Negatives outweigh positives in Bengals loss
NOV 01, 2013 4:42a ET
Lewis made the same choice he made at Buffalo three weeks ago and at Detroit two weeks ago. He sent Huber out. Huber justified Lewis’ decision with a punt that forced Miami returner Marcus Thigpen to call for a fair catch at his own 14.
Lewis’ decision, however, didn’t end with the same results as the Bengals got in their last two road games. Miami got out of its hole, flipped the field position enough that Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin, foregoing a possible 58-yard field goal attempt himself, sent out his punter to instead pin the Bengals inside their own 10. The sequence of events set up a sack and safety by defensive end Cameron Wake that ended Cincinnati’s four-game winning streak, 22-20, Thursday night at Sun Life Stadium.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was just the third time in NFL history that a game ended on a sack.
Cameron beat right guard Kevin Zeitler cleanly for his third sack of the game, the fifth overall by the Dolphins. He got to quarterback Andy Dalton at the goal line and replay officials confirmed a portion of the football was across the goal line when Cameron hit Dalton.
Similar to how the Bengals lost the season opener at Chicago with turnovers and missed opportunities, this game could’ve and probably should’ve been put into the win column. Despite rallying from a 14-point deficit to take a 20-17 lead with 1:24 left in regulation, the Bengals drop to 6-3 and have 10 days to get ready for their first showdown with division rival and defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore at M&T Bank Stadium on Nov. 10.
Dalton had his fourth straight 300-yard passing game, becoming the first Cincinnati QB to accomplish the feat by throwing for 338 yards with career highs of attempts (52) and completions (32). Dalton was also intercepted three times, equaling a career high.
The most damaging one was Brent Grimes’ 94-yard pickoff return for a touchdown of a pass intended for Marvin Jones on the opening drive of the third quarter. It came four plays after tight end Jermaine Gresham was called for holding that wiped out a 50-yard touchdown pass by Dalton to Jones.
That’s a 14-point swing factoring in Gresham’s penalty.
“I had the look, the ball just slipped out of my hand,” said Dalton about the interception. “I know that’s not an excuse but the ball honestly did. I put it behind (Jones). The one spot you can’t throw that ball and that’s exactly what happens when you throw the ball behind him. Grimes made a great play on it and took it for a touchdown.
“It’s unfortunate that it happened right there. It’s all on me. We had a good scheme and the play was the right play call but I just missed it.”
During the four-game winning streak, Dalton wasn’t missing. He had been named AFC Player of the Month earlier on Thursday because he had completed 68 percent of his passes and thrown 11 touchdowns in the last four games. He didn’t have a touchdown pass Thursday and his interception total in the game matched the number he had thrown over the last four games.
The Bengals have committed 10 turnovers in their five road games and have a turnover margin of (minus)-seven. They were (minus)-two at Chicago when they lost to the Bears 24-21. They have committed seven turnovers in four home games but have a plus-three margin. It’s no wonder why they are undefeated at home but just 2-3 away from Paul Brown Stadium.
“We’ve obviously won some games at the end and today we lost. We fought our butts off in the second half and we just weren’t able to finish it out,” said Lewis. “Our Achilles heel tonight obviously was turnovers. It’s difficult to overcome those.”
There were plenty of what ifs to go around, just as there were in Chicago. The game could’ve ended like it did in Buffalo and Detroit when Nugent kicked field goals on the final play of each game to give the Bengals 27-24 victories.
“I don’t know what it is about this game but it stings a lot,” said Nugent, who took a couple of steps out onto the field thinking he was going to get a shot at the 57-yarder. He had made a 54-yard kick going in the same direction to give the Bengals their late three-point lead. He wasn’t second-guessing Lewis’ call, though.
“It’s tough for me because I look at it as me being the kicker, but from the coach’s point of view he’s got to be, I guess objective is the right word,” said Nugent. “He’s got to be thinking that if we miss this field goal they get the ball on the 47 yard line and have to go 15 yards and they’re in field goal range. As much as I wanted to be out there, at the end of the day it’s probably the right decision.”
It was the right decision. It’s a choice Lewis will probably have to make again in the near future.
The Bengals could’ve just as well left him with no such choice to make. They outgained the Dolphins by 120 yards (465-345), converted 10 of their 20 third-down attempts compared to just three of 14 by Miami, and had the ball for nearly 12 more minutes. They did a lot of things better than the Dolphins. They also did a lot of things worse than the Dolphins, and on this night the negatives outweighed the positives.
“Things just add up, and obviously I had the climax at that point right there,” said Zeitler. “It’s unfortunate. We let a team stick around. No matter what things we did, lots of things happened but we let a team stick around.”
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