 for the game.
The Bengals were called twice for roughing Fitzpatrick. But they didn't get him very often. Against an offensive line fourth worst protecting the quarterback, the Bengals could muster just one sack in regulation and it was by safety Shawn Williams.
The Bengals secondary took some injuries in the second half and lost two guys. Cornerback William Jackson looked to re-aggravate a shoulder injury and cornerback Tony McRae left with a concussion and cervical strain. But Darius Phillips stepped in for Jackson and Phillips did what the Bengals DBs didn't do all day and found the ball in the air. Late in the third quarter, when Fitzpatrick went deep for wide receiver DeVante Parker, Phillips not only found it, but played it for his second interception.
Fitzpatrick parlayed the Bengals' inability to play the ball into a 28-6 early in the third quarter. On his first series of the second half and facing third-and-13, Fitzpatrick drilled a 15-yard arrow between Williams and cornerback B.W. Webb to wide receiver Isaiah Ford. Then from the Bengals 13, tight end Mike Gesicki boxed out cornerback Darqueze Dennard on a ball that Dennard had a shot, but the 6-6, 250-pound Gesicki overpowered the 5-11, 205-pound Dennard.
The Bengals were supposed to win this game up front. It didn't happen. Their offensive line could not only get the running game going (averaging just 2.3 yards per carry as late as early in the fourth quarter, but they allowed four sacks to a Dolphins pass rush dead last in the NFL in sacks per pass when they came into the game with just 18.
When left guard Michael Jordan gave up a sack it turned into a Dalton fumble and the second Miami fumble recovery of the season. Fitzpatrick turned it into Dolphins rookie running back Myles Gaskin's first career touchdown on a two-yard run that made it 35-12 with 11:12 left.
The Bengals offensive line came into the game with its seventh different starting combination and then underwent some rotations during the game with rookie Fred Johnson taking some snaps at left tackle and Billy Price rotating at right guard with John Jerry. It was Price's first NFL start at right guard and he had two false starts, one on a field-goal try.
With the Dolphins outplaying them badly in all three phases, the Bengals slid back to their early-season miseries in the first half when their offense went through five three-and-outs on their first six drives to go into halftime trailing, 21-6.
Only Randy Bullock's franchise-best 57-yard field goal with two seconds left in the half saved the half.
Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick presided over a defensive meltdown marked by massive blown coverages that resulted in his 252 passing yards, the most by a Dolphins quarterback in a first half since the Dan Marino days in 1991.
The third of his three first-half touchdowns came when he rolled away from pressure and found Gesicki for a 31-yarder all by himself for Miami's 21-3 lead with 2:20 left in the half. It was set up two snaps before by wide receiver Albert Wilson's 35-yard catch on a slant out of the slant underneath the defense.
Fitzpatrick was 18 of 30 for a blistering 120 passer rating while Dalton struggled on 10 of 18 for 102 yards in the half. He was more up and down than the notoriously streaky Fitzpatrick. He overthrew a couple of balls, one a third down to Boyd. He also had a 50-yard-plus ball down the left sideline dropped by Ross.
Check out game photos from Week 16 as the Bengals face the Miami Dolphins.
But he did scrape together a 12-yard completion to Ross to give Bullock a shot at the half. Bullock missed the 52-yarder to the left, but the Dolphins called timeout. Then when he missed to the right, Price false started. But Bullock deliveredthe 57-yarder to break the 55-yard record held by Chris Bahr and Mike Nugent.
The Bengals' running game that has carried them last month came up empty in the half even though it faced the NFL defense giving up the most points. Mixon had 22 yards on 10 carries in the half as Fitzpatrick found four different receivers for catches of at least 27 yards.
Fitzpatrick hit nine of his first 11 passes and finished the first two drives with two touchdown passes and 150 yards on 10 of 14.
On the game's first drive Fitzy was FitzMagic when he made the Bengals defensive fundamentals disappear in a 75-yard drive all the yards came through the air on his five of six passing. The touchdown came after the Dolphins hogged the ball for nearly 6:32 when Fitzpatrick's play-action roll-out found rookie defensive tackle Christian Wilkins for a one-yard touchdown play.
That capped one of the Bengals' most atrocious defensive series in weeks. Fitzpatrick turned a second-and-19 (after a holding call) into a 27-yard completion to a wide-open Allen Hurns. Before that Fitzpatrick converted a third-and-three for 12 yards to Albert Wilson running away from Webb. Then he watched Wilson turn a check-down pass into a 14-yard gain when linebacker Nick Vigil got blocked and no one else was there and turn a dump pass into eight yards when he made Williams miss near the line of scrimmage.
Then the Bengals promptly went three-and-out when Dalton got sacked on second-and-eight on what appeared to be a lack of communication with Price in his is first pro series at right guard.
Fitzpatrick then set his sights on someone you've heard of. Parker grabbed all three completions on their second possession for 77 yards and all were back-breakers.
The Bengals had the Dolphins at third-and-12 to start the drive when Parker went leaping over a zone to make a great 19-yard contested catch. Then, as Fitzpatrick was getting crushed by the blitzing Williams and defensive end Carl Lawson on a flea flicker, Jackson couldn't find a moon ball to Parker for 51 yards. Then on third and goal Parker caught a seven-yard touchdown pass when he got inside Jackson on a slant and Fitzpatrick put it only where Parker could get it on a nifty fingertip catch to put the Dolphins up, 14-0, ten minutes into the game.
The Bengals followed that by suffering a second straight three-and-out when a first down jet sweep to Ross did nothing, Mixon's cut-back to the back side was enveloped and on third-and-eight Ross ran by cornerback Tae Hayes down the left sideline. Dalton put it out there. But Ross only got his left hand on it and it bounced away.
But a nice Dalton pass to Ross for 34 yards on a similar play going the other way in the second quarter finally put the Bengals in the red zone. That came after Boyd got the drive going with his career-high 77th catch on a nice grab on a 19-yard in cut.
But the Bengals' red-zone woes and inconsistent short-yardage and goal-line runs conspired to hold them to a Bullock chip-shot field goal that cut the Dolphins' lead to 14-3 with 10:49 left in the second quarter.
The Bengals had a first down from the Miami 4 and three runs to their best player, Mixon, were pretty much swallowed, the last one getting blown up for a one-yard loss on the left-center part of the line as Dalton was handing off.