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CINCINNATI -- Chicken Little doesn't have a locker inside Paul Brown Stadium.

At least, according to two Cincinnati Bengals veterans he doesn't.

[+] EnlargeAndy Dalton
AP Photo/AJ MastDespite a dismal-seeming record of 3-2-1, Andy Dalton and the Bengals still have 10 games to play.
The sky isn't falling inside the Bengals' locker room, team stalwarts Andrew Whitworth and Domata Peko said Monday, even though they are well aware that outside the comforts of their four walls, the perception is that it is.

"It's not the end of the world, guys," Peko said, smiling as he looked directly into a local news camera after answering a series of questions about the Bengals' 27-0 loss at Indianapolis on Sunday. "We'll be all right."

Peko was sending a message to panicked Bengals fans nervous about what the team's two-loss, one-tie showing the past three weeks might portend.

"I told a lot of guys, 'come on, we'll be all right,'" Peko said. "We've got 10 games left. Let's just take it one game at a time."

Whitworth encouraged his teammates to remain patient.

"If you are playing NFL football and you are panicking, then you are not going to be in this league for very long," Whitworth said. "You have an opportunity every week in the NFL to win. That's been proven more often this year than any. One place is not safe for the whole year."

As much as Whitworth hopes words like those may prove comforting to his teammates, for most Bengals fans they don't change the fact the team is now 3-2-1 after bolting out to a 3-0 start that had NFL analysts and fans alike believing this was the year the Bengals finally made it back to the Super Bowl. After 26 years, they would finally get their third chance to win the Lombardi Trophy, many believed.

But an arrhythmic, out-of-sync offense, a tired, inconsistent defense, and one missed field goal have combined to make the Bengals look like a shell of their former selves, and to put Who Dey Nation on alert. The masses weren't happy with Sunday's no-show performance by the offense, and they are roiling about what could be next this weekend when the Bengals host the Ravens.

Baltimore, 5-1 since losing to the Bengals in the season opener at M&T Bank Stadium, currently sits atop the AFC North. A win and the Bengals can reclaim their top spot, as well as control any possible late-season tiebreakers by sweeping the Ravens.

"As high as you were through the first three games and as low as you are through these last three, you have to be ready the next week to have your opportunity," Whitworth said. "If you are not ready then you are going to miss it, and you won't be around for long. This team has to find ways to get ready for this next opportunity, this next run. That's all this league is about. It's about going on runs, it's about making plays. We need to be prepared to do that."

Mid- and late-season runs have played key roles in the Bengals' three straight playoff appearances the past three seasons. In 2011, they won five in a row in October and early November. In 2012, they bounced back from four consecutive losses to win four straight. They ended that season going on a 7-1 run across November and December. Last season, respective four-game and three-game winning streaks powered the 11-5 finish.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins (3-3) are getting another key addition to their roster this week. Former 2013 No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan completed his six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancement and substance abuse policies. He became eligible to return on Monday, although a roster move isn't expected until later in the week.

Joseph
Jordan
Per NFL rules, Miami's coaches haven’t seen or heard from Jordan since he began his suspension on Aug. 29, one day after the Dolphins' preseason finale against the St. Louis Rams. Almost seven weeks have gone by, and the Dolphins will finally see Jordan back in practice on Tuesday.

“We’re going to have to get him on the field and start working him and see where he's at,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said. “It will be great to have him back. But we have to take it one day at a time.”

Jordan’s role on the team remains uncertain. He was slotted to be the No. 3 defensive end at the start of training camp behind starters Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon. But Jordan fell behind on the depth chart after the suspension and a lot has changed since.

Miami’s current No. 3 defensive end, Derrick Shelby, is third on the Dolphins with three sacks this season. Rookies such as Chris McCain and Terrence Fede have also flashed and earned playing time. Defensive end is arguably the deepest area of Miami's roster, which will make it tough for Jordan to immediately find a significant role.

The most important aspect of Jordan getting back on the field quickly is his health, which is unknown. But Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle is confident Jordan did the right things during his suspension.

“I envision that he will be in good shape,” Coyle said Monday. “He’s the type of athlete that can run all day. We’ve never had issues with him being out of shape. So I hope he comes back and he’s ready to go.”

Coyle, in some ways, is getting a new toy on defense near the midpoint of the season. Jordan is one of Miami’s best pure athletes, although he hasn't come close to reaching his potential in two seasons.

The Dolphins had high hopes for Jordan in 2014, but the suspension to start the year stunted his growth. Miami still has 10 games remaining and could use as much talent as possible to make a push for the playoffs in the second half of the season.

