Bengals vs. Dolphins: Takeaways from Miami's Thrilling Halloween Victory
This game gave you everything, and if it's a microcosm of the season (which it looked like), then it shows that maybe, just maybe, everything is going to be alright for the Dolphins.
How was it a microcosm? Well, the Dolphins started well, then floundered away a big lead for the second consecutive week. They then stabilized, reclaimed control and won the game in overtime, 22-20.
This is a win that could turn around the season, but let's not put the cart before the horse; there's a lot of season left and plenty of issues for the Dolphins to solve.
With that being said, here are five takeaways for the Miami Dolphins from Thursday night's instant classic of a contest.
1. This Team Can Run the Ball
The only issues I had with Miami's running game today were the overuse of Daniel Thomas (any use of Thomas is overuse), and Lamar Miller's fumble following a 41-yard run.
Other than that, Miami's run game was superb on Thursday night, gaining 157 yards on 30 carries.
Your leading rusher was Miller, who had 105 yards on 16 carries. He should be getting between 20-25 carries per game, which I hope to see in the future.
There's no reason he shouldn't, because Miami's running game spurred the offense and was a major reason why the Dolphins came out victorious.
2. Defense Is Too Feast or Famine
Here's what I liked about the Dolphins defense against Cincinnati: they forced the Bengals into four turnovers (and a safety, which should count as a turnover) while sacking Andy Dalton five times (including said safety).
Now for the downside: Miami allowed 465 yards of offense and 10-of-20 on third-down conversions, with many of those conversions coming on 3rd-and-long.
Even more frustrating were the missed tackles, which seemed to occur on just about every big third down play.
It's great that the Dolphins were able to force turnovers and create big plays, but here comes the challenge: forcing the three-and-outs and doing the little things to prevent the long drives that can tire out the defense, as what occurred in the third quarter of their win over Cincinnati.
3. Miami's Coaching Staff Came Through When Needed the Most
I have to give a round of applause to the Dolphins coaching staff, for this couldn't have been an easy four days to coach through.
For a short week it sure was eventful, with the issues surrounding Jonathan Martin (as reported by Fox Sports' Jay Glazer) and rumors that the locker room was in shambles and Joe Philbin and his coaches had lost the team.
Despite all of that, they got to 4-4 with perhaps their best coaching performance of the season (and even then, I do have some things to nitpick that I'll get to later).
Miami coaches accomplished this by adapting. Without Martin, the Dolphins had to go back to Tyson Clabo at right tackle, but at times they would use Michael Egnew lined up next to him as a tight end, or they would place rarely used tackle Will Yeatman next to him.
That was a smart formation and one that we should see the rest of the season.
The play-calling was also better than it has been in a while, as it restored a key component to the Dolphins offense—balance.
4. Ryan Tannehill Is Great When He Gets Blocking
That picture is Ryan Tannehill scoring a touchdown on a quarterback sneak.
This touchdown came thanks to a well-called drive that he led with authority.
It was one of four drives from Tannehill on which he was impressive. He also engineered a drive ending with a Caleb Sturgis field goal at the end of the first half and a march that resulted in the game-tying field goal. Finally, he directed a drive before the punt that pinned the Bengals back against their own end zone, which set up the safety.
What do each of those drives have in common? Tannehill had great protection, as he did throughout the game.
The Bengals, one of the best and most aggressive pass-rushing teams in the NFL, only recorded three sacks. Some of that does have to do with Geno Atkins leaving due to an injury, but it also has to do with good blocking by the Dolphins' offensive line.
This despite the fact that one of the unit's better linemen, Richie Incognito, was knocked out of the game early. Nate Garner took over for Incognito and filled in valiantly.
Other than the great blocking, there was one more reason why Tannehill was upright more in this game than at any point all season and why he also didn't turn the ball over once.
5. Miami Needs Balance on Offense Going Forward
Miami ran the ball 30 times on Thursday night, gaining 157 yards on the ground.
Miami passed the ball 28 times on Thursday night and, not counting the three sacks (low when you consider the beat up offensive line), gained 208 yards.
This should be a coincidence to no one, but the Dolphins wound up winning, and had they lost, you really couldn't blame the offense.
As long as the Dolphins have a well-balanced attack, they can beat any team at any time. When they don't, they can lose to any team at any time. They had more balance in their first five games of the season, then in their last two of four losses they seemed to abandon that balance altogether.
Against the Bengals, they stayed the course, remained committed to the run and got the victory.
That's something to keep in mind as we head towards the all-important second half of the season, which should be an exciting stretch of NFL football.