Safety lifts Dolphins past Bengals
Cameron Wake described it as a movie moment.
If so, it would have to be classified as a drama. Third down, getting late in overtime, and the Miami Dolphins had the Cincinnati Bengals pinned deep in their side of the field.
And in the final scene of the night, Wake stole the show.
Somehow unblocked and unnoticed, Wake sacked Cincinnati's Andy Dalton for a safety with 6:38 left in overtime, giving the Dolphins a wild 22-20 win over the Bengals and getting Miami to .500 at the midpoint of its season.
"We don't get too many opportunities to do things like that," Wake said.
It was just the third time in NFL history that an overtime game ended on a safety, and it came from a Pro Bowl end who had 2½ sacks in Week 1 and pretty much spent most of the next two months fighting his way through an injury. But he finished with three sacks on Thursday night, the fourth time in his career that he had that many in a game.
Dalton said his eyes were elsewhere on the last play.
"He was there pretty quick," said Dalton, who had four turnovers — three interceptions and a fumble, one caused by Wake, about three hours before the final play of the game and probably forgotten by that point.
The Dolphins led 17-3 at one point, after Brent Grimes jumped a pass by Dalton and took off 94 yards for Miami's longest interception return for a touchdown since 2002.
And then Miami lost the lead by giving up 17 unanswered points in what looked like just another collapse in a free fall of a season.
Giovani Bernard had a brilliant 35-yard touchdown run with 12:37 left to tie it, a play where he took a pitch from Dalton, went right, made two Dolphins miss, cut to the left, made more Dolphins miss, and finally got into the end zone — punctuating it all with a somersault.
Mike Nugent's 54-yard field goal with 1:24 left in regulation gave Cincinnati a 20-17 lead. Caleb Sturgis tied it for the Dolphins with a 44-yarder with 11 seconds left in the fourth, and then Wake ended it as Miami (4-4) snapped a four-game slide.
Here's five things we learned Thursday night:
BENGALS HURTING: In more ways than one, too. Geno Atkins was lost for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL, suffered on a play in the second quarter. It's a major loss for Cincinnati (6-3), which is assured of heading into next week with the lead in the AFC North. That, combined with losing the late lead, combined with eventually losing the game on a safety, left a very sour taste in the Bengals' mouths. "We came back and had control of this game," wide receiver A.J. Green said, "and we just let it go away."
RUNNING WORKS: The running game has been more than conspicuously absent from Miami's repertoire at times this season. But when the Dolphins were at their best on Thursday, they were getting ground production. The Dolphins had 142 first-half rushing yards, the first time they had that many 30 minutes into a game since 2002. Lamar Miller finished with 105 yards for Miami, the first triple-digit game of his pro career, and now has 194 yards in the last two weeks.
SHORT WEEK WOES: No one in the Cincinnati locker room used it as an excuse, but traveling on a short week sure made the Bengals seem much less sharp than they looked throughout their now-kaput four-game winning streak. Dalton threw 53 passes, none of them going for touchdowns. That ties the highest number of throws by an NFL quarterback in a touchdown-less game all season, matching the mark of Josh Freeman for Minnesota against the New York Giants on Oct. 21.
SEASON SAVER?: Dolphins players said afterward that they challenged themselves this week, knowing that the stakes were high — a four-game slide, a massive sacks-allowed total, an off-the-field issue that is keeping offensive lineman Jonathan Martin away from the team ... it was all taking a clear toll. Now they go into a quick break on an absolute high. "It was time for us to step up and we had to make a decision — what are we going to be? And I thought they answered the bell pretty well tonight," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said.
STURGIS SAVES: Sturgis, the Dolphins' rookie kicker, started the year 10 for 10. He struggled from there, and his first-quarter miss was his fifth one in his last six kicks. But he delivered when he had to, the 44-yarder at the end of regulation obviously doing wonders for Miami — and probably quite a bit for his confidence going into the second half of the year.