Dolphins battle hard after Tua Tagovailoa injury, but lose to Bengals

Teddy Bridgewater did his best in a tough spot. The Miami Dolphins fought all Thursday night.

It was just too much to overcome. The Dolphins lost 27-15 to the Cincinnati Bengals on a hard night in which they saw their quarterback Tua Tagovailoa taken to the hospital with a scary head and neck injury.

And through it all — Tagovailoa's injury, a short week after a challenging win over the Buffalo Bills last Sunday and having to change flight plans to Cincinnati to beat Hurricane Ian — Miami had a good shot to win late in the fourth quarter. It's a testament to their professionalism and Bridgewater, one of the league's most reliable backups.

The result of the game was overshadowed by the scary injury suffered by Tagovailoa. The Dolphins QB was slammed to the turf on a sack. He suffered what the team said were head and neck injuries after he briefly left last Sunday's game with what the team termed a back injury, although the NFLPA initiated a concussion investigation. A stretcher came out for Tagovailoa after the hit on Thursday night, and he was taken to a nearby hospital. Amazon Prime Video reported late in the game that Tagovailoa was expected to be discharged from the hospital Thursday night and the team believed he'd travel back to Miami with them.

The Dolphins lost, but the way they played after their quarterback went down with a brutal injury was admirable. It was a tough night for the Dolphins and that had nothing to do with the loss.

Dolphins, Bengals engage in tight game

Bridgewater played pretty well in a difficult spot. The Dolphins scored late in the first half on a shovel pass to Chase Edmonds to cut Cincinnati's lead to 14-12. As the defense held the Bengals scoreless in the third quarter, a long pass from Bridgewater to Tyreek Hill set up a field goal to give Miami the lead. The Dolphins led 15-14 into the fourth quarter.

The Bengals, using a tricky receiver pass from Tyler Boyd on third down and a long pass to Boyd, got down to the 1-yard line. Joe Mixon was held up at the goal line twice on second and third down, and the Bengals settled for a 19-yard field goal and a 17-15 edge. It was a big win for Miami's defense, but they still lost the lead.

The Bengals added on a 57-yard field goal from Evan McPherson with 6:13 to go to increase their lead to 20-15.

The Dolphins needed a touchdown drive to win the game. Bridgewater, whose NFL story can't be told without a reminder of the devastating knee injury that set his career back, ran for 11 yards on a key third-and-10. The Dolphins were inside Bengals territory with a chance to take a late lead.

Then Bridgewater turned it over.

Running back Joe Mixon of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates after a touchdown against the Dolphins. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Running back Joe Mixon of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates after a touchdown against the Dolphins. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Dolphins fall in fourth quarter

On the biggest play of the game, Bridgewater and tight end Mike Gesicki weren't on the same page and Bridgewater threw it wide of his tight end. He was picked off by safety Vonn Bell, who had a long return. It's the kind of mistake that can happen with a backup quarterback who didn't practice much with the starters this week.

After that, Joe Burrow hit Ja'Marr Chase — working against a backup cornerback with Xavien Howard having dropped out of the game early due to injury — on a 36-yard pass to the 6-yard line. That practically sealed it. Burrow put a bow on it with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Hayden Hurst with 1:52 left.

In defeat, Bridgewater completed 14-of-23 passes for 193 yards. He played well, as did the Dolphins.

The Dolphins came in with a 3-0 record and more positive vibes than they've had in many years. The Tagovailoa injury certainly takes away from that. Miami did play hard without him. Now they'll hope their young quarterback is OK.