What We Saw: Dolphins at Bengals

A scary injury to Tua Tagovailoa overshadowed an important Bengals win inspired by Joe Burrow.

Dolphins @ Bengals

Final Score: Bengals 27, Dolphins 15

Senior Writer: Benjamin Haller (@benjaminhaller1 on Twitter)

 

Early season sensation Tua Tagovailoa brought his aggressive Miami Dolphins offense under new Head Coach Mike McDaniel into the jungle on Thursday Night Football for a mouthwatering matchup with the reigning AFC Champions, the Cincinnati Bengals, who have had a stuttering start to the season under quarterback phenom Joe Burrow. If PFF could grade television coverage, Amazon would have a 98.9 grade so far in 2022. The opening introduction video for this game was no different – check it out here.

The intro was matched by the uniforms – the Bengals sporting their alternate white tiger outfit for the big-time occasion. The scene was set for a fiery, explosive game between two of the best young signal-callers in the league.

 

 

After bucking the trend and choosing to receive the ball to start the game in last week’s win over the Jets, the Bengals made it back-to-back opening drives with a touchdown after Burrow masterminded a 9-play, 75-yard drive that featured a couple of big runs from Joe Mixon, and a big push from the offensive line to hit the end zone.

 

 

It looked like the Dolphins would immediately hit back as Tua hit both Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle for big gains to take them into the red zone. However, Chase Edmonds dropped a pass at the back corner of the end zone and they had to settle for a field goal.

 

 

The two teams then exchanged turnovers with Tua throwing a deep interception and Mixon failing to convert a fourth down at Miami’s 24-yard line.

 

 

The game turned midway through the second quarter when Tua was thrown to the ground at midfield and failed to get up, with his hand movements looking worryingly irregular. This incident comes a week after a nasty moment where the young quarterback seemed to suffer a concussion that was later labeled a back injury in the game against the Bills. Another blow to the head and neck area this time forced him out of the game completely. He was taken to a local hospital for evaluation.

 

 

Things went from bad to worse for the Dolphins when Jason Sanders had the resulting field goal attempt blocked. Burrow then took advantage by dropping a deep ball right into the basket for Tee Higgins to streak away for a big 59-yard score.

 

 

Step in Teddy Bridgewater. The journeyman, feel-good-story quarterback answered right back with an incisive 9-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that featured plenty of short-to-intermediate throws, Teddy’s comfort zone. It was a nice job by McDaniel, and Edmonds finished off the drive by taking a cheeky shovel pass from Bridgewater into the end zone for six. Sanders missed the extra point so the Bengals took a narrow 14-12 lead into the break.

 

 

The second half started with four straight drives ending in punts as the teams headed to the fourth quarter separated by a point after Sanders finally kicked a chip-shot field goal to put the Dolphins ahead 15-12. A promising drive from Burrow then stalled at the goal line as Mixon could not punch the ball in despite three opportunities from the 6-yard line. The Bengals settled for the field goal and Evan McPherson nailed another from 57 yards to give his team a five-point lead with just 6:07 left to play.

The Dolphins couldn’t answer back as Bridgewater made a terrible mistake on an early passing down, throwing a poor interception and handing the ball back to Burrow with a chance to seal the game. The former LSU star did not waste it, spotting Chase one-on-one with backup corner Keion Crossen and launching a perfect deep ball into the Miami red zone.

 

 

Mixon once again got the opportunity to hit paydirt and put the game to bed but alarmingly he could not do it on two straight runs. No matter, Burrow took it upon himself to strike the final blow. Tight end Hayden Hurst putting the nail in a wounded Miami coffin to haul in a floated pass from the 2-yard line on third down.

 

 

Miami Dolphins

 

Quarterback

 

Tua Tagovailoa: 8/14, 110 Yards, INT

Teddy Bridgewater: 14/23, 193 Yards, TD, INT | 1 Carry, 11 Yards

 

We were robbed of the classic back-and-forth matchup we wanted due to Tua Tagovailoa’s nasty injury in the second quarter. It was a shame as it promised so much in the opening stages. Tua started off nicely with completions to five different receivers on a clinical opening drive. This pass to Mike Gesicki was a joy to behold.

 

 

That drive should have resulted in a score but Edmonds dropped a perfect throw in the end zone. On the next drive, Tua tried a little too hard to make up for it with an under-thrown deep ball that was easily picked off by the Bengals’ secondary. He led a scoring drive that resulted in a field goal after four straight incompletions before being knocked out of the game. Such a shame.

 

 

The injury to Tua meant all eyes were on whether McDaniel could make this offense tick with Teddy Bridgewater under center. The dynamic changed somewhat, with a smattering of shorter throws and a run game focused on outside zone with Raheem Mostert. With the game on the line late in the fourth quarter, however, it all came apart. Bridgewater wasn’t on the same page as Mike Gesicki and threw the ball straight into the arms of Vonn Bell, the safety’s second interception of the night.

 

 

Running Back

 

Raheem Mostert: 15 Carries, 69 Yards | 3 Targets, 2 Receptions, 12 Yards

Chase Edmonds: 5 Carries, 6 Yards | 3 Targets, 2 Receptions, 14 Yards, TD

 

Welcome back to the running game, Raheem Mostert. The former 49ers back is well versed in McDaniel’s scheme and he saw his most usage of the season once Tua exited the game. It was certainly effective and Mostert had key runs on a number of drives. If it wasn’t for Bridgewater’s deficiencies through the air, he would have likely had a shot to run the ball in from the red zone late in the game. Encouraging signs for the veteran rusher.

