MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — After 13 losses and three lousy quarters, it was awfully late for the Cincinnati Bengals to start a comeback.
Give them credit — they tried.
The Bengals overcame a 23-point deficit in the final 5:01 and scored 16 points in the last 29 seconds to force overtime, but lost anyway and had to settle for clinching the No. 1 pick in the April draft.
“Our team doesn’t care about that right now,” coach Zac Taylor said. “We’re just trying to win. If you have any competitive juices in you, you can’t go on the field and not try to win.”
No one will likely accuse Cincinnati of not trying Sunday. But the Bengals lost to the Miami Dolphins 38-35 when Jason Sanders kicked a 37-yard field goal on the last play of overtime.
Cincinnati (1-14) trailed 35-12 before Andy Dalton threw a touchdown pass with 5:01 left.
“All of a sudden this thing comes to life,” Taylor said. “Everyone was in it together. That energy was what the energy should be on every play of our season.”
Then came the flurry of the final minute in regulation. After another TD pass by Dalton and a 2-point conversion throw cut the deficit to 35-27, the Bengals recovered an onside kick.
They reached the 25 with four seconds left. Miami dropped eight players to the goal line, but 6-foot-6 tight end Tyler Eifert reached above two defenders in the end zone to catch Dalton’s throw.
On the 2-point conversion, Dalton couldn’t find an open receiver, rolled out and ran to the end zone to tie the game. He spiked the ball and headed toward his bench grinning at the improbability of it all — a memorable moment in a forgettable season.
“You’re happy — you just tied the game,” Dalton said. “The way the game was going it was a relief, like, ‘We did it. Let’s go win this game now.’”
Said Taylor: “He was as fiery as I’ve ever seen him.”
Dalton, who has endured a rocky season and even lost his starting job for three games, threw four touchdown passes. He finished 33 for 56 for 396 yards, the second-highest total of his career.
“A big shout-out to Andy,” center Trey Hopkins said. “He told us we had a shot and never stopped believing.”
There was no overtime magic, though. The Bengals twice forced Miami to punt but went three-and-out each time, and the Dolphins then drove 51 yards for the winning field goal.
It wasn’t the first wild overtime game between Cincinnati and Miami. In 2013, Cameron Wake gave the Dolphins a 22-20 victory when he sacked Dalton for a game-winning safety — only the third overtime safety in NFL history.
The Bengals are assured of at least tying for the worst record in club history. They went 2-14 in 2002.
The bright side: They’re also assured of the league’s worst record, and the No. 1 draft choice that goes with it.
That will likely make some Bengals fans happy.
“Those aren’t true fans,” Dalton said. “If you’re a fan, you want them to win every time they’re out there. As a player, you’re trying to give your best effort and win.”