1. Defensive line produces
The Bengals’ defensive line lived up to its hype in the second half, accounting for two of the team’s three turnovers, including two returned for touchdowns, and three sacks.
Michael Johnson was gifted an interception, which he returned 22 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 17 with 11:43 left, after he had just missed trying to sack Tannehill. Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill came under pressure and attempted to spike the ball, but it deflected off teammate Durham Smythe’s helmet and fell right into Johnson’s hands with no one behind him.
After Bullock gave the Bengals their first lead, Carlos Dunlap got a strip sack on Tannehill and Cincinnati native Sam Hubbard came up with the fumble recovery for a 19-yard touchdown return, making it 27-17 with 2:37 left.
“We put our money where the mouth is,” Dunlap said. “The Bengals trusted this D-line. We’ve got a lot of depth here, and when it’s a tough game we get it done.”
“The corners gave us opportunities to get after it as well because as you could see, Tannehill didn’t have a target or anybody open,” he added. “I was able to come around the edge and get that strip and to Sam with the (fumble return) and M.J. put the pressure on the quarterback but didn’t quit on the play. He turned around and the ball, he got it, and finished in the end zone too, so it was amazing to see.”
Miami lost left tackle Laremy Tunsil in the fourth quarter, which might have helped open opportunity for the Bengals’ pass rush, but Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said his defense saw “blood in the water and went after it.”
2. Mixon turns it up
Mixon got off to a slow start in his return from arthroscopic knee surgery that sidelined him two games, but he kept plugging away and it finally broke for him in the second half.
The team’s starting running back had just 19 yards on 10 carries in the first half and finished with 93 yards on 22 rushes to go along with four catches for 22 yards and a touchdown. His 18-yard touchdown reception turned the tide for the Bengals.
Mixon also had carries for 11, 31 and 8 yards on the drive that ended with Bullock’s go-ahead field goal with 3:30 left.
“We had to grind it out,” Mixon said. “They were bringing a safety in the box and nickel blitzing. We had eight or nine in the box, but we were grinding it out and trying to make those tough yards. The first half was tough because we weren’t getting nothing going, but once that third quarter hit we grinded it out. It was close but we weren’t there yet and in the fourth quarter that’s when it broke for us.”
3. Dalton overcomes pressure
Dalton continues to overcome heavy pressure allowed by his offensive line. He somehow escaped the first half without any sacks and finished with just two but was fortunate to even get his pass off to Mixon on the Bengals’ first touchdown.
The veteran quarterback had to pivot to avoid two defenders rushing at him and even with a swarm around him, he got his throw off at the last second and it almost seemed like it surprised Mixon that it even got to him. Mixon came back on the ball and grabbed it just outside the endzone and was able to run it in for the score.
“We’ve got to shore up our offensive (line) group,” Lewis said. “We didn’t protect our quarterback today as well as we have been.”
Dalton completed 20 of 30 passes for 248 yards and one touchdown with one interception. A.J. Green recorded his 32nd game with 100 yards receiving, finishing with six catches for 112 yards.
4. Cardiac cats
The Bengals have come from behind to collect three of their wins, including last week’s win at Atlanta and the opener at Indianapolis. Cincinnati scored 24 unanswered points to finish the game against the Colts for a 34-23 win and beat the Falcons 37-36 on Green’s game-winning touchdown reception with seven seconds.
The Bengals fell behind 14-0 in the first half Sunday after turning the ball over in the redzone on an interception and missing a 37-yard field goal. Tannehill found Kenyan Drake wide open for a 22-yard touchdown pass and Jakeem Grant returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown in the first half, and the Dolphins then added a 42-yard field goal by Jason Sanders early in the third quarter before the Bengals got on the board.
“Momentum shifted in the fourth quarter,” Dalton said. “For us to score 24 points in that fourth quarter, it’s huge. … That’s the biggest thing: If you can win the fourth quarter, you give yourself a chance.”
Dalton now has 23 come-from-behind wins in the fourth quarter, setting a franchise record.
5. Momentum at key time
Cincinnati remains atop the AFC North as the only team at 4-1 after Baltimore fell to Cleveland in overtime Sunday.
The Bengals now carry a two-game win streak into next week’s division rivalry matchup against Pittsburgh.
“We’re trying to keep the momentum going the whole season,” Mixon said.s
The Ravens are 3-2, followed by the Steelers and Browns at 2-2-1.
“The momentum we’ve been having, we’re doing a great job responding with each other. My teammates, … We’ve been doing a great job week in and week out buying in and preparing for the games. These have been big wins we’ve been getting and we just do nothing but try to keep growing and keep getting better. We definitely plan on keeping that same energy throughout the year.”
Steelers at Bengals, 1 p.m., WHIO-TV Ch. 7, Ch. 12, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7