The Miami Dolphins proved to the football world that their 1-3 start to the season was not an accurate reflection of their competitive play thus far as they leave Cincinnati with a 17-13 upset win over the Bengals.
The first quarter of the game felt like a movie that Dolphins fans have unfortunately seen many times before, costly turnovers that lead to points for the opposition. It started with a muffed punt by Reshad Jones midway through the opening quarter who ultimately was bailed out by the stout Dolphins defense which held the Bengals to a 42 yard field goal and only a 3-0 lead. Miami followed that up with what looked to be a promising drive for the offense, only for Jorvorskie Lane to fumble in the red zone and kill the Dolphins momentum.
It wasn't until the second quarter that the Dolphins offense began to click. With four minutes to go before the half, running back Daniel Thomas capped an impressive 9 play, 63 yard drive with a one yard touchdown run. The score gave the Dolphins a slim 7-6 lead heading into the half.
Instead of letting up, the Dolphins came out strong to begin the second half of play. Randy Starks' fourth career interception handed Miami the ball at the Bengals 40 yard line and it was only a matter of time until Bush found the endzone from 13 yards out to extend the Dolphins lead to 14-6. On their next drive, Miami settled for a 46 yard Dan Carpenter field goal to put Miami ahead by a seemingly comfortable 17-6 lead.
Once the clock hit the seven minute mark of the third quarter, shades of the Dolphins heartbreaking overtime loss at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals took shape. Carpenter's struggles continued as he missed a 53 yard field goal that would have put Miami up by 14 points. Although a kick from that distance is no chip shot, it is well in the range of the usually relaible Carpenter. The missed attempt gave the Bengals life, just as it did against the Cardinals, and Cincinnati took full advantage. Dalton found Green from 2 yards out to cut the Dolphins lead to a mere 4 points.
However, the 17-13 scoreline was as close as the Bengals would get as Reshad Jones sealed the win with an interception late in the fourth quarter. The Dolphins offense wasn't nearly as electrifying as in the loss to Arizona but they did enough to come away with the upset. Although Ryan Tannehill's numbers of 17-for-26, 223 yards and a 92.3 QB rating didn't break any records, his abililty to make key plays and avoid throwing a costly intereception, put his team in a great position to emerge victorious. The same went for the running game which played the game with grit when the gaping holes closed quickly. This is evident in the stats of Reggie Bush who finished with 48 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown along with Daniel Thomas who wrapped up the game with 29 yards on 10 attempts and a score. The Dolphins nine rush touchdowns in the first five games of a season is the most since 2002.
The story of the game though was the Dolphins defense which ranked 1st in the league in stopping the run entering week 5. This trend continued as the Dolphins held the Bengals featured back Benjarvus Green-Ellis to a mere 14 yards on nine carries. Miami also kept Andy Dalton from finding his groove by keeping consistent pressure on him and dragging Dalton to the turf a total of three times. The play of Miami's corners has gone unnoticed the past several weeks as both Nolan Carroll and Sean Smith stepped up in a big way. Smith has become the top cornerback that the Dolphins need, limiting pro bowl wide recievers Larry Fitzgerald and AJ Green to under 100 yards in back to back weeks.
The win improves the Dolphins record to 2-3 on the season with a chance of moving to .500 in next week's matchup against the 3-2 St. Louis Rams. Although it wasn't pretty, the Dolphins grit earned them a well deserved victory and proved that Miami can compete with any team in the NFL. If the rest of the AFC East manages to lose this weekend, the Dolphins may find themselves in a tie for first come Tuesday morning.