Just when you think the Miami Dolphins are back to the same old team you’ve agonized over for the last 20+ years, they get into a benches-clearing brawl with the Cincinnati Bengals, lose 3 players to ejection, and turn into a completely new team at halftime. Stephen Ross may as well rename the team because these boys ain’t the same.
The first half of the Dolphins’ home game versus the Bengals was a hot mess. Even with Cincinnati starting their backup quarterback, Brandon Allen, who isn’t exactly known for his grace under pressure, the Dolphins looked absolutely lackluster opposite them. Both the offense and defense struggled enormously. The one TD, a sneaky trick play that punter Matt Haack ran in on the field goal attempt, was called back due to penalties. A team usually touted for their lack of penalties ended the day with eight for 54 yards, and penalties weren’t the only mistakes being made.
The one bright spot of the first half was Xavien Howard, who picked off Brandon Allen on his second possession of the game. But then Howard was ejected for a couple of playground-style blows exchanged with Bengals receiver Tyler Boyd (who was also ejected), and the Fins lost their best player down 7-6 at the half. Boyd was arguably the only bright spot of Cincy’s offense up until his ejection. He snagged the only score for the Bengals off a catch and run TD that went for 72 yards—and don’t give Brandon Allen any credit for that, please.
Kyle Van Noy was the only productive defensive player that didn’t get into trouble in the first half, handing out a couple of sacks on Allen. It was a poor outlook for the Dolphins, with many calling for Tua to be benched and replaced with Ryan Fitzpatrick.
We don’t know what Bill Belichick used to say to his team after bad first halves during the Patriots’ dynasty, but whatever it is, Brian Flores apparently knows. The Dolphins opened up the second half on a beautiful no huddle drive that totaled 75 yards in eight plays and three and a half minutes. Tua looked vintage, Alabama-style, slinging balls to Mike Gesicki in between and over the heads of a totally lost Bengals’ secondary. From there, the Dolphins scored two more field goals to secure the game and held the Bengals to 0 points (although kicker Randy Bullock did miss one from 53 to end the first half).
Just as the offense stepped up, Brian Flores’ defense did the same, totaling six sacks, 11 QB hits, and two interceptions. Emmanuel Ogbah and Christian Wilkins teamed up on a strip sack touchdown that was ultimately called back, something Christian Wilkins is apparently still upset about. Shaq Lawson had two sacks himself and Kyle Van Noy added a third in the second half, along with Zach Sieler.
After one of Lawson’s sacks Brandon Allen was ruled out with a chest injury and Ryan Finley stepped in for the rest of the game. He was immediately pummeled by the Dolphins’ defensive line and secondary when Nik Needham came up with the Fins’ second interception of the day.
It was a game to remember, primarily because of a brawl that Brian Flores himself instigated and ended with four players ejected. After an early hit by Mike Thomas on Jakeem Grant, who was violently laid out while returning a punt, Flores had to be physically restrained by his own players, which then resulted in a benches-clearing brawl. Devante Parker and Mack Hollins were both ejected for the Dolphins after exchanging blows with Shawn Williams and William Jackson III. Surprisingly, Grant returned to the game just a few plays later.
The biggest takeaways from this game are the sheer grit of this team, which bounced back after an incredibly disappointing first half performance (something you could never say about the Dolphins before), and the unity in the locker room. Multiple players were quoted calling the team “a family,” and insisting that they stand up for their teammates.
The Heat might not have a monopoly on “culture” in Miami anymore, thanks to Brian Flores.