“If you have good players you find ways to utilize them,” Coyle said of Jordan. “He's certainly a talented guy.”
Our weekly attempt to expose and explore the gray area involved in officiating NFL games. Sunday suggestions welcome via Twitter (@SeifertESPN). For all Inside Slant posts, including the weekly Officiating Review, follow this link.

Play: No official review after the St. Louis Rams were ruled to have recovered their own fumble on the penultimate play of their 28-26 victory against the Seattle Seahawks.
Referee: Brad Allen
Analysis: Rams running back Tre Mason fumbled after converting a game-clinching first down. Teammate and tight end Cory Harkey fell first on the ball, but a large pileup soon formed. Allen's crew ruled a recovery by the Rams, who then quickly lined up for a final kneel-down before replay official Jim Lapetina -- who has complete control over instant replay in the final two minutes -- could initiate a review.

This type of play became eligible for review this season under the so-called "NaVorro Bowman" example. (Bowman's apparent fumble recovery against the Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game was not reviewable at the time.) The NFL's official play-by-play credits Harkey for the recovery, but a replay broadcast before the Rams' final kneel-down made clear he lost control of the ball prior to the pileup. The ball was last seen underneath Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who told reporters he maintained possession under the pile and assumed he would be credited with a recovery that would have given the Seahawks' offense one final chance to win the game.

In the end, none of the angles shown on the Fox broadcast provided indisputable evidence of the recovery. NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino tweeted that he reviewed the call in New York and that there was "no evidence of who recovered the ball."

It doesn't appear that the outcome would have changed had Lapetina initiated a review, but watching the sequence of events live suggested the NFL was more fortunate in this case than it was efficient. Did Lapetina know in real time that there was no angle to support a credible review? I suppose it's possible. Still, I don't think many of us would have argued against a 60-second stoppage of play to evaluate a game-changing call at the end of a two-point game just to make sure.

[+] EnlargeLuke Kuechly
AP Photo/Mike RoemerPanthers linebacker Luke Kuechly was ejected for making contact with back judge Steve Freeman in Carolina's game in Green Bay.
Plays: Two linebackers, Erik Walden of the Indianapolis Colts and Luke Kuechly of the Carolina Panthers, were ejected for making contact with an official.
Referee: Gene Steratore for Walden and Jeff Triplette for Kuechly
Analysis: Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1(h) prohibits "unnecessary physical contact with a game official." It leads to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and a disqualification.

Walden's infraction occurred when umpire Bruce Stritesky was separating him from Cincinnati Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham. Walden used his right arm in what appeared an attempt to ward off Stritesky from pushing him away. The contact was gentle by football standards, but Stritesky immediately threw his flag.

Kuechly, meanwhile, had been at the bottom of a pile attempting to recover a fumble by the Green Bay Packers' Eddie Lacy. Packers tight end Richard Rodgers pulled Kuechly out of the pile, which appeared to anger Kuechly, and back judge Steve Freeman grabbed Kuechly from behind to prevent a confrontation.

Kuechly wriggled his left arm to free himself from Freeman, only afterward realizing it was an official rather than another player who was restraining him. Freeman, who appeared to take an arm to his face, immediately threw his flag.

The structure of the rule allows officials some leeway by including the word "unnecessary." It implies the existence and possible acceptance of inadvertent contact, which surely applies in Kuechly's instance. There didn't appear to be any intent to make contact with an official on his part, and either Freeman or Triplette should have let it go.

On the other hand, there is little doubt that Walden's contact was deliberate. Again, officials have some leeway. The contact in this case was hardly forceful. But delineating the power behind contact would seem to compromise the larger goal of demanding respect for officials. Walden certainly didn't get his money's worth, but the physical contact was in fact "unnecessary" and merited a penalty.

Play: San Francisco 49ers defender Dontae Johnson collided with umpire Mark Pellis on the goal line, opening up Denver Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders for a touchdown.
Referee: John Parry
Analysis: Many of you will recall the 2010 change that moved umpires from their traditional position behind linebackers to a safer, less-trafficked spot 12-15 yards deep in the offensive backfield. So why was Pellis standing on the "O" of the "BRONCOS" end zone lettering on third-and-goal? Because of an NFL rule exception, of course.

A few months after the initial rule change, the NFL circulated a memo that described several instances where the umpire would move back to his original spot. One of them was in cases like Sunday night's, when the offense is at or inside the 5-yard line. According to the memo, as reported by The New York Times, the league deemed it "useful for the umpire to be operating in close proximity to the line of scrimmage."

