This Thursday night matchup was the type of opportunity that had been decades in the making. In the same week that the Bengals put up an indoor practice facility, the same night that the Bengals inducted two alumni in the Ring of Honor and the same game they unveiled their new white helmets, the Bengals entered "Thursday Night Football" as the favorites to win a matchup against an undefeated team.
As the record-setting crowd roared in the first quarter, the Dolphins couldn’t communicate play calls at the line of scrimmage. The Dolphins burned two timeouts in a three-play stretch. After the second one, the 67,260 fans at the “white out” game shouted “Who Dey” as Hubbard pumped up the crowd.
It was the type of moment fitting for an AFC contender. The Bengals beat the Dolphins, 27-15, on Thursday night. In the process, the Bengals showed that they shook off their 0-2 start to the season with one of the best games of wide receiver Tee Higgins’ career and a game-clinching interception by safety Vonn Bell.
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The Bengals are back to 2-2, and they can get back to first place in the AFC North with a win next week in Baltimore.
After each big play, the Bengals got the reaction you’d expect from a fan base pulling for a team that’s getting a chance to build on last year’s run to the Super Bowl. A loss on Thursday would have eliminated the momentum from last season’s run. The Bengals would have fumbled away another opportunity to start the season strong.
Burrow sent the message to “relax” after the disappointing start to the year, and he was right as the Bengals responded by turning around their season. Their stars played like stars, with Burrow, Higgins, linebacker Logan Wilson and Bell taking over the game when it mattered most.
They gave the largest crowd in the history of Paycor Stadium something to celebrate.
Bell clinched the win with 3:17 left in the fourth quarter. The Dolphins were down 5 points and driving, and Bell was in perfect position to pick off his second pass of the game. When Dolphins backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater made a high throw near the Bengals' goal line, Bell made the catch.
Bell’s second interception was his most important. His first pick was his most impressive as a Bengal.
The Dolphins tried the play that had fueled their success through the first three weeks of the season. Tyreek Hill, possibly the best receiver in the NFL, beat Bengals cornerback Chidobe Awuzie and tried to slice between the Bengals safeties.
When Hill first beat Awuzie, Bell was on the numbers near the left sideline. Bell tracked the throw all the way to the other side of the field, jumped in front of Hill and made a leaping interception to take away a potential touchdown.
Facing a Dolphins defense that held the Buffalo Bills offense to just 17 points last week, the Bengals offense had to battle. Burrow was inefficient on a few potential plays down the field, he didn’t have anyone to throw to on a few play calls and the offensive line forced him to make a few quick decisions. Too often, Burrow had to lock in on Mixon for a check down.
But the offense was explosive when the Bengals needed it to be.
Then with 1:32 left in the second quarter, Higgins had one-on-one coverage against Dolphins All-Pro cornerback Xavien Howard. Burrow said earlier in the week that the Bengals needed to take more deep shots regardless of the matchup on the other side, and he tested that idea by throwing the ball to Higgins on a go route down the sideline.
Higgins, who finished the game with 124 receiving yards, showed his strength as he maneuvered around Howard and then his speed as he raced down the field. Following the 59-yard touchdown, the Bengals took a 14-12 lead into halftime.
When the Dolphins took a 1-point lead the offense was on the verge of a third-straight three-and-out, the Bengals called a trick play where Boyd threw a first down to Ja’Marr Chase. A few plays later, Boyd ran a double move on a deep route, juked his defender and reeled in a 43-yard catch. Evan McPherson made a 19-yard field goal to give the Bengals a 17-15 lead.
On the next drive, another deep ball to Higgins set up another field goal by McPherson as the Bengals pulled ahead by 5 points.
Even though the Bengals offense struggled to find a consistent rhythm, the Bengals defense kept the team in the game. Again.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa left the game in the second quarter with head and neck injuries, and backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater played the rest of the game. Tagovailoa left the game on a stretcher and was taken to a local hospital for further evaluation.
Against both quarterbacks, the Bengals defense continued its trend of using disguised coverages, well-timed blitzes and a diverse playbook to keep quarterbacks on their back feet.
The Dolphins got the ball back with six minutes left and a chance to win the game with a touchdown, and the Bengals defense delivered like it has all season. Bridgewater made a high throw to Bell, and the Bengals’ third-year captain returned the pick for 46 yards. Burrow threw a 2-yard touchdown on the following drive to tight end Hayden Hurst as the Bengals got the 12-point win.
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Cincinnati Bengals defeat Miami Dolphins on Thursday Night Football