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The Bengals opened Sunday's game against the Dolphins with a 15-play, 86-yard scoring drive that lasted seven minutes and 40 seconds. At halftime, Cincy had a 14-12 lead and RB Cedric Benson had 52 rushing yards on 13 carries. It looked like this was the game that the Dolphins' red-zone struggles would come up and bite them as they would need to put up a host of points to win.
But Mike Nolan's defense did it again, holding the Bengals scoreless in the second half, and allowing the Dolphins to score a 22-14 victory for their fourth road win in four attempts this season.
The PFW Spin
Benson, who in the first half looked like he could run wild, had just 17 yards on seven carries in the second half. The Bengals opened the second half with four consecutive three-and-outs. In the third quarter, they gained a whopping total of 20 yards, yet only trailed 15-14 heading into the final period.
The Dolphins then had their best offensive drive of the season, going 96 yards in six plays to finally score a touchdown after five Dan Carpenter field goals. The eight-point cushion was plenty for their defense.
All of this happened with the Bengals generally holding OLB Cameron Wake in check, limiting him to two QB hits and three tackles.
The different looks the Dolphins' defense showed QB Carson Palmer were enough to slow down the Bengals' attack. Head coach Tony Sparano replaced CB Jason Allen, who was beat by WR Terrell Owens for a TD, with Sean Smith, and Smith hauled in the game-clinching interception at the Dolphins' seven-yard line late in the fourth quarter.
CB Benny Sapp, who was torched often by Steelers WR Hines Ward in Week Seven, held rookie WR Jordan Shipley in check and recorded a team-best 10 tackles, including a tackle-for-loss. S Yeremiah Bell and Smith each had two passes defensed among the team's 11 on the day.
The Dolphins now boast the eighth-best defense in the league heading into a tough matchup in Week Nine against the Ravens. Baltimore is coming off a bye and is well rounded enough to give the Dolphins fits. But if Miami's defense continues to shut down its opponents, the offense's red-zone issues won't be as glaring.
Miami has a tough schedule the rest of the way, but a winning record is not out of the realm of possibilities, and if the Dolphins can sneak into the postseason, Nolan's defense will be the reason.