The exceptions were developed after complaints came from teams that ran no-huddle offenses, particularly the Colts, led at the time by Peyton Manning. Theoretically, getting the umpire closer to the line of scrimmage would allow teams to snap the ball more quickly.

Four years later, the re-positioning helped another Manning-led team. As the Broncos lined up at the 3-yard line, Pellis stood 8 yards away in the defensive backfield. He took two steps forward at the snap, then tried to backpedal -- apparently trying to move out of Sanders' way -- but slipped.

Sanders stayed upright and continued running, but Johnson collided with Pellis and toppled to the ground. The 49ers had no recourse; the umpire is part of the field, and falling over him is no different than slipping on a divot. The only call was to signal a Broncos touchdown.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Cincinnati Bengals now find themselves at a crossroads.

This is the time when a group like theirs is at its most fragile. It's when fingers might start getting pointed as answers are sought and sources of blame desired.

Dark days like the ones the Bengals are in also could be when players start mentally checking out, focusing instead on ways they can just get through what has started shaping up to be a more difficult season than any of them could have anticipated.

[+] EnlargeAndy Dalton
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsThe Bengals' offense had a tough time finding a rhythm in Sunday's loss to the Colts.
This is the time when a team can begin fracturing and completely break apart.

But according to the few Bengals who spoke to reporters following Sunday afternoon's 27-0 road shutout at the hands of the Colts, there is no disaster in Cincinnati. There are no reasons to believe the team will start to fold, they said.

"I wouldn't say 'crisis,'" defensive end Carlos Dunlap said when asked if the team was beginning to feel that way following three straight winless performances. "We still can be on top of our division if we beat Baltimore. That's the biggest goal in mind right now, beside playing the way we had been playing."

If the Ravens lose next week, they'll fall to 2-2 in the division, while the Bengals would be 2-0.

Until recently, the Bengals had been playing well.

Cincinnati went 3-0 to start the year and looked like a true Super Bowl contender. It had weathered the storm of a few injuries, but seemed poised to still go on a long run.

And then came the bye.

Since the Bengals' Week 4 bye, they haven't been the same. They've gone 0-2-1 and have been outplayed both offensively and defensively. They haven't looked remotely close to being in the rhythm they were in when the season began. Instead, they look disjointed. The injuries that have amassed in recent weeks appear to be having a very real impact, regardless of what some players may say.

Despite all that, though, the Bengals contend their focus -- even on a day when a loss like this "hurts," as coach Marvin Lewis said -- is on next Sunday's game at home against Baltimore. It's only the Bengals' second division game of the year, and their last against the Ravens following the season-opening 23-16 win in the first week of September.

"We've got to circle the wagons, that's the thing," Lewis said. "We are who we are. We've got what we've got. We've got to get together and we've got to figure out a way to continue to ride and go back and be a fundamentally sound, attacking football team again and get on it and go. This one's over, we've got to put it behind us. We'll learn a lot from this football game and it will be something that will be something that will help us grow."

Quarterback Andy Dalton said it's on the leaders of the team to ensure the team's focus remains on the end goals: a division championship and a Super Bowl trophy.

"We are definitely going to do whatever it takes to get that point across," Dalton said. "This team is too talented and we have so much going for us. We can't waste any opportunities. It will be talked about this week. There will be plenty of room for improvement, so we just have to watch the tape and do whatever we can to correct it and move on."
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton dropped back 42 times Sunday afternoon against the Indianapolis Colts' aggressive, feisty and relentless pressure-focused defense.

[+] EnlargeAndy Dalton
AP Photo/AJ MastAndy Dalton and the Bengals only notched one of 13 third downs against Indianapolis.
On those 42 dropbacks, he attempted 38 passes.

Of those attempts, nine of the balls that left Dalton's right hand were either batted down at the line of scrimmage or broken up downfield by a member of the Colts' secondary.

More than half those deflected passes came on third downs, scenarios Cincinnati successfully converted just once out of 13 tries. Far too often those failed third downs left Dalton and the Bengals with the same empty feeling. Far too often Dalton, the Bengals' newly paid multimillion-dollar quarterback, walked back to the sideline with a puzzled look on his face.

It was a look that suggested confusion and bewilderment; two emotions that had seldom been evident this season from any player in offensive coordinator Hue Jackson's scheme.

"We got beat in every part of it offensively," Dalton said. "We were terrible on third down and so you put that together and you get a game like we had [Sunday].

