The first NFL touchdowns for defensive ends Michael Johnson and Sam Hubbard in the fourth quarter highlighted one of the Bengals' most memorable comebacks as they scored the final 27 points in a shocking 20:07 span of Sunday's wild 27-17 victory over the Dolphins before 52,708 party-goers at Paul Brown Stadium.
It was defense all the way. With 1:35 left rookie safety Jessie Bates sealed it with his second NFL interception when Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill took a shot down the middle of the field at about the Miami 30.
Hubbard, the Cincinnati-bred rookie from Moeller High School, was all over left end Carlos Dunlap's sack and strip of Tannehill at the Miami 19. Hubbard recovered the fumble skittered to the end zone to make it 27-17 with 2:37 left.
For the second straight week, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton recorded a fourth-quarter comeback when Randy Bullock's 21-yard field goal gave them a 20-17 lead with 3:30 left.
It was just the eighth time in their history they came back from 17 down to win and the first time since the OT win over Seattle in 2015.
With running back Joe Mixon carrying them on their back, he ripped off runs of 11, 31 and eight to give them a third down from the Dolphins 2. A few snaps before Dalton had hit wide receiver A.J. Green to complete the drive going, giving Green 112 yards and his Bengals-record 32nd 100-yard game.
But on this play, the ball was tipped before Green could get it and Bullock hit the field goal.
Mixon was immense as he pounded out all but 19 of his 95 yards in the second half. Dalton was 20 of 30 for 248 yards for an 89.3 passer rating.
A 22-yard interception return by Johnson off an unbelievable helmet ricochet tied it at 17 with 11:43 left. Johnson, the 10-year vet began the play with penetration that forced Tannehill up into the pocket and that's where nose tackle Andrew Billings grabbed him by the legs. Tannehill tried to unload it, but the ball hit another Dolphins' helmet and Johnson had his first NFL touchdown.
Dalton, under siege all day from the Dolphins pass rush, threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Mixon in the embrace of defensive end Charles Harris to cut the lead to 17-10 on the first play of the fourth quarter. Dalton muscled it through the air and underthrew the goal line. Mixon alertly turned his head while running his route against linebacker Kiko Alonso, came back to the ball, caught it and then stepped over the goal line.
As impressive as the Bengals offense was during the first month of the season amassing the fourth most points in the league, it struggled Sunday when in the game's first 40 minutes it could manage only Bullock's 51-yard field goal for their first score in a game they trailed, 17-3, with just over five minutes left in the third quarter.
But they had to go for the field goal because they couldn't convert a second-and-two from the Dolphins 24. The Bengals were just no factor in the running game. They tried to quick snap the Dolphins on second down and Mixon got swallowed up the left side for just a yard. At that point Mixon, in his first game since a knee scope 22 days ago, had just 25 yards on 13 carries.
Then on third-and-one the offensive line continued its day-long struggle and let the Dolphins walk through the Double A Gap to sack Dalton before he could move and sent the Bengals to 1-for-8 on third down.
Images from week 5 as the Miami Dolphins face the Cincinnati Bengals.
The opening series of the second half was a harbinger and the Bengals were still in their funk. Mixon got two dumped for a two-yard loss on a second-down screen and on third down the offensive line was flummoxed when the Dolphins
The Bengals famously steel belted special teams melted in the heat of Sunday's first half when the Dolphins parlayed wide receiver Jakeem Grant's 70-yard punt return for a touchdown and a blocked field goal into a 14-0 half-time lead at Paul Brown Stadium.
It was a dagger with 23 seconds left in a stunningly lethargic half. Grant's dash marked the 14th time in the last 21 games the Bengals have allowed points in the final two minutes of the half.
A week after a thrilling last-second win in Atlanta to vault to 3-1, the Bengals could do nothing right in the first 30 minutes. Their high powered offense went 0-for-5 on third down, an interception and the blocked field goal prevented them from scoring points in the red zone for the first time this season, and the defense racked up countless of missed tackles against the Dolphins' speedy receivers as Tannehill eased to 12 of 18 passing for 114 yards.
The Bengals' league-best streak of 34 straight scores in the red zone ended on their first series Sunday when
Dalton went for wide receiver A.J. Green coming across the middle at the Dolphins 5 on a third-and-15 snap. Safety Reshad Jones broke on the ball and tipped it in the air and it was grabbed by linebacker Kiko Alonso for the Dolphins' NFL-best 10th interception.
The Bengals had a first down on the Miami 13, but failed to get red-zone points for the first time this season after tight end C.J. Uzomah was called for a hold on running back Joe Mixon's five-yard run.
It's too bad because it was Uzomah that got the Bengals there. As the Dolphins blitzed Dalton, he picked up a low snap and flipped it to Uzomah on a great-call screen pass that went for 25 yards.
Dalton hit his first four passes to different receivers, starting with Alex Erickson and including wide receiver Tyler Boyd along with Uzomah and Green. But that was the best they looked. Dalton hit 11 of 16 passes for 141 yards in the half, but they never got anything going.
Like this. Dalton threaded the needle to Boyd on a 31-yard pass down the sideline to give them a first down at the Miami 27 with 5:26 left in the half. But then all hell broke loose. End Robert Quinn beat left tackle Cordy Glenn to blow up a snap and lead to an incompletion. Then on third down the Dolphins collapsed the middle of the pocket and Dalton had to scramble for seven yards to the 19 to set up that blocked field goal from Randy Bullock. Two Dolphins roared up the middle, helped along by right tackle Bobby Hart getting called for failing to line up on the line of scrimmage.
The Bengals came in wanting to exploit the Dolphins' alignment of wide defensive ends with a down-hill running game featuring the return of Mixon 22 days after a knee scope. Then when Pro Bowl pass rusher Cameron Wake was declared out, Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke had his hands full.
But Burke, a former Bengals linebackers coach, had a good bead on his old team. Mixon's 10 first-half carries netted just 19 yards. When he lost four yards on a play where they completely whiffed on Quinn, it destroyed a great opportunity to grab the momentum.
It came just after the Dolphins ran into punter Kevin Huber and gave the Bengals a first down at the Cincinnati 44. But after Quinn blew up the run, Dalton couldn't hook up with Boyd over the middle as Dalton looked for an off-side call on Miami and didn't get it. On the previous third down, an incompletion to Green over the middle, Green was looking for a holding call on rookie slot receiver Minkah Fitzpatrick.
A Miami offense with the third fewest yards in the league, went 95 with shocking ease for the day;'s first score that made it 7-0 with 7:22 left in the first half.
It was helped by a bevy of missed tackles on speedy receiver Albert Wilson. One went for a first down when WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict couldn't secure him in the backfield and then nose tackle Andrew Billings missed him. When middle linebacker Preston Brown had to leave when he re-aggravated an ankle injury, Hardy Nickerson replaced him and missed a tackle on Wilson that ignited 16-yard pass play.
The Bengals gave up their obligatory third down on third and four when Tannehill had plenty of time to hit wide receiver Danny Amendola getting inside cornerback Darqueze Dennard for 16 more.
Then Nickerson got matched up on 4.3 speedster Kenyan Drake out of the backfield and when Drake zipped past him Tannehill easily hit for a 22-yard touchdown pass.
Brown, who missed two games with that ankle injury, came back in later. Tight end Tyler Kroft left with an elbow injury and his return was questionable.