MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Halloween was a bag o’ rocks for the Bengals, even though Giovani Bernard arrived, dressed like a missile in the fog. Even as Mike Nugent came dressed as. . .as. . .Superman, Batman, Betty Grable.
A trudging, grudging game ended in overtime, in a flash. Miami defensive end Cameron Wake ripped free of a block from Cincinnati guard Kevin Zeitler and landed in Andy Dalton’s midsection, barely in the Bengals end zone. The safety made it a 22-20 final. Cincinnati’s night of trick or treat resembled an 8-year-old showing up at your door, decked out in his best ghost look, and you dropping some celery sticks in his bag.
After 20-22, feel free to wonder which was worse: The loss of the game, or the loss of Geno Atkins? The Bengals best defensive player got rolled up on during a routine tackle with 4:35 left in the first half. He might have torn the ACL in his right knee, Marvin Lewis said.
Ultimately, it didn’t matter that Nugent drilled his second 54-yard field goal of the year, to put the Bengals ahead with barely a minute left in regulation. Or that Bernard made one of the craziest runs you’ll ever see. The Bengals trailed 17-3 in the third quarter and rallied to send the game into overtime, before Wake’s play.Coming in, the idea was to survive and advance. Sort of the NFL version of acing a midterm before leaving for Fall Break.Scrape out yet another road win, then spend a few days on a tropical beach, slamming rum drinks. Either that, or get enough hot-tub/cold-tub/acupuncture deep-tissue massage work to feel human again in 10 days, in Baltimore.This was game four of a five-game grind, four on the road. The schedule softens like ice cream on the counter after that. Get through this one, go to Baltimore with a 2 1⁄2-game cushion in the AFC North. That was the plan.That it didn’t happen wasn’t one particular fault, but a collection.Andy Dalton wasn’t brilliant-good, as he’d been the last three weeks. But he was good when he needed to be. Third down after third down in the second half, Dalton completed passes to extend drives.That offset the fact Dalton threw three interceptions and lost a fumble. Good Andy occasionally meets up with Bad Andy, sometimes in the same game. Such as Thursday night.Bad Andy showed up in spurts. After three games of Good Andy -- good decisions, good field vision, good use of all his toys -- Dalton didn’t have it consistently...
The season is alive. Ryan Tannehill, a play-making defense and Caleb Sturgis are to thank.
In short, everything that was needed to win.
The Dolphins again blew a two-touchdown lead, but this time rallied late to stun the Bengals 22-20 in a Halloween treat for Dolphins fans.
The game-winning play: Cameron Wake’s safety sack of Andy Dalton on third down in overtime. It was just the third time in history that an overtime game has been decided by a safety.
That four-game losing streak? History. Those internal issues? Quieted for at least the next 11 days.
On third-and-long in overtime, Wake blew past the offensive line and planted Dalton. It was Wake’s third sack of the game and one of the biggest of his career.
“The margin for error is this small,” Wake said, squeezing his fingers together. “You’ve got to find a way to win. On the play, it was one of those situations where you had to give it all you got. Push the pedal to the metal and let the engine run out.”
The game was only in overtime because Caleb Sturgis nailed a 44-yarder late in regulation.
Tannehill was rock solid when the game — and arguably the season — was on the line. He went 5 of 7 for 57 yards in the game-tying drive late in regulation. For the game, Tannehill was 20 of 28 for 208 yards.
Dalton, meanwhile, had an awful night. He turned the ball over four times, including a 94-yard pick-six thrown to Brent Grimes. It the first touchdown of Grimes’ career, and the fourth-longest interception return in franchise history.
For the second week in a row the Dolphins surrendered a 14-point lead. But this time, they held their composure and won.
“We kind of talked with them on Monday,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. “We’ve got to have each other’s back. I think it was demonstrated tonight.”
The Dolphins improved to 4-4 on the year. Cincinnati fell to 6-3. Remarkably, the Dolphins are just a half-game out of the sixth seed in the AFC.
Did it save the Dolphins’ season?
“I didn’t know we were lost,” Philbin answered.
The Dolphins couldn’t score early — even when the defense gave the offense spectacular field position. Wake sacked and stripped Dalton and recovered the fumble at the Bengals’ 25. It was Wake’s first sack since the season opener.
