Bengals Second Glance: What you might have missed in the win over the Dolphins (2024)

CINCINNATI – Vontaze Burfict’s return wasn’t even the biggest one of the game Sunday in the Bengals’ 27-17 win over the Dolphins at Paul Brown Stadium. Nor was it the second-biggest return.

Michael Johnson’s 22-yard interception return for a touchdown tied the game with 11:43 remaining, and rookie Sam Hubbard’s 19-yard fumble return for a score salted away the victory with 2:37 to go.


But both of those returns have been broken down every which way since Sunday, so it’s Burfict’s return from a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances which will lead off this latest installment of Second Glance, the weekly feature where I watch the television broadcast of the game to look for things I may have missed while covering it from the press box.

Burfict returned to the team in better shape than he had following his season-opening suspensions in 2017 and 2016, but played just 53 percent of the snaps. That was far fewer than he logged in his first game back in 2017 (80 percent) and 2016 (76 percent).

What was even more curious than how slowly coaches worked him back in was that they repeatedly pulled him off the field on third down, which is something I wrote about Monday.

It clearly was the plan going into the game, and based on this screen capture – which came after a Burfict tackle set up Miami’s first third down on the opening drive – the linebacker may have had some doubts about whether the coaches would stick to the plan. It shows him looking to the sideline to see if he was being pulled immediately after bringing down Dolphins running back Frank Gore.

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Then came these two screen captures late in the fourth quarter after Burfict had sat out nine of the previous 10 third downs. Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill had just thrown incomplete to set up third and 17, and Burfict clearly wanted to stay on the field. He looked to the sideline and gave the thumbs up followed by a gesture that said, “well, what’s the decision?”

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The coaches left Burfict in, and the next play was Carlos Dunlap’s strip sack that sent the ball into the arms of Hubbard, who jumped over Dunlap on the way to his first touchdown since his pee-wee days.

Here is what the Burfict break down looked like:

  • First drive: Played six of seven snaps, coming out on the only third down.
  • Second drive: Played four of five snaps, coming out on the only third down.
  • Third drive: Played eight of 13 snaps (including penalties). This was the 95-yard touchdown drive the Dolphins scored to go up 7-0. After sitting out an early third down, Burfict returned and made a hustle play chasing down the speedy Albert Wilson from behind on a 16-yard gain. Burfict sat out the next four plays before returning and playing the rest of the drive except for the third-and-3 play that preceded the touchdown.
  • Fourth drive: Played three of five plays.
  • Fifth drive: Played four of five plays on the opening drive of the second half.
  • Sixth drive: Played all three snaps, including his first third down.
  • Seventh drive: Played three of five snaps.
  • Eighth drive: Sat out all six plays after the Johnson touchdown.
  • Ninth drive: Played all three snaps.
  • 10th drive: Did not play.
  • 11th drive: Did not play.

Third down improvement

The Bengals held the Dolphins to four of 13 conversions on third down, lifting them out of last place in that category by improving from 57.4 percent allowed to 52.7 percent.

It wasn’t just that the defense got stops, the Bengals forced two of their three turnovers on third down. The Hubbard touchdown came on third and 17, and the Jessie Bates interception that officially iced the game came on third and 22.


Five times the Bengals put the Dolphins in third and 16 or longer, and four of them resulted in stops. The one that didn’t may have been the best third-conversion allowed in quite some time. It came on third and 16 when Tannehill dumped a screen to Kenyan Drake, who broke a tackle attempt by Nick Vigil on the way to an 18-yard gain and first down.

If the Bengals get the stop there, the Dolphins punt and the Cincinnati offense probably has to go 70 yards or so for a touchdown. The Miami offense instead retained possession, and two plays later the Bengals tied the game on Johnson’s pick 6.

Allowing a 30.8-percent conversion rate on third down was a big improvement, but there were other issues beyond allowing a first down on third and 16. In the second on third and 3, with Burfict off the field, the Bengals looked thoroughly confused about coverage on Danny Amendola, as shown this screen cap:

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Tannehill exploited it for an easy 16-yard pass one play before his 22-yard touchdown strike to Drake (another easy one with the running back wide open behind linebacker Hardy Nickerson).

