Uncoverable A.J. Green, Bengals roar past the Dolphins: 7 takeaways
The Bengals beat the Dolphins, 22-7, to improve to 2-2 on the season
The Dolphins showed up wearing orange, but that's all they had in common with the Bengals on Thursday night. The Bengals, who had disappointed with two losses in their first three contests, thoroughly outplayed the Dolphins in all three phases of the game en route to a 22-7 home victory.
The Bengals' defense pounded Ryan Tannehill. Their quarterback, Andy Dalton, took care of the football while hitting on enough big plays. Their star receiver, A.J. Green, proved to be uncoverable -- seriously, he was amazing. And their kicker, Mike Nugent, led the way with his right leg.
In the end, the Bengals moved to 2-2 on the season while the Dolphins dropped to 1-3. And that shouldn't come as a surprise, given the superior team was playing at home and the inferior team was traveling after a short week of preparation.
In a relatively drama-free game, the most iconic moment belonged to an irate special teams coordinator, who perfectly summed up Miami's frustrations on a night when nothing went right after the opening drive.
Just been that night for the Dolphins pic.twitter.com/y172ouTieH— NFLonCBS (@NFLonCBS) September 30, 2016
Let's get to the takeaways.
1. The A.J. Green Show
A.J. Green turned a sloppy, relatively boring affair into a game totally worth watching. Thursday Night Football was played between the Dolphins and Bengals, but it belonged to Green. At halftime, the game should've been rebranded as The A.J. Green Show.
The Bengals' first touchdown drive went 90 yards on just seven plays. Green gained 77 of those yards on three catches.
His first reception looked more like a play out of a basketball game:
Then, the Dolphins found out the hard way that tackling Green is not fun.
Green's domination didn't stop there. With 10 minutes remaining in the first half, Green had already racked up 123 receiving yards via eight catches. At that point in the game, he was outgaining the entire Dolphins offense by 19 yards.
He kept coming down with video-game catches.
In the second half, Green went back at it. On the first series of the second half, the Bengals ran the "chuck it up to Green" play again. It worked, as Dalton fit in the pass before the safety could get over to the sideline to help the trailing corner.
Green added 43 yards to his total with that grab.
In all, Green caught 10 of his 12 targets for 173 yards and a touchdown. For the sake of comparison, the entire Dolphins offense gained 222 yards and scored one touchdown.
2. The Bengals love field goals
Despite dominating every aspect of the game through the first 30 minutes, the Bengals held a nine-point lead at halftime due to a few costly mistakes deep in Dolphins territory. And despite dominating every aspect of the game for the entirety of the 60 minutes, the Bengals won a game that felt like a blowout by just 15 points.
The Bengals were held to three field goals in the first half, the second at the end of a 14-play drive. For that, the Bengals can blame Dalton, whose inaccuracy cost them a touchdown.
Instead of leading his target, Dalton made him topple over as he caught an errant throw.
After getting the ball back following a Tannehill turnover (more on him later), the Bengals -- again -- settled for a field goal after a crucial third-down drop. On their first drive of the second half, they kicked another field goal after a drop in the end zone by Tyler Boyd. In Boyd's defense, the ball appeared to be tipped before it hit him in the gut.
Still, the point remains: The Bengals couldn't finish their drives. They outgained the Dolphins by 140 yards, ran 26 more plays and held the ball for 16(ish) more minutes. And they only won by 15.
3. Give it up for Mike Nugent
And on that note, it's time to acknowledge that Mike Nugent scored the most points in the game. He notched 16, in all.
Kickers are football players, too.
4. Daytime Dalton shows up
The Bengals' red zone woes weren't entirely on Dalton, who pieced together a night-time performance that would've made Daytime Dalton proud. This sidearm throw off his back foot was incredible. He threw his man open.
He completed 22 of 31 passes for 296 yards, one touchdown, no picks and a 111.8 passer rating. That'll work.
5. Dolphins' offense fizzles
The Bengals couldn't finish drives, but the Dolphins couldn't even sustain one, even though they came out firing.
On their second snap from scrimmage, the Dolphins spread out the Bengals with four receivers. Ryan Tannehill stood alone in the backfield as the Bengals showed blitz.
He took the snap and the Bengals brought the heat. Except the Dolphins' offensive line stonewalled the Bengals, giving Tannehill time to scan the field.
Look at that comfortable pocket, because it was one of the only ones that materialized for Tannehill all night long.
Eventually he pumped and freed up Kenny Stills. The Dolphins took an early 7-3 lead on this 74-yard touchdown bomb.
For the Bengals, this is turning into an alarming trend. They can't stop the deep ball.
The deep ball haunts the Bengals defense again. Allowed two 40-plus yard TD passes last week. Another already tonight.— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) September 30, 2016
But back to the Dolphins offense, which completely fizzled after that opening touchdown. Tannehill completed one more pass in the first half after that bomb, going 3 of 9. In all, he went 15 of 25 for 189 yards, one touchdown, one interception and an 80.2 passer rating. So no, he didn't have a great game.
Neither did the offense, as a whole. At one point in the second half, Green was outgaining the Dolphins' entire offense.
Take a look at their drive chart:
The Dolphins went 2 of 11 on third down. Yikes.
6. Don't blame Tannehill alone
Just before the two-minute warning, Tannehill sat back in the pocket to watch the play develop in front of him. Except, he just stood there. He never moved, he never stepped up, he never got rid of the football, and he sure as hell never took a moment to realize that Carlos Dunlap was bearing down on him.
He fumbled and handed the ball right back to the Bengals.
That play prompted an online execution of Tannehill, who continues to flash just enough promise to tease the Dolphins, despite his clear shortcomings as a quarterback. But Tannehill shouldn't be blamed for the offense's horrific performance, namely because he was under siege the entire night.
It's hard to play quarterback when pass rushers are in your face before your receivers are ready to catch your passes.
What's Tannehill supposed to do?
The receivers aren't even in their routes and the play is already over. I don't know what he's supposed to do. pic.twitter.com/yctf9OZ1nw— Cian Fahey (@Cianaf) September 30, 2016
He was sacked five times.
Keep in mind, the Dolphins entered a Thursday night road game shorthanded on the offensive line and missing Arian Foster. This loss was not on Tannehill. He didn't fail to block the Bengals' defense. He didn't get penalized for a costly roughing the kicker penalty in the third quarter, which led to Bengals points. He didn't leave A.J. Green uncovered all night long.
I'm not saying Tannehill played well -- his awareness in the pocket is awful -- but he wasn't the only reason the Dolphins dropped to 1-3 on the season, though he'll still end up taking the bullet. This fourth-quarter, garbage-time interception ensured that:
Yeah, there's no way to defend that throw.
7. What's next?
The Dolphins, 1-3, will at least have a winnable game next weekend, when they host the Titans. The Bengals, 2-2, will head to Dallas. One team will look to right the ship and salvage its season while the other is firmly back in the playoff discussion as a legit contender.
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