CINCINNATI -- The Bengals had to have Thursday night’s game.
Starting 1-3 with road games at Dallas and New England would have been a disaster.
It wasn’t a work of art, but the Bengals got it done. They beat the Miami Dolphins 22-7 Thursday at Paul Brown Stadium and evened their record at 2-2. Any time a team settles for field goals five times, it's not a good sign, but the defense was good enough to allow the Bengals to overcome their continued Red Zone woes.
The Bengals have 10 days to figure out their offense, and tight end Tyler Eifert has 10 more days to get well.
Again, it wasn’t pretty, but it beat the alternative. A loss would have been an absolute disaster.
“We finished this month .500," left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. "We’ve got to have one of those months where we get on streak. We’ve got to do that going forward."
“This month we got out of it without it being a negative. But the reality is we’re nowhere near where he need to be to have the kind of season we want.”
A lot of the blame for the Red Zone struggles might rest on the absence of tight end Tyler Eifert.
“Nothing is that simple," coach Marvin Lewis said. “One person doesn’t make anything that simple. We need to do better. We had tipped ball, a bad snap (tonight)."
“We’ve got to eliminate mistakes in the Red Zone," Whitworth said. “For whatever reason, every time we get in scoring position, we have a little hiccup. We’re moving the ball well, but we have a hiccup and don’t get seven out of it. This game could have easily been 40-something-to-7 game."
Here are nine takeaways from the game:
1. Green zone
A.J. Green asserted himself on the Bengals' first touchdown drive.
He got himself in position like a power forward going for a rebound against Xavien Howard for a 51-yard catch to put them in position to score.
“I saw the ball and made a play," Green said. “He was trying to grab my arm and I was trying to grip the ball. I got the job done.”
Then, on a seven-yard TD, Green simply shredded Tony Lippert and walked into the end zone.
“Times when he got single coverage, he was able to make plays,” quarterback Andy Dalton said. “You can’t double him every single snap.”
Green had 77 yards on the drive -- the same number of yards he had Sunday against the Denver Broncos. Green finished with 10 catches for 173 yards and the touchdown.
The Dolphins played quite a bit of one-on-one with him. Obviously a mistake.
“Part of it was the game plan and we had the looks for it,” Dalton said. “That was big for us. Anytime we got one-on-one, he was able to make the play. It helped us win for sure."
2. Big drop
Tight end C.J. Uzomah dropped a pass that would have kept him alive in the second quarter. It was Uzomah’s third drop in two games.
3. Blown coverage?
Kenny Stills was about as open as you can be on 74-yard touchdown pass that gave the Dolphins a 7-3 lead. The Dolphins managed only 28 yards passing through the next two quarters, however.
4. Big sack
Carlos Dunlap sacked Ryan Tannehill and forced a fumble with 2:14 left in the half.
That fumble was basically responsible for the a Bengals’ field goal that made it 16-7.
5. Third degree
The Dolphins were 0-for-5 on third down in the first half.
6. No drama
Once again, the Bengals ended speculation about tight end Tyler Eifert before it started. Eifert was among the inactives.
7. Burfict back
Linebacker Vontaze Burfict was active and started. It was Burfict’s first action this year. He was suspended the first three games for a head-to-head hit on Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown in the Wild Card game last year.
"I felt I played pretty well," Burfict said. "Towards the end of the game, I felt my wind catching up with me. It was getting better and better."
8. Another big sack
The Dolphins were driving on the first possession of the second half when Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson sacked Tannehill, ending the drive.
9. Red zone failure
The Bengals had a chance to put the game away with their first drive of the second half. But after getting a first-and-goal at the 2, they could not punch it in.
Two runs netted minus-2 yards. A third down pass to Tyler Boyd went off his hands. The Bengals came in 29th in the NFL in Red Zone touchdown conversion percentage.
"We did a good job of taking care of the ball," Lewis said. "But we need to do better on third down."