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Winning Ugly is Better than Losing Pretty

It was not the best effort; it was not textbook football. It was a fight-filled donnybrook that could have further consequences. However, none that matters as the Miami Dolphins are 8-4 following a 19-7 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. The first half was concerning for Miami, as they trailed 7-6 with Tua Tagovailoa had a terrible start as he returned from missing one game with a thumb injury. Out of the locker, the Dolphins looked like a new team running an uptempo offense to take the lead for good. After the game, Brian Flores credited offensive coordinator Chan Gailey with the decision to turn up the offense, which helped Tua have his best game yet, passing for 296 yards. 

The Dolphins' win tough is the secondary story as the game will be best remembered for a pair of ugly incidents that led to the ejection of five players. The first of which happened late in the second quarter when Xavien Howard got into a shoving match with Bengals' receiver Tyler Boyd. Both players were ejected, but the penalty was more costly for Cincinnati as they got 15 yards and missed a 53-yard field goal that would have made it 10-3. Instead, the Dolphins quickly moved into field goal range in the winning seconds, as Jason Sanders, who has been money all year, was good from 48-yards. 

The Dolphins were fortunate to be down 7-6 at the half; the Bengals jumped out early with Brandon Allen hitting Tyler Boyd on a 72-yard touchdown pass. Xavien Howard had an interception on the previous series. Both Allen and Howard missed the second half after their fight. The second half adjustments benefited Miami right away as they drove the ball down the Bengals throat. On that first series, Tua Tagovailoa had more passing yards than he had the entire first half. The Dolphins capped the drive with Mike Gesicki catching a five-yard touchdown pass. Gesicki had two big catches on the drive, one for 17 yards and another for 35 yards as the Dolphins took a 13-7 lead. After a Bengals three and out, the Dolphins drove down the field, with Mike Gesicki making a sick one-handed catch and added a third field goal from Jason Sanders. It was a solid drive, but the second time that Miami faltered in the red zone. The first time was due to an illegal formation penalty that wiped out a touchdown by punter Matt Haack. 

Things would get ugly in the fourth quarter. Following another three and out series by Cincinnati, Mike Thomas slammed into  Jakeem Grant, who was trying to catch Kevin Huber's punt. This rankled the Dolphins, who came out on the field led by coach Brian Flores. The coach showed why his team runs through walls for him by confronting Thomas as both benches emptied. During the skirmish, Shawn Williams shoved Dolphins receiver, DeVante Parker. Mike Hollins came into the scrum to defend Parker, leading to the ejection of all three players. 

After a significant delay, the game resumed, with Miami getting the ball at the Cincinnati 47. Again, the Dolphins would drive down to the goal line but settled again for a Sanders field goal. The Bengals' offense continued to remain stuck in neutral as Brandon Allen was injured in a sack by Shaq Lawson. After a fumble by Myles Gaskin, the Bengals had one last shot with Ryan Finley in at quarterback. They drove into Miami territory but the game ended on an interception by Nik Needham. 

At 8-4, the Dolphins are in a position to make the playoffs, though the schedule is tough over the final four weeks, starting with a home game against the reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs next week.