By Sid Saraf, FOXSports.com
Well, it’s Halloween. What did you expect, a normal ending to a football game?
Sorry, not gonna happen. The Dolphins found a way to snap a four-game losing streak on Thursday night, and end the Cincinnati Bengals’ four-game winning streak, prevailing 22-20 in overtime when defensive end Cameron Wake sacked quarterback Andy Dalton for a safety.
Seriously? Yes, see for yourself:
This is just the third time in NFL history that an overtime game has ended in a safety. The Vikings took down the Rams 23-13 in 1989 and the Bears topped the Titans 19-17 in 2004.
Let’s just double-check: Did the referees make the right call on that last play? Let’s ask FOX NFL rules expert Mike Pereira:
Right call in replay. Guess this has happened a couple of times. Time to turn in. Traveling back to LA tomorrow. Thanks.
— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) November 1, 2013
Safe travels, Mike. NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino added this:
“The key is the position of the ball in relationship to the goal line when Dalton is first contacted by Wake … when Wake makes first contact with Dalton, the ball is breaking the plane of the goal line,” Blandino said on NFL Network after the game.
“It was reviewed in replay and confirmed.”
OK, now that we have that taken care of, let’s run down the most frightening things we can take away from this Halloween game.
The Dolphins can’t lose on Halloween
For a team with such a benign mascot, this team thrives on All Hallows’ Eve. The Dolphins improved to 6-0 on Oct. 31. If only this holiday could last all season, right?
However, what’s scary is how close Miami came to blowing a 17-3 lead for the second consecutive week.
Things looked good in the third quarter when Brent Grimes came up with this huge play:
This was the second of three interceptions of Dalton and the first touchdown of Grimes’ career. However, Miami’s 14-point lead wouldn’t hold up as the Bengals scored 17 unanswered points to take the lead late in the fourth quarter.
That’s when quarterback Ryan Tannehill took over. He got the ball with 1:13 left and directed a nine-play, 50-yard drive that included a clutch 21-yard toss to Brian Hartline. Kicker Caleb Sturgis tied the game with a 44-yard field goal with seconds remaining.
Wake’s walk-off on Dalton in OT was his third sack of the game. He also had five tackles. I think he earned a game ball.
“You just have to do whatever you can to get to the quarterback,” Wake said. “It couldn’t have come at a better time. How much better could it have been than to have a d-lineman seal the deal?”
Not only did this win stop the bleeding for the Dolphins, it also kept them in the thick of the playoff hunt. With a 4-4 record, they’re now tied with the Jets for second place in the AFC East and just two games behind the Patriots. What was head coach Joe Philbin’s reaction?
Philbin was asked if tonight saved his season: “I didn’t know we were lost.”
— Adam Beasley (@AdamHBeasley) November 1, 2013
Looks like the Bengals have lost a huge piece
This is the stuff of Cincinnati’s nightmares. Geno Atkins, the team’s star defensive tackle, had his knee rolled on in the first half. He stayed on the ground and eventually was helped off the field. Minutes later, he was carted to the locker room in what has became an all-too-familiar scene around the NFL this season. Sure enough, the news became grim fast:
UPDATE: Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis says Geno Atkins has an ACL injury. — FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLONFOX) November 1, 2013
According to reports, the team fears Atkins did indeed suffer a torn ACL and will miss the rest of the season.
If the news holds up, this is obviously a disaster for the Bengals. The team gave Atkins a $54.75 million contract before the regular season began, precisely because he’s a terror along the defensive line. His ability to rush the passer and blow up running plays is invaluable. This defense may need to circle the wagons and find another hero.
Here’s what doesn’t help: Linebacker James Harrison left the game with a thumb injury. Running back Giovani Bernard also was knocked out with a bruised rib. But speaking of Bernard …
Giovani Bernard’s ability is obscene
We all expect great things from the rookie running back, but I don’t think anyone expected this second-half run:
Not only did Bernard channel Marcus Allen from Super Bowl XVIII here, he also dodged about five tackles on the way. Predictably, social media blew up:
WHAT A PLAY!!!!
— Torrey Smith (@TorreySmithWR) November 1, 2013
Not many backs can do what Giovanni Bernard just did reversing field and scoring the touchdown.
— Troy Aikman (@TroyAikman) November 1, 2013
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) November 1, 2013
This is just the start of Week 9, but this more than likely will be the best run we’ll see this season. Bernard finished the game with 104 total yards and two touchdowns. This guy’s potential is sky high and he’s just starting to realize it. He has quite a future in this league … if he can stay healthy.
Andy Dalton went as a turnover machine for Halloween
It’s hard to believe that this Bengals team blew out the Jets 49-9 just a few days ago. Coming into this contest, Dalton was riding a hot streak, having thrown 11 TD passes without an interception over his previous three games.
Well, it looks like he made up for all of it in one night. We mentioned his three interceptions earlier, but he also coughed this ball up in the first half:
That’s Wake causing headaches for the Bengals again. So, if you’re counting at home, that’s four turnovers for Dalton on the night. Plus the safety, which hurt the most.
“My eyes were downfield, and he was there pretty quick,” Dalton said, adding he thought he was out of the end zone.
The Dolphins defense was completely gassed
When Dalton threw that pick-six on the 15th play of the Bengals’ opening drive of the third quarter, it sure seemed like it was a great thing for Miami. After all, it was a touchdown that gave the Dolphins a 14-point lead.
But here’s what wasn’t good. Miami’s D had to come right back out onto the field. In fact, Cincinnati held the ball for virtually the entire quarter and ran a whopping 89 plays on Thursday night. So, can you blame linebacker Koa Misi (No. 55) for doing this after one play?
Look closely: Sure looks like Misi is throwing up something on the field. Eeek. Kudos to the Dolphins defense for sucking it up on an extremely short week and putting forth an impressive effort.
This hit Shawn Williams laid on Nolan Carroll
It was just a regular, old punt return in the second quarter, but it’s one that the Dolphins defensive back may not remember for a while:
This is the type of collision that would have made an NFL highlight tape just a few years ago. But now? With the NFL’s attitude towards helmet hits? That’s no good. In fact, Williams was flagged for a personal foul. Carroll wound up leaving the game with a concussion.
The pathetic crowd at Sun Life Stadium
OK, this is ridiculous. The Dolphins might have come into the game riding a slump and yes, it was Halloween night. But you’re telling me the Miami “faithful” can’t do better than this?
Congrats to the Dolphins fans on “philling” half of their stadium. Dedicated fan base you’ve got here. pic.twitter.com/estkqDeueO
— Andrew Stephens (@AGK_Stephens) November 1, 2013
Paid attendance: 52,388. Methinks Ross put them over the top to avoid the blackout.
— Adam Beasley (@AdamHBeasley) November 1, 2013
That’s bad, even for South Florida standards. Come on, you’ve got to step up your game.
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