Bengals go from best to worst in 4 days
CINCINNATI (AP) — Maybe it was the short turnaround time. Maybe the Bengals were just due for one of those days.
They sure got it in Miami.
The Bengals went from their best game of the season to one of their worst in only four days, and got more bad injury news along the way. They’ve got a lot of things to figure out over the weekend following their 22-20 overtime loss to the Dolphins on Thursday night.
First up: What to do with the defense?
An MRI on Friday confirmed that All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee late in the first half. That leaves the Bengals without two of their stalwarts on the line — end Robert Geathers has been out for most of the season with an elbow injury.
The Bengals (6-3) didn’t have a lot of injuries early in the season as they took control of the AFC North. In the last three games, they’ve been hit hard, especially on defense.
Top cornerback Leon Hall is lost for the season after tearing an Achilles tendon. Safety Taylor Mays also is gone because of a separated shoulder. Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga hurt his left knee and sustained a concussion during a 49-9 win over the Jets last Sunday, leaving him sidelined indefinitely.
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth hurt his right knee against the Jets and sat out on Thursday night as well.
“Hopefully these three days off and then with two more games and the bye week, we can get some players back,” defensive tackle Domata Peko said. “It actually comes at a perfect time for us.”
Losing Atkins is a huge setback. He led all NFL interior linemen in sacks with 12.5 last season and topped the Bengals with six so far this year.
“Oh, man, it’s huge,” linebacker Vontaze Burfict said. “He plays in front of me. It hurts a lot. Hopefully we can get it together.”
The Bengals seemed to miss Maualuga, who was on crutches last week. Maualuga is known for his ability to stop the run — Cincinnati held six of its first eight opponents under 100 yards on the ground.
Miami ran for 142 yards in the first half alone, averaging 6.5 yards per carry, and finished with 157 overall.
“We didn’t play very well up-front on the defensive line yesterday,” coach Marvin Lewis said on Friday. “We need to play better. We didn’t get off to a good start when Geno was in there, and we didn’t play very well until the second half of the game.”
The Bengals were coming off their most lopsided victory during Lewis’ 11 seasons. Andy Dalton threw a career-high five touchdown passes against New York, extending the best three-game stretch by any Bengals quarterback.
In Miami, he threw three interceptions, one of which Brent Grimes returned 94 yards for a touchdown. The game ended when he was sacked at the goal line by Cameron Wake. A day later, Lewis disagreed with the safety call.
The officials ruled it a safety. The call was upheld after they watched replays indicating that Dalton pulled the ball to the back of his right shoulder as he got hit, putting the ball above the goal line as the tackle was made.
“Hopefully they had a better look than what I’ve seen on it,” Lewis said on Friday, referring to the officials’ review. “In my opinion, it isn’t (a safety). But my opinion really doesn’t matter. The call was made and they stuck to it.
“Andy’s feet aren’t in the end zone, so for the ball to be behind his feet, it would be kind of an awkward position. So that’s the only thing I can see, because his feet aren’t in the end zone when he’s contacted, nor are they on the white line.”
In addition to the three interceptions and the game-ending safety, the Bengals repeatedly dropped passes and self-destructed in other ways. The strange ending seemed appropriate.
“This is the NFL and crazy things happen,” receiver A.J. Green said.
Notes: Dalton threw for 338 yards, making him the first Bengals quarterback with four consecutive 300-yard passing games. ... Lewis said that RB Giovani Bernard’s bruised ribs aren’t expected to be a long-term problem. Bernard ran nine times for 79 yards, including a sensational 35-yard touchdown run across the field. He missed the end of the fourth quarter and overtime because of the rib injury.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org