Anatomy of an Upset

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While the Bengals’ uninspired play, mental errors, and poor coaching decisions led to their downfall on Sunday vs. the Miami Dolphins, there were three plays in particular that decided the game’s outcome. The Dolphins were a 1-3 team that simply wasn’t good enough to beat the Bengals straight up. They needed several things to go their way, and these four plays were exactly what the doctor ordered for the now 2-3 Fins, and what ultimately doomed the now 3-2 Bengals:

 

2nd-Quarter: 2-10 at the CIN 43 with 9:33 remaining. Ryan Tannehill pass incomplete {Throw Away} after being pressured by Rey Maualuga.

A throw away this was not. It was the textbook definition of intentional grounding, as Maualuga had a clear blitzing lane to Tannehill and forced the rookie into a throw away while he was still in the tackle-box to an area where there were no Dolphin receivers. The next down should have been 3rd-and-20, but instead it was a much more manageable 3rd-and-10 which the Dolphins converted en route to scoring the games’ first touchdown to take a 7-6 lead before halftime. The Dolphins needed some breaks to go their way, and this was the first big break of the day for them, and they capitalized on it with an eventual seven points in a game that was decided by only four points.

 

3rd-Quarter: 3-and-4 at the CIN 42  with 13:19 remaining. Dalton pass short middle intended for Andrew Hawkins INTERCEPTED by Randy Starks at CIN 40. Starks returns ball to CIN-36 for 4 yards.

 

Nov 24, 2011; Arlington, TX, USA; Miami Dolphins defensive end Randy Starks (94) on the field during warm ups against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving day at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys beat the Dolphins 20-19. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-US PRESSWIRE

In order for the Dolphins to score the upset, they needed some out-of-the-ordinary plays to go there way, and this was a prime example of one. When defensive-end Randy Starks was able to jump up and catch a bullet pass from Dalton, it was just the 4th-career interception in his 9-year NFL career. Rarely do you ever see s defensive lineman in the middle of his pass-rush jump up to deflect a low thrown ball, only to have it stick to his hands like glue as he prevented the Bengals from continuing what looked like a promising opening 3rd-quarter drive.

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