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Commentary: Cincinnati Bengals must look to younger players after loss to Dolphins

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Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake sacks Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton for a game-winning safety in overtime at Sun Life Stadium Oct. 31. The Dolphins won, 22-20. Credit: Courtesy of MCT

Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake sacks Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton for a game-winning safety in overtime at Sun Life Stadium Oct. 31. The Dolphins won, 22-20. Credit: Courtesy of MCT

After four straight wins the Cincinnati Bengals (6-3) fell to the Miami Dolphins (4-4)  in overtime, 22-20, which also ended Miami’s four-game losing streak.

Quarterback Andy Dalton was hot coming into the game, having thrown 11 touchdowns and only two interceptions in his previous three games. But against Miami, he turned the ball over four times, throwing three interceptions and losing a fumble.

The Dolphins raced to an early 17-3 lead behind a strong ground game, gaining 142 rushing yards in the first half. To make matters worse, in the second quarter, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins went down with an injury to his right ACL. This came less than two weeks after Cincinnati lost its top cornerback, Leon Hall, to an Achilles tear.
Cincinnati rookie running back Giovani Bernard (nine carries, 79 yards) stepped up and scored twice for the Bengals on the ground. The second one was an electrifying 35-yard run early in the fourth quarter in which he was nearly tackled for a significant loss before shedding tacklers, turning outside to the left and then finally cutting back to the right to tie the game. But soon after, Bernard would also leave the game with a rib injury.

Cincinnati and Miami exchanged field goals in the last two minutes, sending the game to overtime. After the Dolphins failed to score, the Bengals moved the ball to Miami’s 39-yard line. But instead of attempting a 56-yard field goal, Cincinnati opted to punt.

It was a questionable move as kicker Mike Nugent had already nailed a 54-yard field goal with 1:24 left in the fourth quarter. Also, two games earlier, he hit a game winning 54-yard against the Detroit Lions as time expired.
After the Dolphins failed to score again, the Bengals received the ball again at their own eight-yard line. On third and 10, Dalton went back to pass but was quickly sacked for the fifth time in the game, this one in the end zone to end the game on a safety. Wake (three sacks) shot up the middle almost untouched for the game winner.
With Dalton and the offense once again struggling and the defense limping, Cincinnati can only hope young players like Bernard step up to change the dynamic of the team.

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