Rushing offense: B+
After gaining just 35 yards on 10 carries in the first half, the Bengals pounded the Dolphins in the second half and finished with 163 yards, 2 shy of their season high. Giovani Bernard scored on runs of 3 and 35 yards, with the latter being a candidate for play of the year as the rookie reversed field and broke five tackles on his way to the end zone. Bernard averaged 8.8 yards per rush and finished with a career-high 79 yards before leaving the game with a rib injury. BenJarvus Green-Ellis added 72 yards on 21 carries.
Passing offense: C+
It was maybe the most polarizing game of quarterback Andy Dalton’s career as he set career highs in attempts (53) and completions (32) and topped 300 yards for the fourth game in a row to become the first quarterback in franchise history to do that. But Dalton also threw three interceptions, lost a fumble and got sacked five times, the last of which came in the end zone in overtime to end the game. The third interception was not Dalton’s fault. It was a perfectly thrown ball that bounced off receiver Mohamed Sanu’s hands and went right to Dannell Ellerbe for one of the many passes Bengals receivers dropped. But the other two picks were awful throws by Dalton and led to 10 points for Miami, including a 92-yard pick six.
Rushing defense: C-
The Bengals let Miami running back Lamar Miller get loose for a career-high 105 yards, and it only took him 16 carries to do it. The Dolphins gashed Cincinnati for 157 yards on the ground at a 5.2 clip, but the Bengals did repeatedly stop the hosts in short-yardage situations. James Harrison stuffed Daniel Thomas on third and 1 at the Cincinnati 40 in overtime, keeping Miami out of field goal range while forcing the Dolphins to punt the ball back to the Bengals offense.
Passing defense: B
The Bengals held Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill to 208 yards, but they only sacked him three times. Normally that would be an acceptable number, but the Dolphins came into the game leading the league with 32 sacks allowed. And their offensive line was missing tackle Jonathan Martin, who left the team for personal reasons earlier in the week, as well as guard Richie Incognito, who got injured early and did not return. The likely season-ending loss of defensive tackle Geno Atkins was devastating, but the defense kept the pressure on Tannehill in Atkins’ absence, at least until the final drive of regulation when the Bengals allowed Miami to work its way into position for game-tying field goal.
Special teams: B
Mike Nugent drilled his second 54-yarder in three weeks, but this one – which came with just 1:43 remaining – didn’t go down as a game-winner thanks to Caleb Sturgis getting another chance when the pass defense allowed the Dolphins to go down the field and open things up. Punter Kevin Huber was his typically strong self with all four punts landing inside the 20, and the coverage teams did a good job on the four punts and three kickoffs. But an illegal block penalty on Shawn Williams late in the first half hurt as it backed the Bengals up deep in their own end and prevented them from attacking the way they wanted to in order to get points before halftime.
Marvin Lewis was aggressive in using his timeouts late in the first half to have a shot to get the ball back, and the staff did a good job keeping everything in order after the devastating loss of Geno Atkins. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden’s continued commitment to the run even when it wasn’t working in the first half was a big reason why the Bengals were able to score 17 unanswered points and eventually take the lead. Lewis’ decision to punt the ball rather than going for a 57-yard game-winning field goal in overtime can be debated by some, but really it is hard to argue with pinning the Dolpins deep in their own end and trusting the Bengals defense to get the ball back. Had Nugent missed from 57 – his career-long is 55 after all – Miami would have got the ball at its own 47 and only needed about 15 yards to get in position for its own game-winning try.