Sam Hubbard had missed on his attempt to get Ryan Tannehill.
Next thing he knew, the ball was flying right toward him and there was nobody between him and the end zone.
The rookie had an improbably easy time completing Cincinnati’s big comeback.
Michael Johnson returned an interception for the tying score, and Hubbard went 19 yards with a fumble for the clinching touchdown Sunday, rallying the Bengals from a 17-point deficit to a 27-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins.
Not even those involved could explain it.
“I really don’t know what happened,” Hubbard said. “I just saw the ball and it stuck. Thank God I was able to hold onto it and waddle into the end zone.”
With Joe Mixon back from knee surgery and the defense making more game-turning plays in the fourth quarter, Cincinnati (4-1) extended its best start since its 2015 playoff season. This one came a week after A.J. Green caught a winning touchdown pass in Atlanta with 7 seconds left.
“These NFL games are crazy, man,” Green said. “It’s an up-and-down roller coaster ride. You ride it and hope you come out on top.”
The Dolphins (3-2) had plenty of blame to go around for their meltdown, helping the Bengals score those 27 consecutive points with a variety of mistakes — the biggest ones by their quarterback.
Andy Dalton threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Mixon to start the comeback, completing a drive that was extended by T.J. McDonald’s personal foul on a third-down incompletion. Mixon returned after missing two games following knee surgery and ran for 93 yards in addition to catching three passes.
From there, the Dolphins fell apart.
“When I got the touchdown, the momentum shifted,” Mixon said. “After that, you started seeing sack after sack, pick after pick, touchdown after touchdown. It was crazy, man.”
The Bengals’ young defense sealed wins over Indianapolis and Baltimore with late turnovers. Two freaky bounces changed this one in the fourth quarter.
Under pressure, Tannehill decided to throw the ball at the feet of tight end Durham Smythe rather than take a sack. Tannehill was hit as he released the ball, which caromed off Smythe’s helmet and went directly to Johnson, who ran 22 yards untouched for the tying score .
After Randy Bullock’s 20-yard field goal gave the Bengals their first lead at 20-17, Tannehill was hit again by Carlos Dunlap and the ball flew to Hubbard, who ran untouched 19 yards to the end zone with 2:37 left to clinch it.
“I didn’t know what happened,” said Tannehill, who was 20 of 35 for 185 yards with three turnovers. “I heard the crowd cheer and everyone run away from me, so I knew something bad happened.”
The Dolphins started the season 3-0, but have gotten flattened by New England and shocked by the Bengals in the past two weeks.
Miami made the big plays early, but couldn’t close it out with a 17-0 lead. Kiko Alonso picked off Dalton’s tipped pass near the end zone to stop Cincinnati’s opening drive, Vincent Taylor blocked a Bengals field goal attempt, and Jakeem Grant returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown with 23 seconds left in the first half.
Tannehill put together a 95-yard drive for the other touchdown, culminating with his 22-yard pass to running back Kenyan Drake. Tannehill was 20 of 35 for 185 yards.
AT THE TOP
Green had six catches for 112 yards, moving ahead of Chad Johnson for the club record with his 32nd career 100-yard game.
The Bengals hadn’t been shut out in an opening half and rallied to win since 2004, when they trailed Miami 3-0 at halftime and pulled it out 16-13. It was only the fourth time in franchise history that they scored 24 points in the fourth quarter and won — they also did it in 1972, 1978 and 2004.
Grant’s 70-yard punt return made him the first Dolphin to score on a reception, a kickoff return and a punt return in the same season. He had a 102-yard kickoff return against Tennessee in the season opener. Grant joins Dante Hall (2003) as the only NFL players with a 100-yard kickoff return, a 70-yard punt return and a 50-yard TD catch in the same season. The last NFL player with a touchdown of all three varieties was the Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill in 2016.
Dalton’s pass for Green was tipped and intercepted by linebacker Kiko Alonso, ending the Bengals’ opening drive and their streak of scoring on their past 34 trips inside the 20-yard line. It was the longest active streak in the NFL.
Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict returned from his latest NFL suspension and had seven tackles, second on the team.
Dolphins: LT Laremy Tunsil left with a concussion during the Bengals’ fourth-quarter comeback, further depleting the Dolphins’ offensive line.
Bengals: LB Preston Brown walked off the field in the second quarter after getting his right ankle checked but returned.
Dolphins host the Bears next Sunday.
Bengals host the Steelers next Sunday.
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