Record crowd watches Bengals top Dolphins in primetime

CINCINNATI – The energy of the crowd at Paycor Stadium took a dip after Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had to be take off the field on a stretcher late in the first half, and the Cincinnati Bengals offense did little to bring up the mood -- until crunch time.

Joe Burrow led his team on an important touchdown drive in the final minutes, and the Bengals beat the Dolphins, 27-15, Thursday in front of a record crowd in Cincinnati, as 67,260 fans showed up for the prime-time game. The Bengals (2-2) donned their all-white uniforms and helmets for the first time, and the atmosphere at times – on a night when Willie Anderson and Isaac Curtis were presented their Ring of Honor jackets at halftime – was electric.

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Cincinnati’s defense was tasked with keeping the fans engaged for most of the second half, though, as the offense only managed a pair of field goals until that final drive. Vonn Bell recorded his second interception of the game with 3:05 left to protect a five-point lead and put the Bengals in Miami territory to start their final drive. Burrow capped it off with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Hayden Hurst with 1:52 left.

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The Bengals had started the game in smooth fashion, as Joe Mixon capped off the opening drive with a 6-yard push into the end zone on third-and-inches. It was the second straight time Cincinnati had scored on its first drive, after doing it just once in Joe Burrow’s first 28 games.

Miami (3-1) trailed the entire first half, though the Bengals gave opportunities to pull ahead.

Tee Higgins caught a 59-yard touchdown pass from Burrow late in the second quarter to extend the lead to 14-6 shortly after rookie seventh-round pick Jeff Gunter blocked a 52-yard field goal attempt, but Cincinnati carried just a two-point advantage into halftime.

The first half was marred by a scary scene just before the blocked field goal when Tagovailoa hit the back of his helmet on the ground after a Josh Tupou sack.

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Tagovailoa had been taken out of Sunday’s game against the Bills to be evaluated for a concussion but returned to the game and this week was reported to be dealing with back and ankle issues that left him “questionable” to play. The 2020 first-round draft pick started as expected Thursday, though, and left the game with 110 yards passing and one interception. He left the stadium in an ambulance and was declared out with head and neck injuries, though the Dolphins reported he was conscious and moving his extremities. He was expected to travel back to Miami with his teammates, according to the Amazon Prime broadcast.

Credit: Joshua A. Bickel

Credit: Joshua A. Bickel

Backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater led the Dolphins on a touchdown drive the next possession, connecting with Chase Edmonds on a 7-yard pass to trim their deficit to 14-12 going into the break, but the PAT hit the upright. Cincinnati had limited Miami to a pair of field goals earlier in the game.

Tagovailoa led the Dolphins into the red zone on their opening drive with the help of a pair of 20-yard passes to Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill. However, the Bengals defense continued its “bend, don’t break” trend and held them to a 23-yard field goal after Edmonds dropped a third-down pass in the end zone with Mike Hilton covering him.

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Bell came through with an interception the next drive as Tagovailoa was targeting Hill on a deep pass late in the first quarter. That gave Cincinnati’s offense the ball at its own 29-yard line, but the drive ended at Miami’s 24-yard line on Mixon’s failed fourth-down run.

The Dolphins got a 48-yard field from Jason Sanders on the next drive before Higgins hauled in his touchdown. After Bridgewater’s touchdown to Edmonds with 15 seconds left in the second quarter, Miami finally pulled ahead briefly in the third quarter with a short field goal to make it 15-14, but Evan McPherson made field goals of 19 and 57 yards early in the fourth quarter before Burrow’s touchdown drive sealed the victory.

Burrow finished with 287 yards passing and two touchdowns, while Higgins had seven catches for 124 yards and one score. Mixon added 61 yards on 24 carries. Bridgewater finished with 193 yards passing and one touchdown. Hill led the Dolphins receivers with 10 catches for 160 yards.

NEXT GAME

SUNDAY OCT. 9

Bengals at Ravens, 8:20 p.m., NBC, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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