NFL Preview - Cincinnati (6-2) at Miami (3-4)|
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - A lot of people love heading south this time of year but
for the Miami Dolphins, a trip due south in the AFC East standings has been
anything but fun.
A 3-0 start for the Dolphins is now all but forgotten as Joe Philbin's team
returns home in an attempt to halt an ugly four-game skid against the AFC
North-leading Cincinnati Bengals on Halloween Night.
Miami hasn't tasted victory since Sept. 22 just as the Bengals have gotten
red-hot, winning four straight to take a 2 1/2-game lead over Baltimore in
The Dolphins thought they had solved their problems early on in Foxborough
last Sunday but the game turned out to be a tale of two halves, as New England
rebounded to completely dominate things after intermission en route to a 27-17
victory over Miami at Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots managed a meager 59 yards in the first 30 minutes and trailed by
14, then scored 24 unanswered points -- highlighted by a pair of touchdowns in
a span of less than two minutes that tied the game.
"We dug a big hole for ourselves at halftime. We really haven't played good in
the third quarter all year but we did today," Patriots coach Bill Belichick
said. "We got it from all three phases of the game. We had contributions from
everyone in the second half."
Tom Brady struggled through his worst first half in 10 years and finished with
just 116 yards and a touchdown on 13-of-22 passing but New England overcame
that to beat Miami for the seventh straight time.
Ryan Tannehill threw for 192 yards with a pair of touchdowns and a pair of
interceptions for the Dolphins, who are now 2 1/2 games in back of the Pats in
the AFC East.
A trio of turnovers and two missed Caleb Sturgis field goals -- one that hit
an upright and another that was blocked -- in the second half led to disaster
"They clearly deserved to win the game, they played better than we did," said
Philbin. "We didn't play well in the second half. We didn't make stops, we
turned the ball over."
The Bengals, on the other hand, kept rolling on Sunday thanks to a breakout
performance from second-year receiver Marvin Jones.
Jones caught a franchise record four touchdown passes in Cincinnati's 49-9
rout of the New York Jets at Paul Brown Stadium.
"He's had the potential since he's been here," QB Andy Dalton said when
talking about Jones. "I think he's just comfortable with everything that we're
doing and everything that we're asking him to do."
Dalton threw for 325 yards and five scores on 19-of-30 throws in just
three quarters. He found Jones eight times for 122 yards, while A.J. Green
added 115 yards on just three catches.
"We knew we were going to have to take some shots," said Bengals coach
The Bengals' defense also took back two Geno Smith interceptions for
"That was ugly, to say the least," said Jets coach Rex Ryan. "We're fortunate
it only counts for one loss because you get your butt kicked like that, you're
fortunate that's all it is."
Miami leads its overall series with the Bengals by a significant 15-5 margin,
with the Dolphins winning the last two contests. The most recent meeting was a
17-13 Miami victory on Oct. 7, 2012 in Paul Brown Stadium.
The Dolphins are also a perfect 5-0 when playing on Halloween.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Dalton and the Bengals have been firing on all cylinders recently, piling up
103 points in their last three games. Over that span, the third-year signal
caller has thrown for at least 325 yards in each contest and tossed 11 TD
passes, becoming the first Bengal ever to throw that many in a three-game
"This is where I want to be," said Dalton. "This is how I want to be playing."
It's not all about offense with Cincinnati, though. In fact the Bengals'
defense remains the strength of the team led by All-Pro interior lineman Geno
Atkins. Cincy's D is currently ranked eighth in the NFL, allowing 322.5
yards per game and its even better in scoring defense, coming in at No. 5 by
giving up only 18 points per contest.
That shapes up as trouble for Miami's young quarterback Tannehill, who has
plenty of talent but remains a very inconsistent player from down to down
never mind game to game.
Tannehill can wow you with the big play (he's thrown five TD passes over the
prior two games) but also make the game-changing mistake (seven of his nine
interceptions have come during the Dolphins' current skid). He has been
particularly ineffective in the guts of a game, amassing an awful 60.9 fourth-
quarter passer rating, something that has contributed mightily to the fact
that Miami has been outscored 67-24 in the second half of their losing streak.
Apologists for Tannehill point to his shaky offensive line, which has allowed
the Texas A&M product to be sacked a league-high 32 times. The Dolphins tried
to address that issue by trading for veteran left tackle Bryant McKinnie
before the New England game and the former Vikings and Ravens starter did
prove to be a significant upgrade on short notice.
Miami will also get a bit of a break with the absence of Bengals middle
linebacker Rey Maualuga, who will not play in Thursday's game after spraining
his left knee against the Jets. The fifth-year pro is expected to miss
Cincinnati will also be without a few other defensive contributors. Cornerback
Leon Hall (torn Achilles) and safety Taylor Mays (shoulder) were each placed
on injured reserve in the last couple of days, while backup tackle Devon Still
has also been ruled out due to an elbow injury.
Miami's offense will also be hampered by the season-ending knee injury
receiver Brandon Gibson suffered against the Patriots and the fact that former
left tackle Jonathan Martin reportedly went AWOL this week, something the
Dolphins have labeled as an undisclosed illness.
Despite all of Miami's problems, however, Lewis is still worried on a short
"We've got to be the best team Thursday night, plain and simple," the
Cincinnati coach said. "It's us and the Dolphins and, we've got to be the best
team. There's no other challenge. We knew the schedule. That's the way it is.
There's no ifs, ands or buts about it. You come, be ready to go."
Philbin, meanwhile, is staying positive in an effort to get his team back in
the win column.
"I have a lot of faith in our guys," he said. "I believe in them. I think
we'll get this thing right and fixed. We have to do it quickly; this is a good
team coming in here on Thursday night."
The Dolphins' current four-game hiccup is their worst since a seven-game slide
to open the 2011 season while Cincinnati is coming off its most lopsided
victory in Lewis' 11-year tenure.
"Obviously we aren't at an all-time high right now," Tannehill said. "But
we've got to get back on track. That's the only option we have with a short
It's also an unlikely option. These are teams heading in polar opposite
directions and expect that to continue on "Thursday Night Football."
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Bengals 27, Dolphins 20
10/31 09:42:57 ET