After consecutive tough overtime losses, the Dolphins bounced back and finished off a talented Cincinnati Bengals team, 17-13.
A combination of defensive pressure and a balanced offense helped stop the Bengals’ late attempt to erase another Dolphins fourth-quarter lead.
Here are my five key takeaways from the Dolphins’ 17-13 win.
- Tannehill’s Got Talent: Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill continues to impress and take positive strides each and every week. Three things stood out in his performance against the Bengals: (1) As was the case in Week 4 in Arizona, Tannehill was able to manage multiple protections and went in and out of play calls seamlessly–you have to be 100 percent committed to these pre-snap machinations for them to be carried out effectively; (2) he was able stand tall in the pocket and deliver the ball accurately, highlighted by a 24-yard pass to Charles Clay where he stood tall, even with the threat of a big hit looming; (3) his mobility was on display was on display twice, where he was able to allude pressure, keep his eyes down field and hit a receiver–the first was on a 28-yard strike to Davone Bess (the play that set up Reggie Bush’s touchdown run); the next was on a 30-yarder to Brian Hartline. It’s no surprise that people have stopped referring to him as “rookie” Ryan Tannehill.
- FIN-ished: Does a team need to learn how to close out games? That became a pretty popular question after the Dolphins were unable to win two tight overtime games. If late-game success is a learned trait, the Dolphins got a nice education on Sunday. With the offense unable to kill the clock, the defense needed someone to step up and make a game-ending play, and Reshad Jones came through. It’s easy to focus on Reshad’s interception as an individual play, but there was great play by the defensive front that pressured Andy Dalton, as well as terrific underneath coverage by Jimmy Wilson, forcing Dalton to put a little too much on the pass. The close-out was a complete defensive effort.
- Bad Breaks Didn’t Beat the Dolphins: There seemed to be multiple plays that bounced in Cincinnati’s favor throughout Sunday’s game. But this team didn’t get those decisive calls . There was the first-quarter punt that ricocheted off of Reshad Jones and into Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict’s hands. Burfict, however, looked like he never had control as he rolled out of bounds. Later, the Bengals pinned the Dolphins inside of the 1-yard line, though it appeared a Bengal player touched the ball on the goal line, which should have resulted in a touchback. Throw in a Cam Wake forced fumble that was ruled to have been lost and then simultaneously recovered by A.J. Green. The Dolphins overcame all of these obstacles and won a road game that may very well turn their season around.
- Sean Smith is Growing Up: Whereas in the past he may have been shifted around the field, from quarter to quarter, play-to-play, Sean Smith’s game-day responsibilities now seem to include defending an opponent’s premier receiver. The Dolphins’ fourth-year corner has been up to the challenge. Over the last two weeks, Smith has been asked to keep a dominant receiver in check and prevent him from taking over the game. He held Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald to eight catches for just 64 yards a touchdown; this week, he stymied one of the league’s hottest receivers, A.J. Green, limiting him to 65 yards on nine grabs and one score. Green was targeted 13 times, but Smith not only prevented the talented young receiver from making back-breaking plays but he also got physical, leading the team with eight tackles.
- Too Many Negative Runs: For all the success that the offensive line and running game has had early this season, this week, unofficially, I counted eight plays that were either stopped behind the line of scrimmage or for no gain, the most of any week this year. Some of this can be attributed to Reggie Bush’s health–he still appears to be less than 100 percent — and the offensive line’s responsibility to win more battles at the point of attack. With Daniel Thomas getting dinged up late in the game and Bush’s health concerns, some responsibility may shift to Lamar Miller, the rookie running back who filled in capably against the Raiders in September, finishing with 65 yards on 10 carries. Despite some recent struggles in the ground game, look for the Dolphins to continued to run the ball; it’s one of Joe Philbin’s fundamental philosophies. If Bush is still hobbling, though, that responsibility may be more spread out in Week 6.