"We felt like we had a good plan coming in, but at the end of the day, you have to execute it."

The Bengals had trouble executing for myriad reasons, chief among them: the constant attack the offensive line received. The unit was unable to prevent a barrage of pressures from a Colts' defense that has thrived with that style of play. Entering Sunday's game, Indianapolis had sent five or more pass-rushers on 86 plays this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That's 20 plays more than the league average of 66 in which defenses have sent five or more players to rush quarterbacks.

Along with the Colts' pressure, Cincinnati's receivers weren't able to get open quickly enough for Dalton to try to find them without forcing passes. When his passes weren't getting deflected, they often were shorter screens, still thrown with an Indianapolis defender lurking nearby. How short were Dalton's passes? Per passing attempt, the Bengals averaged 3.3 yards.

"They played man-to-man and they were able to disrupt us in our routes and disrupt the timing of everything," Mohamed Sanu said. "They weren't very handsy or anything. They just played really well in coverage."

The five pass break-ups the Colts had on third down were a strong indication of just how tight of coverage they were playing. When it mattered most, they weren't allowing the Bengals to get anything.

By converting only one of 13 third downs, the Bengals put their defense in a bind, too. Unable to sustain drives, Cincinnati's offense contributed to its defense being on the field for almost 40 minutes of the 60-minute game. Again, the team wasn't in sync.

Sanu believed the Bengals' third-down woes actually started before the offense even got in those situations. Difficulty generating yards on first and second down put the Bengals in too many third-and-long situations, he said. On 10 of Cincinnati's 13 third downs, the Bengals needed more than six yards to get a first down.

"It's kind of tough when you don't get positive yards on first down. We can't start that way," Sanu said. "You've got to get positive yards to stay within our game plan and be able to execute it."


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CHICAGO -- So this is what Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill looks like at his absolute best.

Miami's 27-14 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday finally showed what a consistent, dominant Tannehill looks like under center. Better yet for the Dolphins, it happened over four full quarters -- not the usual one good half or quarter Tannehill has provided this season.

How locked in was the third-year quarterback? On his second touchdown pass of the day, the Bears took away his first and second options. So Tannehill went to his third progression -- which he rarely does successfully -- to complete a 10-yard touchdown to Mike Wallace.

Wallace said after the game that the Dolphins (3-3) couldn't even hit that play in practice. But with Tannehill in the zone, they made it look easy when it mattered most, giving Miami a lead it never relinquished.

"I was the last read on the play," Wallace said. "On that play in practice, I've been working that [route] probably since I was in Pittsburgh and never got the ball, not one time, on that play. That was the first time.

[+] EnlargeRyan Tannehill
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastQB Ryan Tannehill capitalized on short passes to lift the Dolphins over Chicago in Week 7.
"You could fall asleep on that play, but you gotta stay focused. Honestly, I got that same play on Tuesday or Wednesday in practice and he threw it. We didn't connect on it, and I told him I will be better on it the next time. Tonight was our next time, and we were better."

There have been games when Tannehill was good, but never the best player on the field. That changed in Chicago. Afterward, backup quarterback Matt Moore got a chuckle out of Tannehill by telling him, "You inspire me."

Tannehill's day started with 14 straight completions, and he finished with 277 yards and two touchdown passes. He posted a career-high 123.6 passer rating and didn't have his first incompletion until 54 seconds left in the first half.

First-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor is getting a better grasp of his quarterback's capabilities. The Dolphins used a well-devised game plan that highlighted Tannehill's strengths: throwing short and intermediate passes. His longest completion was for 26 yards to backup tight end Dion Sims. Tannehill also used his athleticism by rolling out of the pocket on passing plays, rushing for 48 yards on six carries.

Dolphins tight end Charles Clay said Tannehill's confidence was at an all-time high, especially after getting hot early.

"It's hard to pinpoint, but it was just something about him," said Clay, who had four receptions and caught Tannehill's first touchdown pass. "It gave me confidence, and I'm sure it gave everybody else in the huddle confidence."

Tannehill said he has never completed 14 straight passes to start a game at any level. He did complete 14 straight between the second and third quarters this season against the Oakland Raiders, but this performance was from the start and more dominant.

On this day, if you were open, Tannehill easily identified it and made the right decisions. He completed 78.1 percent of his passes, and eight Dolphins players had at least two receptions.

"Everyone was getting open," Tannehill said. "It's fun to be able to spread the ball around like that."

