The Dolphins played inspired football for three quarters despite being short-handed, but they couldn’t hold off the Cincinnati Bengals.
Cincinnati scored 24 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to defeat the Dolphins 27-17 at Paul Brown Stadium.
Randy Bullock kicked a 20-yard field goal with 3:30 remaining to give Cincinnati the lead before rookie defensive end Sam Hubbard scored on a 19-yard fumble return, the second touchdown by a Bengals defensive lineman in that forgettable fourth quarter.
The Dolphins led 17-0 in the third quarter and took a 17-3 lead into the fourth.
They built their lead thanks to a 28-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill to running back Kenyan Drake and a 71-yard punt return by Jakeem Grant, who became the first player in franchise history with a punt return and a kickoff for touchdowns in the same season.
Grant was sidelined for a period of time in the first half after being injured on the opening kickoff, but he didn’t show any ill effects on his punt return when he cut to the right and tightroped the right sideline after getting around the Cincinnati coverage team. Grant initially was ruled out of bounds at the 2-yard line, but the call was corrected after a replay review.
The Dolphins led 14-0 at the half, thanks mostly to some big plays on special teams and a key interception.
With the Dolphins leading 7-0, Vincent Taylor blocked a 37-yard field goal attempt to preserve that margin.
The Dolphins turned back a Cincinnati scoring threat on the Bengals’ first possession when safety Reshad Jones, back in the lineup after missing two games, got his hand on a pass intended for A.J. Green and linebacker Kiko Alonso picked off the deflection.
It was the 10th interception of the season for the Dolphins, who had nine all of 2017.
The Dolphins opened the scoring with an impressive 11-play, 95-yard drive that ended with Tannehill’s touchdown pass to Drake. The Dolphins converted two third-down situations on the drive and also overcame a first-and-20 situation.
The big plays on defense weren’t limited to Alonso’s interception, however, because defensive ends Cameron Malveaux and Robert Quinn, defensive tackle Davon Godchaux and rookie safety Minkah Fitzpatrick all had tackles for loss. Fitzpatrick’s tackle of Tyler Boyd on a wide receiver screen on third-and-2 from the Cincinnati 25-yard line forced the punt that Grant returned for a touchdown.
Cincinnati’s 24 points in the fourth quarter included defensive touchdowns by Michael Johnson and Hubbard.
Cincinnati’s comeback began with a 51-yard field goal by Bullock after rookie linebacker Jerome Baker’s second sack of the game on third down. Baker became the first Dolphins rookie with two sacks in one game since 2012 when Olivier Vernon did it.
After the Dolphins went three-and-out, Cincinnati drove 71 yards for a touchdown, an 18-yard pass from quarterback Andy Dalton to running back Joe Mixon on the first play of the fourth quarter when Dalton threw the ball while defensive end Charles Harris was hanging on to his legs.
Cincinnati tied the score on the next drive when Johnson scored after his initial pressure forced a hurried throw by Tannehill, and the ball ricocheted off Dolphins tight end Durham Smythe and back toward the offensive backfield.
The Dolphins played without Cameron Wake, Bobby McCain, A.J. Derby, DeVante Parker and Andre Branch. Left tackle Laremy Tunsil left the game in the second half.
The Dolphins (3-2) return to Hard Rock Stadium next Sunday when they face the Chicago Bears.