Dolphins-Bengals Have a Fascinating History Head-to-Head in Prime Time

by Mike Ferguson
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Photo courtesy of Miami Dolphins

The first prime time matchup of the season for both the reigning AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals and Miami Dolphins will come against one another to close the month of September.

Miami will be at Paul Brown Stadium for a Thursday night showdown on Sept. 29. Last season, Cincinnati made an improbable run to the Super Bowl before coming up short against the Los Angeles Rams, 23-20. Now under first-year head coach Mike McDaniel, the Dolphins are coming off of consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 2002 and 2003.

The quarterback matchup between Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow and Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa will also garner headlines. The two competed against one another in the SEC at LSU and Alabama, respectively, and each were intricate parts of national championship teams.

Burrow and Tagovailoa were also each selected in the 2020 NFL Draft. Burrow was the top selection by Cincinnati. Tagovailoa went fifth overall to the Dolphins.

While that will garner the headlines, the teams actually have a pretty intriguing history against one another in prime time contests. Here’s a look back at some of the notable moments:

Csonka’s Last 100-Yard Rushing Game (Dec. 2, 1974)

One of three Miami Dolphins to have his jersey number retired, it’s been more than four decades since fullback Larry Csonka played his last game for the franchise. Still, he remains the Dolphins’ all-time leading rusher. His final 100-yard rushing game — at least in the regular season — came on Monday Night Football against Cincinnati. In the old Orange Bowl, Csonka rushed for 123 yards on 24 carries in a 24-3 win. Csonka did not find the end zone in the win. He would eclipse the century mark in the infamous playoff loss to the Oakland Raiders to end the season. Csonka would leave Miami for the World League following the season. He returned to the Dolphins for his final NFL season in 1979 but never rushed for 100 yards in a game again.

Only Shutout in Series (Oct. 9, 1978)

The Dolphins and Bengals have met 25 times, but the only shutout in the series came on a Monday night at the Orange Bowl in 1978. In a 21-0 win for the Dolphins, Miami held Cincinnati to 247 total yards and forced five turnovers. Don Strock threw two touchdowns in the win. Bob Baumhower also returned a fumble for a score. It marked the first time that Cincinnati had been shut out in eight years.

Marino’s First MNF Start (Nov. 28, 1983)


Dan Marino’s first NFL appearance came on a Monday night as he threw two touchdowns in relief in a 27-14 loss to the Los Angeles Raiders early in 1983. His first Monday night start, however, was later in the season at the Orange Bowl against the Bengals. In a 38-14 victory for the Dolphins, Marino threw for 217 yards and three touchdowns, including two to Mark Duper. Ken Anderson had a big statistical night for Cincinnati with 342 yards passing but he was intercepted twice.

Bryan Cox vs. the Bengals (Dec. 9, 1991)

Tempers flared a bit in the last contest between the teams in 2020, but that was nothing compared to the 1991 Monday night contest at Joe Robbie Stadium. On a kickoff that went for a touchback late in the third quarter, Miami linebacker Bryan Cox took exception to a cheap shot laid on Dolphins kicker Pete Soyanovich by Cincinnati’s Alex Gordan. The shot left Stoyanovich shaken and Cox made his way to the Cincinnati bench to challenge Gordan and the rest of the Bengals to a fight. Cox was assessed a 15-yard penalty but he also managed to fire the Dolphins up as they scored the final 17 points in a 37-13 rout. Marino passed for 281 yards and three touchdowns, including two to Mark Clayton, in the win.

The Shula Bowl (Oct. 2, 1994)


The first-ever head coaching matchup of a father and son came on a Sunday night at Riverfront Stadium in 1994. Legendary Don Shula led his Dolphins against Cincinnati, who was led by first-year head coach Dave Shula. The two had faced one another before but never as head coaches. Fired up for the younger Shula, Cincinnati scored first but Miami answered with the final 23 points in a 23-7 victory. Dan Marino threw two touchdown passes in the win. Miami would beat Cincinnati again the following season at Riverfront Stadium in a 26-23 thriller. Dave Shula would be fired after going 19-52 in more than four seasons with the Bengals.

A Reversal of Franchise Fortunes (Sept. 19, 2004)


There was nothing overly significant about the Week 2 matchup between Miami and Cincinnati, but one could argue that it showcased a reversal of fortunes. Under second-year head coach Marvin Lewis, the Bengals were coming off their first non-losing season since 1996. Miami, on the other hand, was trying to avoid its first 0-2 start since 1988. The Dolphins trailed 13-3 entering the fourth quarter in Cincinnati, but drew even before Shayne Graham kicked the 39-yard field goal to lift Cincinnati to a 16-13 win. Miami would finish just 4-12 and go on to have losing seasons in seven of its next nine seasons after going without one for 16 years. The Bengals, on the other hand, would go without a losing season from 2003 to 2006 after suffering through eight straight.

An Overtime Safety Wins It (Oct. 31, 2013)

The most bizarre finish between the Dolphins and Bengals fittingly came on Halloween. In a pivotal midseason Thursday night showdown in 2013, Miami won in a fashion not seen in nine years — on an overtime safety. After Cincinnati scored 17 straight points to take the lead, the Dolphins forced overtime on a 44-yard field goal from Caleb Sturgis with just 14 seconds remaining. Cincinnati found itself backed up inside its own 10-yard-line in overtime when quarterback Andy Dalton dropped back into the end zone. Dalton was sacked by Miami’s Cameron Wake, giving the Dolphins a safety and an improbable 22-20 home victory.

A Rush of Color (Sept. 29, 2016)

Much like the 2004 contest, the 2016 game to conclude September was hardly of significant historical value. It did provide one thing, however — ugly uniforms. The NFL had introduced “Color Rush” uniforms for Thursday night games in 2016. Miami sported an all-orange creamsicle look while the Bengals went all white.

As for the game itself, it wasn’t much prettier as Cincinnati won at home, 22-7. Mike Nugent kicked five field goals in the win. A 74-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill to Kenny Stills accounted for all the scoring for Miami.

Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.

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