Bengals head coach Zac Taylor wanted Joe Burrow to get the emotion out of the way. So after the Paul Brown Stadium crowd of 36,447 took care of that with an appreciative roar as Burrow checked into the huddle two minutes into the game, Taylor benched him after three plays in his comeback game Sunday during the sweltering preseason finale
"Felt good to be back," said Burrow, still wearing No. 9 even after 120 more plays were run following his handoff to Joe Mixon in the 29-26 loss to the Dolphins. "Not only for me but to be back in front of the fans. We didn't have any last year. I guess we did for a few games at the end, but it's good to see all the fans out there and how excited they are about the year."
But Burrow wasn't pulling out his hankie.
"Nothing too emotional, just good to be back out there with the guys," he said.
- Hey, if this were a real game, there would have been some Bengals records.
Rookie Evan McPherson's 57-yard field goal at the end of the first half would have tied Randy Bullock's franchise long that he set in Miami in the last road game of 2019 during another tight loss to Dolphins in a 37-34 overtime. Mike Nugent also hit a 57-yarder, but it was in the 2014 Wild Car Game in Indy.
The game time temp was 89 degrees and according to Pro Football Reference, that would have been the second hottest home game in history, behind only the 90-degree 2002 opener at Paul Brown Stadium against the Chargers.
- When it comes to injuries from Sunday, there are a few concerns. Edge Khalid Kareem, who missed the first two games with a shoulder issue, apparently hurt the other one after knocking down a pass and getting a sack in his first three snaps. Rookie center Trey Hill replaced starter Trey Hopkin after those first three snaps and suffered a groin injury late in the first half and is going to be re-evaluated Monday. Tight end Mitchell Wilcox left with a concussion.
Wide receiver Tee Higgins is fine, he just didn't dress Sunday because he came up tight late in Thursday's practice and he wasn't getting the ball on Sunday's first three snaps. Rookie D'Ante Smith, who backed up both right and left guard Sunday, got moved on a third-and-two run late in the game and stayed in the game even though he came up with a limp. But he looked OK walking out of the locker room.
- Taylor was looking for the three safest and most innocuous plays of all-time when Burrow went out there. Two of them, a jet sweep to slot receiver Tyler Boyd, and Mixon's wide zone run to the right, almost were until Mixon collided with right tackle Riley Reiff and still got five yards on third-and-23.
It was the second play that caused mayhem.
Burrow went play-action, then went the other way and fired a quick wide receiver screen to rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase. Boyd didn't get his block, Chase dropped his fourth straight pass in a game and as the ball bounded backwards the befuddled refs waited to blow it dead as an incomplete pass, but just long enough to nail Reiff for unnecessary roughness.
"It went as haywire as it possible could have gone. It's just the way it played out," Taylor said.
- Chase is eight days removed from dropping three straight third-down passes in Washington. But he came back and had three straight really good practices and the last one on Thursday was probably his best as a pro.
Then this drop.
But Taylor said he continues to have no concerns.
"No, those that have been at practice have seen him make some great plays these last couple days so he's making great progress," Taylor said.
- Taylor had quite a weapon as Bengals No. 3 quarterback Kyle Shurmur drove for the tying field goal in the final minute with McPherson yet to miss this preseason. But there are no more OTs in preseason, Taylor wasn't playing for a tie and he stuck true to his kicker rotation so it would have been Austin Seibert. So on fourth-and-10 from the Dolphins 32 with 21 seconds left, Shurmur fired a deep incompletion to wide receiver Scotty Washington, the combo that gave the Bengals a 26-14 lead with ten minutes left.
Besides, Taylor knows what McPherson can do.
"It's good to get in the games on that field. It's different in front of fans. He has been the same steady guy that he has been since Day 1 since we got him," Taylor said. "It's good to get that deep one, he nailed it, it'd be good from longer, it appeared to me. It was really good to see. It's been a tremendous battle watching both of them, Austin and Evan. We feel like we're in a really good spot there."
- The Bengals had more than 400 yards, 120 of them rushing on 4.1 yards per carry, more time of possession, didn't turn it over and didn't allow sack, but gave up 15 points in the last six minutes.
"Today there were plenty of opportunities to finish the game, particularly on defense there on that last drive. You had guys have plenty of shots, we need to finish it, we didn't do it," Taylor said. "I just told the team, let's just learn our lessons here in preseason game three, as opposed to two, three, four, five weeks from now. You've got opportunities (to close out), you've got to take advantage of them. You never know what's going to happen next."