CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati offense clicked while the defense stiffened in the Bengals’ 27-15 win over previously-unbeaten Miami — in front of a record crowd at Paycor Stadium on Thursday Night Football.
Bengals safety Von Bell secured the win with 3:17 to go in the fourth with his second interception of the night — which set up a Joe Burrow TD flip to tight end Hayden Hurst with 1:56 to play to add to the lead.
Miami (3-1) was on the move, and trailed the Bengals (2-2) by five points, when Bell picked off backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s pass near the goal line.
He returned the ball 46 yards to set up the TD.
Miami’s Tyreek Hill had beaten cornerback Chidobe Awuzie, and Bridgewater lofted a pass when Bell stepped in to make his second theft for the Bengals.
“We’ve got the best safety tandem in the league,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said after the game. “I’ll put our secondary against anybody. I’ll put our defense up against anybody. I’ll go that far with it.”
Bell said after the game that he and safety Jessie Bates stepped up — and held the explosive Dolphins receiving duo of Jaylen Waddle and Hill at bay.
“Me and Jessie just have great communication. Pre-snap and post-snap,” he said. “Knowing where their guys at. Just having depth and playing off one-another.”
Hill finished the game with 10 catches for 160 yards, but Waddle was limited to two grabs for 39 yards and no touchdowns.
“When you’ve got two fast, dynamic guys like that (Hill and Waddle) you have to keep a shell and you can’t play single-high,” Bates said. “Besides, on third down when we got stops.”
The Bengals defense won eight of 10 third-down matchups.
But the big play was when Cincinnati linebacker Logan Wilson plugged Dolphins running back Chase Edmonds on a third-and-inches and forced Miami to punt.
On the next drive, Cincinnati kicker Evan McPherson nailed a 57-yard field goal to boost the lead to 20-15.
“I was going to shoot the ‘B’ gap on the right,” Wilson said. “That was my gap responsibility. As the tight end motioned over, my gap switched, so I knew they had to go into the gap. I just shot my shot and made the play.”
Burrow finished the game with 287 yards in the air with two TDs, and completed 20 of 31 attempts on the night.
The Bengals now stand at .500 and have a two-game winning streak.
“I know the guys we have in the locker room,” Burrow said. “We just got two wins, but it’s a long season. We got a long way to go. It doesn’t mean anything if we lose the next 13 games. We’ll enjoy this win and enjoy the long weekend and come back ready to play.”
Tee Higgins had a big night for Cincinnati with seven catches for 124 yards and one TD, while Ja’Marr Chase had four catches for 81 yards — and Hurst added three snags for 27 yards and a touchdown.
Miami not only suffered its first loss of the season, but lost QB Tua Tagovailoa late in the second quarter, when he was sacked by Bengals defensive lineman Josh Tupuo.
On the play, Tagovailoa slammed his head against the turf and his fingers went into a fencing position, which signals head trauma.
Last week, he was allowed to come back into the game against Buffalo — after he suffered a head injury.
Tagovailoa was carted off Paycor Field and taken to a trauma unit at the University of Cincinnati Hospital for evaluation.
He was discharged and went back to Miami with the team.
The NFL has launched an investigation to see if concussion protocols were followed by the Dolphins.
“That was an emotional moment that is not part of the deal anyone signs up for, even though you know it’s a possibility, “Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said. “To have something where you have to get taken off on a stretcher.”
Tagovailoa left the game after he completed eight of 14 passes for 110 yards and one interception.
Bridgewater came in and threw for 193 yards, one TD and one INT and completed 14 of 23 attempts.
Thursday night’s “White-Out White-Tiger” crowd of 67,650 set an attendance record.
“These primetime games are special,” Taylor said. “We have a tremendous fan base. I love them to death. Where else would you rather be than in Cincinnati, Ohio?”
The Bengals travel to Baltimore on Oct. 9.