The Bengals talked of Sunday’s 17-13 loss to the Dolphins here in terms of missed opportunities. But two opportunities weren’t so much missed as not taken.
Stifled much of the day by Miami’s defense, the Bengals scored their only touchdown on the second play of the fourth quarter, then elected to kick the extra point instead of going for two to try to cut the deficit to a field goal.
Then, still trailing 17-13 and facing fourth-and-5 at the Miami 23 with 3:05 left, the Bengals opted for a field-goal attempt instead of trying to move the chains and keep alive the possibility of a touchdown. That usually automatic kicker Mike Nugent missed the 41-yard try didn’t help coach Marvin Lewis’ decision in hindsight.
“We thought we could stop them and get the ball back again, then kick another field goal and win the game,” Lewis said.
Lewis was asked if he thought going for it on fourth down was a low-percentage play in that instance.
“It really depends on the yardage,” he said. “It’s easy to sit here and second-guess it now.”
Quarterback Andy Dalton, who had moved the Bengals from their 20 to the Miami 23 in just under three minutes on that drive — completing four of five passes for 57 yards before missing wide receiver Brandon Tate on third down — was initially surprised by the decision.
“I thought we were going to go for it,” said Dalton, who was 26 of 43 for 234 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. “But I understand what Marvin was thinking. It’s unfortunate that we missed the kick, but we never should have been in that position. I should have gotten a completion there right before and made a first down.”
Did players lobby to go for it?
“No. That’s not our decision,” wide receiver A.J. Green said. “It shouldn’t have even come to that, a fourth-down situation. We go with whatever the coaches call.”
Nugent, 9 for 9 on field-goal tries for the season as he lined up that kick, said he supported Lewis’ call. He just regretted his role in not making it look better.
“There was plenty of time where if you hit a field goal, hopefully they’ll go three-and-out, and then get the ball back, hopefully get the ball downfield and hit a game winner at that point. I totally agree with the logic on that.”
Nugent, who made field goals of 42 and 24 yards in the first quarter, said he liked everything about the setup on the last try except how he hit it, sending it wide right. “It was one of those kicks where I kind of babied it and tried to guide it through, instead of just hitting it solid,” he said.
Still, as Lewis had hoped, the Bengals got the ball back, with 1:45 left — though with no timeouts, 80 yards to go and needing a touchdown, not a field goal, to win. After Dalton was intercepted by safety Reshad Jones at midfield, the Dolphins killed the clock.
“Missing a kick like that, you put Andy and the offense in a terrible position,” Nugent said. “They know in their minds we have to get a touchdown. Putting them in that position is disappointing.”
Earlier in the quarter, the Bengals had a chance to make it a one-field-goal game, after Dalton connected with Green for a 2-yard touchdown with 14:15 left. Lewis decided to kick the PAT for a 17-13 deficit instead of trying for two.
“You look at it, but we were beginning the fourth quarter. You’re generally going to wait until a little further in the fourth quarter to worry about that,” Lewis said. “We had kind of got our legs back under us on defense and we were stopping them, and had found our way a little bit on offense.
“I didn’t expect that would be our last score of the day.”
As it turned out, it was.
“Our defense was doing pretty well, and we felt we could stop them,” Green said. “We just made simple mistakes on offense. The defense played great today. We didn’t help them out at all.”