Ryan Tannehill finished with a 92.3 passer rating, which is the highest of his NFL career and speaks to the right formula for winning. Last week, Tannehill threw for more than 400 yards, including an 80-yard TD bomb, but he had two interceptions and the Dolphins lost. This week the trade of spectacular throws for more consistent, winning play paid off. His accuracy, questionable a few weeks ago, has steadily improved. He completed a season-high 65 percent of his throws this day.
Reggie Bush was in shape when the Bengals were not. His 13-yard touchdown run came at the end of a drive when Cincinnati defenders seemed gassed. Bush, fresh and ready, ran wide and no one could catch him. Obviously, the Bengals made a commitment to stopping the Miami ground game. That showed for every runner’s average. It was interesting that Lamar Miller, active for the game, didn’t get a chance. And it was disappointing that Jorvorskie Lane fumbled and failed to convert a short-yard play.
Brian Hartline had his requisite long gainer, this one a 30-yard catch when Tannehill scrambled and Hartline got lost behind his defender. Hartline also drew a key pass interference call. Davone Bess was solid and his 28-yard catch set up a touchdown. Everyone else was somewhat invisible or even disappointing. The Dolphins made a concerted effort to make Charles Clay a factor and although he had three catches, he also had a drop that might have been a 30-yard gain and also allowed himself to go out of bounds on a third-down catch late in the game that gave the Bengals more time to rally.
The Dolphins averaged 1.9 yards per rush and Tannehill was sacked twice and had to scramble to avoid the rush a handful of other times. On the plus side, Cincinnati did try the same A-gap blitz that Arizona used to destroy Miami’s protection last week and it did not work. The Dolphins had obviously addressed the issue in practice. Now if only they can figure out how to block eight men in the tackle box.
Randy Starks collected his fourth career interception, which suggests he should get some repetitions at tight end next week. He had a monster game, also collecting a half-sack and as well as deflecting another pass. Cameron Wake was credited with a sack after collecting two-half-sacks and Paul Soliai also notched a half-sack. This was perhaps the finest collective effort of the season for Miami’s defensive line.
Kevin Burnett is quietly having a nice season. He had seven tackles, a half-sack and was generally very good in coverage. Karlos Dansby was mismatched against speedy receiver Andrew Hawkins on one play but otherwise did well, collecting five tackles. Koa Misi forced a fumble.
Sean Smith just put together the best set of consecutive games of his career. A week after grabbing two interceptions and shutting down Larry Fitzgerald, Smith had eight tackles, a forced fumble and did very well in covering Cincinnati’s A.J. Green for much of the day. Nolan Carroll similarly did excellent work stepping into a starting role for Richard Marshall, while Reshad Jones came up with the game-saving interception with 1:30 to play.
Dan Carpenter missed a 53-yard field goal. That’s a long attempt but it came with the wind. Nonetheless to ask any kicker to connect from such a far distance is asking a lot. Carpenter did connect on a 46-yarder. Brandon Fields had his typical great day punting long and walked away with a 49.6 average for the day but because he failed to place his kicks inside the 20 on a couple of occasions, his net average was a mediocre 36.6.
Kevin Coyle has done great work preparing his unit when it was without its second-best cornerback. The Bengals were not able to take advantage. Offensively, Mike Sherman again continued to call pass plays late in the game instead of running the football to burn clock. Yes, the pass connected. Yes, the run would have been against eight-man fronts. But he looked silly when Charles Clay ran out of bounds on the pass he caught, giving the Bengals 1:45 to possibly win the game.
This was a win. It was a road win. It was a road win against a team with a better record. Great all around.