The average yardage needed for the first down on Miami’s 13 third downs was 9.8. That’s a step in the right direction for a Bengals defense that had held an opponent to less than 31 percent on third downs just once in the previous 14 games (29.4 percent at Baltimore in 2017 season finale).

Austin’s interesting alignments

Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin rolled out a couple of interesting alignments I don’t remember seeing before, the first of which came on the first third down Miami faced.

Hubbard is standing up (middle of ‘B’ logo) and positioned as a linebacker alongside Preston Brown (52) while the other nickel backer, Nick Vigil (not pictured), is split wide left in man coverage on tight end Mike Gesicki.

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Hubbard blitzes between the right tackle and right guard and appears to get a hand on a screen pass for Drake in the backfield. Replays are inconclusive as to whether he got a piece of the ball, and the official stats don’t credit him with a pass breakup, but it was a great play nonetheless.

The other one came on the first play after Hubbard’s touchdown had put the Bengals up 27-17. The Bengals overloaded the left side of the Miami offensive line with three guys while leaving Carl Lawson all alone on the other side.

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It was a nondescript play, a six-yard pass to Gesicki over the middle, but the alignment was interesting.

Defensive line rotation

There’s a new face in this regular part of Second Glance. Newly signed Cincinnati native Adolphus Washington made his Bengals debut after he was inactive the previous week at Atlanta.

The Bengals worked Washington into the rotation immediately, putting him in at the start of the second defensive series. Washington played 17 snaps (27 percent), which were the fewest among the defensive linemen.

It was one of the most balanced rotations of the season. Here’s how they broke down:

  • Carlos Dunlap 50 snaps (78 percent)
  • Geno Atkins 41 (64)
  • Andrew Billings 36 (56)
  • Jordan Willis 31 (48)
  • Carl Lawson 31 (48)
  • Sam Hubbard 28 (44)
  • Michael Johnson 22 (34)
  • Adolphus Washington 17 (27)

Here’s the graphic that shows where they lined up for each play, again with the caveat that my numbers and the official game book numbers usually vary slightly due to counting penalty plays as snaps and other factors:

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Uncharacteristic penalty for Johnson

TV replays never showed what Johnson did to draw a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on Miami’s first snap of the third quarter, but the defensive end described the play after the game. And the All-22 film backs up what he said:

“The guy was blocking me after the whistle, and I hip-tossed him and he pulled me down on top of him. I kind of aggressively pushed myself up off of him. I guess they felt like that was a little too much. That really sparked me, because I’m not with all that. You play between the whistles. Don’t come doing that edge stuff. That really turned a different switch on for me. Hopefully next game I can start with that switch. I wasn’t trying to hurt the team. Something just happened. I didn’t think it was as bad for it to get a personal foul. But it happens. You have to learn from it and try not to make that mistake again.”


Johnson made a big stop two plays later on Drake for a 1-yard gain and showed some rare emotion in celebrating the play. He made the game-changing play a quarter later with the pick 6.

Uzomah becoming a factor

Teams have been forgetting to cover C.J. Uzomah this year and it’s resulted in some big gains for the tight end. It happened again on the first scoring drive for the Bengals when Uzomah lined up as an H-back on the right side of the formation, then crossed the field behind the line of scrimmage after the snap and found himself wide open in the flat.

Miami safety Minkah Fitzpatrick comes after Dalton as a free runner, but Dalton gets the pass off to Uzomah, who turns it into a 25-yard gain. It helps set up Randy Bullock’s 51-yard field goal that cut the deficit to 17-3 in the third quarter.

It was the third-longest reception of Uzomah’s career behind the 29-yarder he had on a similar play against Baltimore earlier this year and a 54-yarder he had in the 2016 season opener against the Jets.

Uzomah is third on the team in yards per catch at 13.0, just behind Tyler Boyd’s 13.1. (A.J. Green’s 15.7 is tops).

Uzomah had another big play in which he caught something other than the ball – a forearm from Miami’s T.J. McDonald. The hit, which came after Dalton’s third-down pass for Uzomah had sailed incomplete, dropped the tight end to the ground holding his head and resulted in a 15-yard penalty to extend the Bengals’ first touchdown drive.

