Matched against Cincinnati’s young wide receivers, two-time Pro Bowler A.J. Green and last week’s four-touchdown man, Marvin Jones Jr., the Dolphins defensive backs knew they would need a big night or get devoured like their AFC East rivals, the Jets, did last week.
The secondary had a “big night” if you define “big night” as “eventful night.” Cornerbacks Brent Grimes and Dmitri Patterson scored or set up 10 Dolphins points with interceptions. Just before they started jumping routes, cornerback Nolan Carroll got blindsided while playing special teams, leaving the game with a concussion.
After Patterson left the game with an injury early on the Bengals’ final possession, former Carolina seventh-round pick R.J. Stanford took the field for the Dolphins. And safety Jimmy Wilson helped save the game — for a bit, anyway — as the Bengals moved into field-goal range with 4:56 left in the fourth quarter and the game tied 17-17.
“At some point, you’ve got to trust what you’re seeing at the corner position,” Patterson said.
Wideout Mohamed Sanu juggled a pass over the middle and Wilson cracked Sanu, sending the ball into the air.
Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, beaten on the play, recovered to field the mini popup at the Dolphins’ 10. But they couldn’t stop repeated Bengals third-and-long conversions. Cincinnati converted its first six third downs of 8 yards or longer.
And on third-and-7 from the Cincinnati 42 on the Bengals’ final drive, he gambled on an out route by Sanu, missed and Sanu turned it into a 16-yard gain. The Bengals didn’t gain another first down before Mike Nugent’s 54-yard field goal gave Cincinnati a 20-17 lead.
The first two third-and-long conversions came on passes to Green with Grimes on the turf, after slips and skids that made the field look like Sun Life Ice Stadium rink. Grimes got a break when he wiped out again with nobody behind him and a pass headed for Green. Green pointlessly jumped as he dropped the ball.
But early in the second half, Grimes wound up speeding like Eric Heiden down the sideline with a 94-yard interception return for a TD, the fourth-longest interception return in Dolphins history. The Bengals had taken the second-half kickoff and appeared to be marching toward erasing the Dolphins’ 10-3 halftime lead.
“That was big; that was really big. Somebody needed to make a play,” Patterson said of Grimes’ interception.
Grimes said he changed his cleats later in the game and was more conservative about breaking on the ball.
The 36-yard field goal that gave the Dolphins the lead came after Patterson jumped an out route to Green, came down at the Cincinnati 42 and went out at the 39.