But after a Miami three-and-out, Sturgis’ slump turned into a full-blown epidemic. He missed a 34-yard attempt...
With all the Rays went through to get this far, there was something fitting about the way it ended, falling just short, done in by their own doing, a 3-1 loss to the rival Red Sox. Whatever embarrassment the Rays avoided in staving off a sweep didn't provide much solace as they sat glumly in frustration watching the Red Sox celebrate on the Tropicana Field turf. "That was painful to watch,'' said Rays reserve outfielder Sam Fuld, a native New Englander. "I got out of the dugout as quickly as I could.'' The disappointment was obvious in the quiet clubhouse as they dealt with the finality of their season being over. "Obviously it is disappointing,'' Ben Zobrist said. "It was a good year overall, but it's definitely tough right now."
Manager Joe Maddon insisted their season was still a success.
"Anytime you win 90-plus games, it's been a pretty good year, it really is, and regardless of what anyone else might want to say,'' he said. "From my perspective, I'm really proud of our group. I don't want to be cliche-ridden, but there's nothing to hang our heads about, their really isn't.
"A great battle all season. We were an up and down kind of a team, we hit some really good moments and some really bad moments. But at the end of the day you still win 92 games, that's pretty darn good.
"Retrospectively, we didn't get where we wanted to get, but I cannot be more proud or pleased with our group.''
The way the end unfolded Tuesday, before a second straight sellout crowd of 32,807, seemed appropriate.
A 1-0 lead and a strong evening by the bullpen after Jeremy Hellickson was pulled in the second was wasted by a seventh-inning sequence in which the Red Sox scored on a Joel Peralta wild pitch and an infield single. Then the Sox added another run in the ninth after Fernando Rodney loaded the bases with two walks and a hit batter.
The Rays used a postseason and team-record nine pitchers over the nine innings and had scheduled Game 5 starter David Price warming to pitch a potential 10th, but to no avail as they went down quickly in their final at-bats, Evan Longoria striking out to end it.
"When you're on a ride like this, you never see it ending,'' pitcher Alex Cobb said. "You only envision getting the prize at the end. When it doesn't, it feels like the rug is pulled out from under you.''
Tuesday was the fifth time...
By Chad Finn, Boston.com Columnist
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Joe Maddon was too busy acknowledging what the Red Sox had just done to his team to acknowledge the chants ricocheting and reverberating though the bowels of Tropicana Field.
But the Rays manager heard them. No doubt he heard them.
In the aftermath of the Red Sox' exhausting, exhilarating, series-clinching 3-1 victory over the Rays in Game 4 of the American League Division Series Tuesday night, Maddon graciously offered a verbal tip of his cap to virtually every Red Sox player who saw or delivered a pitch.
But as he spoke, his words were accompanied by an unmistakable chant, rising and rhythmic, in the champagne-scented hallway:
"Let's go Red Sox!" And then louder: "Let's go Red Sox!"
Not only had the Red Sox made themselves at home in this goofy dome. So too had their fans, and they weren't going back to Boston without bidding a proper farewell.
Now they will leave this pinball machine of a ballpark and the rival Rays behind until next season, resting up and awaiting their next assignment. They will face the winner of Thursday's decisive fifth game of the Athletics-Tigers series in the ALCS, where they'll be making their fifth appearance in 11 years.
The Sox formally wrapped up the victory and the series when Koji Uehara, the exceptional closer who gave up a stunning walk-off homer to Rays catcher Jose Lobaton in Game 3, found the you-can't-touch-this form that had made him one of the most essential members of this deep and relentless roster.
Evan Longoria, the Rays' most dangerous hitter, accounted for the final out of his team's season, checking his swing on a strike three that darted south at the last fraction of a second. It was a fitting final scene, one more fearsome hitter flailing futilely against Uehara.
But it's not just about the last out. It's how they got there. The Red Sox earned the victory in so many ways, and in their usual ways: with contributions from so many players.
"We came out tonight, we grinded through atbats, we came back from a onerun deficit,'' said reliever Craig Breslow. "And that's been the trend all season. On any given night it could be a different guy who contributes, and tonight I would say it was 25 guys who contributed."
Of those 25 -- maybe that's only a slight exaggeration -- let's begin with the starting pitcher, Jake Peavy. His brilliant if brief...