CINCINNATI — A.J. Green’s big game got the Bengals back to break-even and left them with reasons for optimism heading into a tough stretch of their season.
Green had 10 catches for 173 yards and a touchdown on Thursday night, leading Cincinnati to a 22-7 victory over the Miami Dolphins . After back-to-back losses, the defending AFC North champions are 2-2 and getting a little more complete as key players return.
Their best receiver led the way on Thursday. Unhappy with how he failed to make an impact during a loss to Denver last Sunday, a motivated Green beat the Dolphins (1-3) on every type of route .
“I hold myself to a very high standard,” Green said. “I know what I’m capable of. Last week I didn’t perform to that level. I had to refocus on a short week.”
During the first three quarters, Green had 166 yards on catches while Miami had 152 total yards. Green had catches of 51 yards and 43 yards. He caught a 7-yard pass for Cincinnati’s only touchdown — the Bengals stalled near the goal line and needed Mike Nugent’s five field goals.
The Dolphins’ depleted offense couldn’t muster much beyond Ryan Tannehill’s 74-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills on their second play of the game.
“Not a lot worked,” said Tannehill, who was 15 of 25 for 189 yards with a touchdown, an interception, a fumble and five sacks . “We really didn’t do anything well. It was one of our worst performances from our offense in a long time.”
Some takeaways from the Bengals’ solid win:
CAN’T STOP GREEN: The Dolphins had man-to-man coverage on Green much of the time, and he made quick work of it. Green also shredded man-to-man coverage in a season-opening win over the Jets, catching 12 passes for 180 yards.
“When there were times he was able to get single coverage, we were able to make plays,” said Andy Dalton, who was 22 of 31 for 296 yards with a touchdown and a sack. “You can’t double (cover) him every single snap, so it definitely worked for us today.”
BURFICT’S IMPACT: The Bengals’ defense expected to be better with linebacker Vontaze Burfict back from his three-game NFL suspension for illegal hits. He broke up a pass, had three tackles, and helped the defense look sharper all-around. The Bengals are expecting the offense to get a boost when tight end Tyler Eifert returns soon from ankle surgery.
“I just try to be a leader,” Burfict said. “I know the defense’s ins-and-outs. I just want everyone accountable, even myself.”
DOLPHINS BLOCKERS: A patchwork line had trouble giving Tannehill time. There was a reason for the problems — Miami had a lot of players in different positions. The Dolphins were missing four starting offensive linemen, two linebackers, running back Arian Foster and tight end Jordan Cameron.
Left tackle Branden Albert and center Anthony Steen were inactive with sprained ankles suffered during a win over Cleveland last Sunday. Center Mike Pouncey has missed all four games with a hip injury.
“We have to put it all together and figure out what we do well and start working on that a little more,” coach Adam Gase said.
DOLPHINS BLUNDERS: Miami had seven penalties for 68 yards. The most egregious was by Terrence Fede, who pushed Kevin Huber to the ground after he punted in the third quarter. The penalty gave Cincinnati the ball, and the Bengals got a field goal.
“That’s just one of those things you don’t see that often,” Gase said. “It was really a bad mistake and a costly mistake for us. To be honest, I was surprised it came from Fede.”
LOOKING AHEAD: The Dolphins begin a stretch of four straight home games against Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and the New York Jets. The Bengals have a tough two-game stretch, playing Dallas and New England on the road. They’re 1-5 in Dallas, dropping their last three. They’ve dropped their last six at New England, last winning there in 1986.