Was this a one-game performance or a potential career turning point? That remains to be seen.

One of the biggest critiques of Tannehill is he rarely strings together strong games in back-to-back weeks. This season alone he has struggled from half to half. That is one of the major reasons Tannehill is just 18-20 as a starter and still trying to prove he is Miami's long-term solution.

But Sunday's lights-out performance at least provided a one-game snapshot that Tannehill is capable of dominating a game. He has good athleticism and can make most of the throws needed to thrive in the NFL, with the exception of a consistent deep ball.

After six games, it's clear the Dolphins will go only as far as Tannehill takes them this season.

"We're definitely playoff-caliber, and if he's playing like [Sunday], we could be Super Bowl-caliber, honestly," Wallace said. "But we got to put in the work every day. We know it's not going to just come to us. We have to keep grinding and stay focused."
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CHICAGO -- Outside the closed double doors of the Chicago Bears' locker room in the bowels of Soldier Field after the team’s 27-14 loss to the Miami Dolphins, loud yelling pierced the busy hallway, and a source later said the noise was Brandon Marshall calling out quarterback Jay Cutler.

Just down the hall at the team’s postgame news conference, Bears coach Marc Trestman and Cutler gave contradictory statements when asked why the team handed off to Matt Forte just twice in the first half.

[+] EnlargeCameron Wake and Jay Cutler
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastBears QB Jay Cutler had one interception and three fumbles (one lost) in Sunday's loss to the Dolphins.
Trestman said “We had some runs called,” but the Dolphins moved “into certain fronts that forced us to get out [of the runs].” Cutler said, “We had two runs called. ... It’s not like we had 12 [runs] called.”

The contradictory statements, slight locker room friction, and subsequent frustration from Marshall, not to mention guard Kyle Long criticizing the fans at Soldier Field, underscore the dysfunction seemingly taking hold of the Bears just a week after they blasted the Atlanta Falcons 27-13 on the road. Ultimately, the root of the problem on offense proved, as usual, to be turnovers. In each of the team’s four losses this season, Cutler committed multiple turnovers, leading to a total of 37 points for the opponent.

“Turnovers obviously hurt you,” Trestman said. “When you turn over the ball, you take yourself out of it. We had three turnovers today offensively, and that was after a bad start. If you look at the games, I think there [is] some reasonably good execution in terms of how utilizing our offense, particularly.”

But none of it means anything if you can’t protect the football. Heading into the game Sunday, the Bears averaged 423.3 yards of offense in their losses, but turned over the ball a total of nine times. Chicago turned over the ball three times against the Dolphins.

“Same mistakes, same mistakes, same mistakes,” Marshall said. “We’ve got to protect the football.”

Down 7-0 in the second quarter, Cutler’s pass intended for tight end Martellus Bennett sailed with Reshad Jones picking it off and returning it 50 yards to set up the Dolphins at the Chicago 23. Santonio Holmes ran a go route down the sideline, which was expected to draw away coverage from Bennett.

But Holmes wound up running free down the sideline, while two defenders covered Bennett as he watched Cutler’s pass sail over his head.

“We got squeezed from the outside. It was a little bit high,” Cutler said. “I think Marty saw the squeeze coming. I don’t even know if he saw it coming to be honest with you. They did a good job with coverage. They really did. They mixed it up, took a lot of the deep shots from us.”

Jones’ interception gave the Dolphins a short field to work with, and Ryan Tannehill would cap the 23-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace to give the visitors a 14-0 lead.

“After watching film all week, we saw [Cutler] was looking where he threw the ball,” Jones said. “He was always looking at his receivers and never looking off. I tried to take advantage of that, and it paid off.”

Miami received another short field when Cameron Wake sacked and stripped Cutler at the Chicago 16.

Four plays later, the Bears made the score 24-7 on a Caleb Sturgis field goal.

“You watched the game. What’s breaking down?” Forte asked. “Penalties and turnovers, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot.”

Trestman and Marshall called the offense’s performance “unacceptable” multiple times in their postgame remarks.

