CINCINNATI — Not only was the record-setting crowd of 67,650 fans at Paycor Stadium decked out in all-white gear for the “White Tiger White Out” for Thursday Night Football, but the Bengals defense is playing “White Hot” right now.
Miami’s high-powered offense (ranked eighth in the NFL going into the game) came into the Jungle with one of the best wide-receiver duos in the league.
Dolphins receivers Tyreek Hill (ranked No. 2) and Jaylen Waddle (ranked No. 3) were held scoreless and under 200 yards combined by the Bengals’ secondary.
Safety Von Bell added insult to defeat with a career-high two interceptions on the night.
The Bengals’ defense has not allowed a second-half touchdown in four games, and has surrendered only one TD in the last 11 quarters.
“I’ll put our defense up against anybody. I’ll go that far with it,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said, after the team’s 27-15 win over Miami on Thursday night.
The two picks by Bell came on the heals of last week’s win over the New York Jets when the defense forced four turnovers.
“Von’s picks were big,” Taylor added. “It flipped the whole field there. He probably picked that ball off at the 15 or 10, so if he stays down where they touch him, that’s a field position you’re dealing with right there. He did a great job.”
Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard said he feels his unit plays very well together.
“It’s the people you have on your defense that matters, not so much the play calls,” he said. “This is a great group. When something goes wrong no one points the finger.”
On Thursday, the “Who Dey” defense had eight of 10 stops on third down, which included a crucial play by linebacker Logan Wilson, who stuffed Chase Edmonds on a third-and-inches to force a Miami punt.
“That third-and-one play by Logan was such a big stop,” Taylor said. “That’s Logan. Those two guys, (Bell and Wilson) they came up big when their number was called.”
One the next drive after Wilson’s stop, Cincinnati’s Evan McPherson nailed a 57-yard field goal to boost the lead to 20-15.
This was the third field goal over 50 yards from “Money” McPherson this season.
Solid defensive plays often open the doors for offensive production.
After Cincinnati defensive lineman Josh Tupuo knocked Miami’s quarterback Tua Tagovailoa out of the game late in the second quarter, Joe Burrow went to work.
Joey-Franchise connected with Tee Higgins on a 59-yard TD pass to boost the lead 14-6.
Bengals linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither also had a monumental play in the second quarter.
The Dolphins were driving and had the ball at the Cincinnati 30-yard line.
Waddle came across the middle on a 2nd-down-and-10 play, caught a Tagovailoa pass, and had green turf in front of him.
But Davis-Gaither knocked the ball out, and Miami instead settled for a field goal.
Bates also kept an eye on Waddle, who was limping throughout the game with a groin strain.
That freed him up some to help Bell with coverage.
“When you have two fast and dynamic guys like that (Hill and Waddle) you have to keep a shell,” Bates said. “You can’t play single-high.”
He went on to say that the defense is clicking on all cylinders right now.
“In this secondary, you’ve got a bunch of guys that love each other like brothers and it’s a real cool experience to see Everybody get better,” Bates said.
Cornerback Eli Apple played Hill well, and did not relinquish the deep threat.
Overall, Cincinnati’s defense held the explosive Miami offense to 293 yards passing and only 85 yards rushing — and had two interceptions.
It’s taken a few games to get the offense moving in the right direction.
Burrow had 287 yards in the air and two TD, while the ground game sputtered with 67 yards.
They have won back-to-back games, and now have a few days to rest, until the team goes to Baltimore on Oct. 9.
We’ve all heard about the Bengals’ exciting offense, especially after last season’s Super Bowl run.
But the defense is solid — and that will be the key to Cincinnati making a run to Arizona this year.
Reach Del Duduit via email at [email protected].