- We haven’t seen the best of Joe Burrow this season. Burrow started this game fairly hot, and he made some big throws down the stretch to help seal a hard-fought victory for the Bengals against an unbeaten Dolphins team. The Bengals’ top three receivers all had explosive receptions — and that’s what made them so dangerous a year ago. But Burrow had to grind through some struggles; we haven’t yet seen him play four clean quarters against a good team this season. Burrow underwent an appendectomy about two months ago, missed a big chunk of training camp and didn’t play in the preseason. In Week 1, he turned the ball over five times. Week 2 ran his sack total to 13, with Burrow throwing for 199 yards on 36 attempts. Last week, he looked far better against the Jets. But four days later, against a far better defense (but also one that played 92 snaps four days earlier), Burrow took time getting back in rhythm. The panic level shouldn’t be high, but the Bengals must use their mini-bye to find ways to make the whole operation smoother.
- Tua injury casts a pall over the game. Tua Tagovailoa started the game and looked good early before leveling off after his downfield interception intended for Tyreek Hill. But when he was sacked by the Bengals’ Josh Tupou, everything changed. Tupou threw Tagovailoa to the ground, and the quarterback remained motionless for minutes before being carted off. He suffered head and neck injuries on the sack, the team announced, and was replaced by Teddy Bridgewater and would not return. The injury was a frightening scene, as Dolphins teammates circled around Tagovailoa at midfield and the Bengals crowd fell silent. Head coach Mike McDaniel has been everyone’s favorite new NFL coach, but this likely will be a pivotal period for him as questions arise about his decision to play a banged-up Tagovailoa, who temporarily left Sunday’s game against the Bills with an injury, on a short week and possibly having to navigate the ship with Bridgewater at QB for a period of time if Tua can’t go next week against the Jets.
- Dolphins will regret missed opportunities. The Dolphins had their chances to win an emotional game, but just couldn’t take advantage of some pretty favorable chances. On the opening touchdown drive, they missed an extra point. They also missed a field-goal attempt and settled for three on the opening possession after stalling at the Cincinnati 5-yard line. That was all in the first half, yet they only trailed, 14-12, thanks to a great drive by Bridgewater and Co. right before the half. In the second half, the Dolphins settled for a 20-yard field goal, and Bridgewater was picked just outside the red zone. The chances were there to deliver a big road victory for their injured QB and a 4-0 mark, but it fell apart late — likely thanks to the chances they couldn’t convert earlier.
- Fourth-down decisions??? Nothing lathers up the football bluestockings on Twitter quite like a fourth-down decision, so let’s give them what they want. We said it at the time and we’ll say it now: The Bengals played it very cautiously when head coach Zac Taylor opted for a field goal at the Miami 1-yard line, trailing, 15-14, early in the fourth. Did everything work out? Yep — the Bengals won the game. The Dolphins kicking the field goal the possession before was far more understandable considering they had a backup quarterback in the game and were a yard farther away than the Bengals would be. But with Bridgewater in the game, and with a Bengals defense that had run its streak to 25 straight possessions without allowing a TD, is going for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line and missing it all that bad a result? Then with just over six minutes left, Taylor sent out Evan McPherson for a 57-yard kick — it was good. But that’s a mighty big ask, even for one of the league’s great young kickers. Again, it worked. But Taylor’s conservative game strategy is worth examining. Had the Dolphins held the Bengals out of the end zone with just under two minutes left in the game, Miami would have gotten the ball back down eight points with a chance to tie.
- Dolphins defense latest to keep Joe Mixon contained. Credit is deserved for the Miami defense that came into this game ranked fairly low in several major categories but played its collective tails off. This also came after a hot game on Sunday when the defense was on the field 50-plus plays in the second half against a ferocious Bills offense. But we also believe that there’s a problem with the Bengals’ run game that’s independent of what Miami did. Why? Because this is now four games where Mixon and the ground game can’t accomplish what it needs to in order for this offense to hum. The Dolphins — a heavy blitz team through three games — mostly sat back in two-high coverages. The Bengals countered by trying to run the ball and get them out of those looks. It didn’t work. Mixon totaled only 61 yards on 24 carries, lowering the team’s league-worst rushing average (3.3 yards per play). Want the big pass plays? The Bengals know they have to be able to run more consistently to help the downfield pass plays to happen.
Next Gen stat of the game: Teddy Bridgewater’s 64-yard pass to Tyreek Hill traveled 61.4 yards in the air, the longest completion by air distance so far in the 2022 NFL season. The completion probability for the pass was a mere 29.7%.
NFL Research: Joe Burrow’s 59-yard TD pass to Tee Higgins was his 14th pass of 50-plus yards since 2021, four more than the next-closest QB.
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