“You want me to say it again?” Marshall asked. “[A record of] 3-4 is unacceptable. It’s unacceptable. You don’t get a tomorrow in this league. We’re halfway through this season! It’s time.”
INDIANAPOLIS -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Cincinnati Bengals' 27-0 loss to the Indianapolis Colts:

Newman
Newman
Looking for the "next man up": One of the more common phrases you'll hear from players on a Marvin Lewis-coached team is "next man up." Whenever the Bengals have injuries, they make it their mission to make sure whoever comes in for downed starters keeps the team playing at the exact level it was before. But it's easy to assume that as more reserves hit the field, drop-offs will come. Veteran Terence Newman was one of many Bengals who rejected that assumption Sunday. "When someone goes out, somebody has to step up," he said. "It's an opportunity for them to show what they can do and display their talents. That's the way you have to look at it as a guy who goes in the football game. It's a chance to show what you can do. You've just got to shine in that moment." In addition to the several other injuries the Bengals had entering the game, they lost stars Vontaze Burfict and Leon Hall in the game.

"We are who we are": Lewis almost channeled his inner Dennis Green during his postgame news conference. But instead of saying the Colts were who he thought they were, Lewis said: "We are who we are. We got what we got and we got to get together, and we've got to figure out a way to continue to right it and go back and be fundamentally sound and become an attacking football again and get on it and go. This one's over. We've got to put it behind us."

Burfict teaches: Minutes after the shutout, Burfict was in the middle of a football conversation with backup linebacker Vincent Rey. The two, in postgame dress clothes, chatted in neighboring lockers. It appeared Burfict was doing what he often does: teaching. Once Burfict left the game, Rey received the helmet with the team's microphone, and he was the defender charged with making play calls. When healthy, Burfict is the team's regular playcaller.
CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall shoved Miami Dolphins cornerback Cortland Finnegan following the last offensive play in Miami's 27-14 victory.

Finnegan
The two emotional veterans have a history of confrontations from previous battles. It also didn't help that Marshall lost to his former team, which added to his frustration.

But when asked about their brief squabble, Finnegan shrugged it off in front of the media and quickly wanted to switch topics.

"I'm not sure," Finnegan said. "I know we won the game and that's all that matters."

Several of Finnegan's teammates nearby in the locker room began to laugh, as though Finnegan had much more to say about Marshall before the media arrived. Finnegan then smiled but refused to elaborate on the situation.

"It was just a good team victory," Finnegan said with a sly grin.

Sunday was a victory for Miami's little guys. Much was made of the height difference between Chicago's receivers Marshall (6-feet-4) and Alshon Jeffrey (6-3) against Miami corners Finnegan (5-10) and Brent Grimes (5-10).

Finnegan, in particular, was coming off a poor outing with several missed tackles and poor coverage in a loss to the Green Bay Packers. Finnegan said during the week he must play better or find a seat on the bench.

But the veteran corner responded with his best game of the season and a tough assignment against Marshall and Jeffrey. Finnegan finished with four tackles, a team-high four pass defenses and a forced fumble.

"It was huge," Finnegan said of bouncing back. "But I have the support of my team and my coaches, and that's big. ...The fact that you have all those intangibles with the young guys, coaches and Brent [Grimes] pushing you, it's helpful for everybody."
CHICAGO -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Miami Dolphins' 27-14 win over the Chicago Bears:

Wallace
Wallace
On the rebound: The Dolphins felt vindicated after their bounce-back performance Sunday evening. Many questioned if Miami would bounce back from last week's deflating, last-second loss to the Green Bay Packers. But the Dolphins put forth one of their most impressive games on both sides of the football, proving they have the talent to play with most teams. Now, the Dolphins must work on their consistency. "People just last week were telling us we were trash," receiver Mike Wallace said. "So we've got to keep our head up and stay focused, no matter good or bad."

Win for the little guys: Much was made of the size difference this week between Bears receivers Brandon Marshall (6-foot-4) and Alshon Jeffery (6-3) against Miami cornerbacks Brent Grimes (5-10) and Cortland Finnegan (5-10). But the corners won this matchup. Marshall and Jeffery combined for just eight receptions for 57 yards. Finnegan and Grimes were physical and covered well for most of the game. "You guys made a story of it," Finnegan said afterward. "But Brent said it earlier; we go against receivers who always are bigger than us. It's just one of those things."

Tannehill's wheels: Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is running the ball more and it's paying dividends. Head coach Joe Philbin praised Tannehill's wheels after the quarterback rushed for 48 yards on six carries. Tannehill made a long run of 30 yards that gave the Dolphins a lot of momentum. He now has a 30-yard run and a 40-yard run in back-to-back weeks. "He's done a very consistent job in it," Philbin said. "I think it's repetition, repetition, repetition. It paid off today a couple times."