 

 

It was a disappointing night overall for Chase Edmonds, who struggled to make plays that he usually pulls off. The drop in the end zone on the opening drive was a killer in such a close game. Edmonds only managed six yards on the ground and he was stuffed on a couple of occasions on third down and short. If it wasn’t for the touchdown pass, the fantasy output would have been disastrous.

 

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

Tyreek Hill: 1 Carry, -1 Yard | 14 Targets, 10 Receptions, 160 Yards

Trent Sherfield: 6 Targets, 4 Receptions, 55 Yards

Jaylen Waddle: 5 Targets, 2 Receptions, 39 Yards

Mike Gesicki: 4 Targets, 2 Receptions, 23 Yards

River Cracraft: 1 Target

 

A chunk of late yards on the final drive of the game propped up an already productive outing for Tyreek Hill despite the fact he failed to hit the end zone for the third time in four games this season. Hill had a fairly quiet first half and picked up the majority of his yards after Tua left the game. This deep connection with Bridgewater was the catalyst to edge the Dolphins ahead in the third quarter.

 

 

Hill registered a season-high 14 targets and he remains the fantasy star of this offense, Tua or no Tua. Jaylen Waddle, however,  was essentially omitted from the offense with Teddy in the game, which is not a great sign if Tua misses time. Waddle was out-targeted by Trent Sherfield and gained the majority of his yards on one nice catch and run on the opening Dolphins possession.

 

 

Waddle had a massive 19 targets in Week 2 but has failed to see more than six in the other three contests. McDaniel needs to figure out how to get him the ball more, he is a dynamic route runner and has excellent speed. He saw a target down the sideline prior to Bridgewater’s late interception and seemed to come away hobbling, so that should be monitored for next week.

Sherfield and Mike Gesicki continue to fight for scraps in this offense and it didn’t really change with Teddy in the game. Gesicki has been a huge disappointment and it won’t help that he seemed to run the wrong route on the critical fourth-quarter play that resulted in the interception deep in Bengals territory as the Dolphins looked to engineer a game-winning drive.

 

 

Cincinnati Bengals

 

Quarterback

 

Joe Burrow: 20/31, 287 Yards, 2 TD | 5 Carries, 6 Yards

 

Joe Burrow inspired the Bengals to a hard-fought win over this plucky Dolphins team and made some huge throws at key moments to get the job done. Deep balls to Higgins, Boyd, and Chase proved to be the decisive element in comparison to Tua and Teddy, who both turned the ball over trying to go deep. He averaged 9.3 yards per attempt and took only one sack, a massive improvement on previous weeks. And this against a Dolphins defense that made it uncomfortable by bringing pressure regularly. Burrow responded with poise and quality.

 

 

Burrow now has three straight starts with zero turnovers and has thrown six passing scores in that span. His Week 1 aberration can now be considered as exactly that, an aberration.  Burrow is back, and humming. He made all the hard and easy throws in this one.

 

Running Back

 

Joe Mixon: 24 Carries, 61 Yards, TD | 4 Targets, 4 Receptions, 13 Yards

Samaje Perine: 1 Carry | 1 Target

Chris Evans: 1 Target

 

Despite the early touchdown, which we can credit to the Bengals’ offensive line in truth, it was a dismal night for Joe Mixon, who has struggled as a rusher mightily over the first four contests. Mixon averaged just 2.5 yards per carry on the night, which is consistent with his performances through the first month of the season. The Bengals offensive line carries some of that on them – run-blocking is not their strength. But the line performed better in this game and still, Mixon couldn’t really get anything going. He has stopped a total of five times in goal line situations. FIVE! He missed a hole on the outside on this play, slamming into his own lineman instead.

 

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

Tee Higgins: 9 Targets, 7 Receptions, 124 Yards, TD

Ja’Marr Chase: 6 Targets, 4 Receptions, 81 Yards

Tyler Boyd: 1/1, 23 Yards | 5 Targets, 2 Receptions, 47 Yards

Hayden Hurst: 4 Targets, 3 Receptions, 27 Yards, TD

Mitchell Wilcox: 1 Target, 1 Reception, 18 Yards

Devin Asiasi: 1 Target

 

Tee Higgins could be the most complete receiver on this offense. The former Clemson wideout was excellent all night, consistently executing routes and creating separation to make plays. Higgins put up his best fantasy score of the season and caught balls from across the formation. He beat Xavien Howard on the outside for his deep touchdown grab and found space over the middle time and again to move the chains. It was a clinic of how to play the receiver position from Higgins.

 

 

The first involvement for Tyler Boyd only came late in the third quarter, and it was a pass! And what a beautiful pass it was.

 

 

Burrow then went to Boyd on back-to-back plays to start the fourth quarter to move the Bengals into the red zone. Boyd ran a beautiful route to take away the safety and create space outside the hashes to haul this one in. It was only one of two grabs on the night, however, and his fantasy value is tied to hitting the end zone. But this wasn’t one of those nights.

 

 

It was another difficult night for the enigmatic Ja’Marr Chase as he once again took a backseat to Higgins in terms of fantasy production. A big late reception to seal the game on the last touchdown drive salvaged what would have been a mediocre night. Chase was mainly limited to short receptions and had two passes broken up downfield.

 

 

Hayden Hurst hasn’t done much in this offense up to this point but he was fired up for prime time and made a statement with an angry catch-and-run on third down to move the chains on the Bengals’ opening drive. Hurst had a couple of targets early on and settled the tie with the late touchdown. Otherwise, he wasn’t really involved heavily in the passing game.

 

 

 

Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

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