The hit didn’t look all that bad on replays, so I asked Uzomah if he was selling it to draw a flag.

“No, I really felt it,” he said. “I jumped to my feet right away because I didn’t want to go into concussion protocol.

“I still feel it in my neck,” he added as he was leaving the locker room following the game.

Quick hitters

  • I initially thought on Dalton’s interception that ended the first that Miami linebacker Jerome Baker hit A.J. Green coming out of his break beyond the allowed five yards, disrupting the timing resulting in Reshad Jones tipping the pass and Kiko Alonso intercepting it. Watching the replay on television, Baker hit Green exactly five yards beyond the line of scrimmage, making it a legal play.
  • The Bengals should have had three defensive touchdowns. Replays showed the ball cornerback William Jackson dropped couldn’t have been more perfectly placed for a pick 6. “Right in the bread basket,” Austin said.

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  • Jackson limped off after a play on Miami’s third series. Replays showed he appeared to hyperextend his knee while trying to bounce back to his feet. He only missed a few plays before returning.
  • Tight end Tyler Kroft left with a foot injury and was ruled as questionable to return. He missed one series before returning on the field goal that was blocked.
  • There was a play on the third offensive series for the Bengals where Cordy Glenn allowed defensive end Robert Quinn to get to Dalton just as he threw. You could tell from the press box by Dalton’s reaction he had someone open, but there were no replays to show who it was. We found out when the All 22 came out. It would have been a touchdown to Boyd, who came out of the right slot and somehow was running a deep slant uncovered through the Miami secondary. Look how open he was on both angles from the All 22 (he’s slightly obscured by the goal post in the end-zone shot), along with Dalton’s reaction from the regular game broadcast:

Bengals Second Glance: What you might have missed in the win over the Dolphins (9) Bengals Second Glance: What you might have missed in the win over the Dolphins (10) Bengals Second Glance: What you might have missed in the win over the Dolphins (11)

  • Cornerback Darqueze Dennard limped off after a stop on third and 21 late in the game and asked out instead of playing on the punt return unit. He was able to return to the game.
  • The ups and downs of being a young player showed on back-to-back plays for second-year tight end Mason Schreck. He had a great block to seal the edge on Joe Mixon’s career-long 31-yard run on the fourth-quarter drive that set up the go-ahead field goal. Schreck got flagged on the next play for a false start that put the Bengals behind the chains at first and 15. It ultimately led to them settling for a field goal instead of scoring a touchdown.
  • Dalton has had some unlucky breaks this year, with a number of his interceptions going off the hands of receivers or otherwise not his fault. He got one back Sunday when he made a poor decision to force a pass into Green on third and goal from the 2. Jones got his hands on the ball, but it carried beyond the end zone where Green caught it well out of bounds for an incompletion. It easily could have been an interception that would have left the game tied.
  • Really impressive effort by Dunlap on his sack that led to Hubbard’s fumble return touchdown. Miami tackle Sam Young, who was in for the injured Laremy Tunsil, was holding Dunlap as he came off the edge, enabling Tannehill to step up in the pocket. The referee threw the flag, and Dunlap kept after Tannehill. He got to him just as he prepared to throw, resulting in his fourth sack and second forced fumble of the season … and, of course, Hubbard’s first career touchdown.

More screen shots

We all know it’s easy to get a penalty for roughing the passer this year. Jordan Willis did a good job of avoiding putting his full body weight on Tannehill on a hit in the first half. Geno Atkins also did a good job of keeping his head up and using proper technique on his first sack. If he lowered his head in the slightest and made contact where he did, it would have been a definite penalty:

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Bengals Second Glance: What you might have missed in the win over the Dolphins (13)

Look at Glenn getting way down field blocking for Uzomah:

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This was not a sack. This was a magician-like run by Dalton. It was nine yards just to get back to the line of scrimmage, then another seven to give Bullock a short field-goal attempt (which was blocked):

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One of my favorite parts about watching the television broadcast is to see what kind of shots of the city they get coming out of commercial. Really enjoyed this one:

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(Top image:Jordan Willis applies a hit on Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill on Sunday. John Grieshop/Getty Images)

Bengals Second Glance: What you might have missed in the win over the Dolphins (2024)
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