NFL Nation Week 7 game balls

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
5:07
PM ET
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Rapid Reaction: Cincinnati Bengals

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
4:12
PM ET
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INDIANAPOLIS -- A few thoughts on the Cincinnati Bengals' 27-0 loss to the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium:

What it means: It has been a real Jekyll and Hyde type of season for a team that started off 2014 looking like it might be booking a trip to Arizona for the Super Bowl. After the promising 3-0 start that had some -- including myself -- ranking the Bengals the No. 1 team in the NFL, they have gone winless in their past three games. A pair of losses and a tie have made them look like a dramatically different team than the one that took the field at the beginning of the season. Aside from the changes in record, the most drastic changes for the Bengals have been in the form of defensive play and third-down play on offense. Injuries in recent weeks to key players also have ransacked the entire team, making it even more difficult for Cincinnati to establish fluid game plans. This was Cincinnati's first shutout loss since Week 17 of 2009.

Stock watch: The stock in the Bengals' offense took a nose dive this week. Although the Bengals had issues on that side of the ball two weeks ago when they mustered only 17 points in the 26-point loss at New England, those issues paled in comparison to what Cincinnati showed this week on the road in Indianapolis. After seemingly getting their offense back on track in last week's 37-37 overtime tie with Carolina, the Bengals had no answers for the Colts. They went 1-for-13 on third down and only twice advanced the ball past the 50-yard line. While the Bengals got the ball into goal-line territory on that drive, they couldn't move the ball into the end zone. With just one third-down conversion, they averaged just 3.9 plays per drive.

Time-of-possession losers: In addition to losing Sunday's game, the Bengals lost the time-of-possession battle. A large part of why they did was they couldn't get their offense to generate third-down conversions. Their defense was on the field for a whopping 39:43. They lost the time-of-possession margin by more than 19 minutes, the biggest margin they've had this season.

Game ball: There's no need to even entertain the thought of awarding a game ball to anyone who had anything to do with the offensive side of the ball in Sunday's game. Defensively, however, defensive end Carlos Dunlap and cornerback Adam Jones were among those who could have earned consideration. Both recovered fumbles in the game. Dunlap also had a sack, and Jones had two pass breakups. Still, the Bengals' game ball deserves to go to punter Kevin Huber, who had a career-high 11 punts. He averaged 50.7 yards with a long of 63. He also had three punts inside the 20 and would have had another had one of his gunners not slid into the end zone as he downed a ball near the 1. Instead, Huber ended up with his first touchback of the year.

What's next: Cincinnati's last two road trips haven't fared well. The Bengals have been outscored 70-17 in those games. Maybe they'll be able to put those problems behind them these next three weeks, as they start a three-game stretch of games at Paul Brown Stadium. Up next for the 3-2-1 Bengals is division rival Baltimore. The Bengals beat the Ravens 23-16 on the road in Week 1. It was their only win outside of Cincinnati this season. The Bengals also are hopeful to get receiver A.J. Green back from a toe injury next week.

Rapid Reaction: Miami Dolphins

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
3:51
PM ET
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CHICAGO -- A few thoughts on the Miami Dolphins' 27-14 win Sunday over the Chicago Bears.

What it means: The Dolphins continue their roller-coaster ride by picking up a key road victory and improving to 3-3. This was a complete performance on both sides of the ball. Miami cashed in on three red zone touchdowns and forced three turnovers on defense, bouncing back from a last-second loss in Week 6 to the Green Bay Packers. The Dolphins, who have yet to win two in a row, will try to work on their consistency.

Stock watch: Dolphins fans have been clamoring about the lack of fast starts. Miami finally got it going early by jumping out to a much-needed 14-0 halftime lead on the road. The offense moved the chains and had early touchdown catches by tight end Charles Clay and receiver Mike Wallace. The defense also picked off quarterback Jay Cutler and held the Bears scoreless in the first half. The second half wasn't as clean. The Dolphins allowed two touchdowns defensively and had a field goal blocked. However, Miami was good enough in the first half that it didn't matter.

Jones, Shelby make impact: The Dolphins received key contributions from two players who were recently suspended. Miami starting safety Reshad Jones had his best performance of the season in his second game back. He recorded seven tackles and a second-quarter interception to set up a Miami touchdown. Sunday also marked the first game back for Derrick Shelby, who missed one game after being arrested at a nightclub. He registered an early sack off the bench.

Game ball: Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill gets his second game ball of the season. Tannehill was locked in and threw for 277 yards and two touchdowns. He had a 123.6 passer rating. Tannehill produced a near-perfect first half by completing his first 14 passes. His first incompletion happened with 54 seconds left in the second quarter.

What's next: The Dolphins will continue their stretch away from Miami with another road game against the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6). The Dolphins will play four of their next six games on the road.

Rapid Reaction: Chicago Bears

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
3:50
PM ET
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CHICAGO -- A few thoughts on the Chicago Bears' 27-14 loss to the Miami Dolphins at Soldier Field.

What it means: The Bears fell further out of the NFC North race with the Green Bay Packers appearing to be on the way toward extending their division lead with a win over the Carolina Panthers. The Bears now will travel to New England to face a Bill Belichick-coached Patriots squad that will have extra prep time heading into next week’s matchup at Gillette Stadium. The Bears remain winless at home, which is especially concerning since they will play five of the last seven at Soldier Field.

Stock watch: Strongside linebacker Shea McClellin returned to the lineup after missing the last four games due to a broken hand, but the defense may have fared better without him. McClellin proved to be a liability against both the run and pass. He slipped and fell trying to cover Charles Clay on the tight end's 13-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

Then, on a crucial fourth-and-1 in the third quarter, McClellin failed to disengage from a block as Ryan Tannehill ran to his side for a 30-yard gain to set up Lamar Miller’s 1-yard touchdown.

Jay Cutler turnovers: Fans like to say “Cutty does it.” Well, he certainly did in the loss to the Dolphins, turning the ball over twice. It’s no coincidence the Bears have lost every game in which Cutler has committed a turnover. Cutler tossed two interceptions in each of the team’s three losses heading into Sunday’s game, and he committed two more turnovers (an interception and a fumble) against the Dolphins.

Bears coach Marc Trestman, offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer and Cutler have all talked extensively about turnovers being the deciding factor in all of this team’s losses, yet the quarterback continues to give away the ball. It has to stop.

Game ball: Defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff racked up a career-high 3.5 sacks in the first half alone and contributed seven tackles. Ratliff’s 3.5 sacks against the Dolphins matched his 2010 season total. Ratliff hasn’t made more than two sacks in a season since 2011, which is impressive for a player who had missed three of the last four games recovering from a concussion suffered in Week 3.

What’s next: The Bears head to Halas Hall on Monday to do some light weightlifting and recovery work. They won’t begin preparation for the New England Patriots until Wednesday.
INDIANAPOLIS -- We've known for a week that Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green would miss the Cincinnati Bengals' game this week at Indianapolis, but it is now official.

The fourth-year wideout was on Cincinnati's list of inactives for the Bengals' 1 p.m. ET game Sunday against the Colts. It will be the second straight game Green has missed. He also missed all but six plays of the Bengals' Week 2 game against the Falcons.

Green
In Green's place will be Mohamed Sanu, the third-year receiver who has caught 13 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns as Green's replacement so far this season. Overall, Sanu has caught a team-high 27 passes for 354 yards and three touchdowns this season. He's expected to continue to be the Bengals' top receiving threat without the superstar Green, who has been trying to battle through a toe injury since the season opener.

Green initially picked up the injury to his right big toe during the first quarter of the Bengals' Week 1 win over the Ravens. He fought through the injury and finished the game before shutting it down just six plays into the next contest.

He's hopeful to return next week when the Bengals host the Ravens.

Along with Green, the Bengals also are without linebackers Rey Maualuga and Emmanuel Lamur. They had been expected to sit this week after suffering injuries in the fourth quarter of last week's tie with the Panthers. Maualuga has a serious left hamstring injury that coach Marvin Lewis anticipates will keep him out a few weeks. Lamur's shoulder issue doesn't appear to be as serious, and the team is hoping he'll return next week.

Maualuga will be replaced by second-year player Jayson DiManche, and Lamur will be replaced by Vincent Rey.

While Green, Maualuga and Lamur were deactivated, the two players who were signed this week to help absorb their losses were activated. Receiver Greg Little and linebacker Nico Johnson were part of the 46-man gameday roster, but neither is expected to play. They simply haven't had enough time to digest their respective playbooks. Little and Johnson will only see action if the Bengals are placed into emergency scenarios that call upon one or both having to play.

Here is the full list of inactives for Sunday's game:

Bengals inactives
WR A.J. Green
LB Rey Maualuga
LB Emmanuel Lamur
DT Brandon Thompson
CB Chris Lewis-Harris
OT Tanner Hawkinson
DE Will Clarke

Colts inactives
CB Darius Butler
LB Victor Butler
OG Lance Louis
OL Khaled Holmes
OT Jamon Meredith
DT Kelcy Quarles
DT Arthur Jones

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