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2nd of back-to back Sunday Night games for Cards on the national stage. Cards were coming off a crucial devision win in Seattle. The red-hot Bengals were no longer undefeated after a losing a 10 - 6 MNF "pitchers battle" to the Texans. Cards had a one-day workweek advantage over Bengals. Game was played in "our house. A win would make the Cards 8 & 2 - three games ahead of the Seahawks (who beat the Niners earlier that day). A Cincy win would make them 9 & 2 and dominant within their division.
Cards Win Squeaker 34 - 31....
The Bottom Line:
True to (disturbing) form, the Cards started slowly, with Carson Palmer throwing two ("what was he thinking?") first quarter interceptions. They clearly looked outclassed by a very good Cincinnati team that featured a multi-pronged offensive arsenal and a stingy, talented defense. Arizona fell behind 14 - 7 by half-time, and it could have been worse. But the Cards came out smokin' to start the second half - preventing the Bengals from scoring on their opening game and - on the backs of a heated up Carson Palmer and a bevy of talented receivers - seized control of the game in the 3Q, scoring 21 unanswered points only to give back the lead to the Bengals in the final quarter and, with less than one minute to play, facing a 31 - 31 OT struggle. But Palmer dug deep down and found a way to string together consecutive completed passes of +17, +18 and +19 yards to set up a Chandler Catanzaro chip-shot with 0:06 left to play. (FG attempt was right down central. "Lateral Follies Time" - with one second left to play - went nowhere. The Card win keeps them 3 games ahead of Seattle and 4+ over the Rams and Niners.
Cards won toss and received. TB on the KO. After moving the ball in small-medium chunks, Palmer was sacked at the Cardinal 44 for a 10-yard loss. On the very next play, his pass for Fitzgerald was picked off by Hall.
Cincy ball on their own 35. A taunting penalty stalled the Bengal drive at their own42. Punt was fair caught by PP21 at the Cardinal 21. Cards failed to convert a 3rd & 1 (unsuccessful run by C Johnson).
Punt (net penalty) boxed Cincy in at their own 8-yard line. They went 3 & out.PP21 fair caught the punt at his own 37. On the first play from scrimmage, Palmer's pass for JJ Nelson was picked off by R Nelson and returned to the Cincy 36. Dalton hit Green (covered by Powers) for +42 to put the ball on the Cardinal 22. (Dalton followed a pattern where every other play would seem to be for little yardage - or even a loss - but the plays in beteween would pick up first downs). A 12-yard pass/run to Bernard set up a 3-yard TD pass to Eifert. Bengals 7 - Cards 0.
TB on the KO. Quarter ended one play later
1st Quarter Score: Bengals 7 - Cards 0.
The three next plays were marred by penalties (2 against the Bengs/one against the Cards) and put the ball on the AZ 49. A pass to JJ Nelson over the deep middle for +23 yards set up a deep-right completion to Fells in the end zone. Bengals 7 - Cards 7.
TB on the KO. Dalton then put together a 14-play (8:37) TD drive that had all the indications that the Cardinals were about to be blown out of their own stadium. Key play of the drive was a 41-yard completion to Bernard (vs. R Johnson) which set up a 2-yd TD run by Hill. Bengals 14 - Cards 7.
D Johnson returned the KO to his own 26 with 1:07 left till halftime. Cards went 3 & out and Cincy ran off one inconsequential play to end the half.
First Half Score: Bengals 14 - Cards 7.
Cincy received, TB on the KO. A contact penalty on the Cards helped extend their possession by an extra 4 plays, but their drive fizzled at the Cincy 32. PP21 ran the return out of bounds at the Cardinal 20. A 13-yard completion to John Brown helped set up a 64-yard TD completion to JJ Nelson to tie the score. (Cards seized the 2H momentum). Bengals 14 - Cards 14.
TB on the KO. Cards held the Bengs to 3 & out. Palmer then led the Card offense on an 8-play (4:45) scoring drive to take over the lead. Yardage sequence was: Run: +4; Pass: +7; Pass: +2; Run: +9; Run: +8; Pass: +9 and pass deep left to John Brown for an +18-yard TD. Cards 21- Bengals 14.
TB on the KO. Three & Outsville. An aborted snap and a minus-9 yard sack by Freeney forced Cincy to punt from its own 5-yard line. PP21 returned the punt to the Cincy 49. A holding call on Iupati backed the Cards into their own territory, but a short pass to JJ Nelson picked up +36 yards (& a 1st down) and set up a 16-yard pass down the left sideline to D Johnson. Cards 28 - Bengals 14.
TB on the KO. Dalton led his team on an 11-play (5:00) scoring drive that extended into the 4th quarter and was capped by a one yard TD run by Hill. Key plays were a 20 and 22-yard completions to M Jones and a couple of 10-yard gainers - a run by Bernard and a completion to Sanu.
Third Quarter Score: Cards 28 - Bengals 14.
The Td run by Hill made it a ane TD game - Cards 28 - Bengals 21
D Johnson returned the KO to the Cardinal 21. A defensive PI flag helped move the Cards out to their own 44 but the drive stalled. Punt was fair caught at the Bengal 17. On the third play of the Cincy series, Dalton got sacked by Golden and his fumble was recovered by Bucannon. Card ball at the Cincy 10. Palmer survived a sack (Sendlein recovered Palmer's fumble). Catanzaro's FG was good from 24-yards. 10 point game. Cards 31 - Bengals 21
6:27 left on the clock. KO was returned to midfield where Tate (at least to my eyes) fumbled. Play was ruled "down by contact" - Card challenge was denied). A 21-yard completion to Bernard put the ball on the Cardinal 39, Dalton dinked and dunked his way to the Cardinal 10, where he hit Eifert for a 10-yard TD. (One FG game). Cards 31 - Bengals 28
TB on the KO. Cards were held to 3 & out (A Johnson run on 3rd and 1 was unsuccessfyl). Cards punted. Fair catch was at the Cincy 16 with 2:45 left to play. An illegal use of the hands flag on Powers and a 30-yard completion to Bernard helped make it 4th & 2 on the Cardinal 25 and set up a 43-yard Nugent FG to tie the score with 1:03 left on the clock. Cards 31 - Bengals 31
Johnson returned the KO to the Cardinal 16. On three consequetive plays, Palmer hit JJ Nelson for 19 yards, Fitz for 18 yards and then Fitz over the middle for 20. And unsportsmanlike penalty (defense calling out phony offensive signals). turned a 46 yard FG attempt into a 32-yard chip shot by Catanzaro to seal the win. Cards 34 - Bengals 31
One-second left and the obligatory "lateral the ball around" circus on the KO. Didn't work (Never does). Game over.
Final Score: Cards 34 - Bengals 31
Passing: Palmer was 20 for 31 (317 yards, 4 TD's and 2 picks). Cards held Dalton to 22 of 39 (315 yards, 2 TD's and 0 picks).
Takeaways: Cards minus-1. Two picks by Palmer/None by Dalton. One fumbled recovered by Cards; none by Cincy.
Rushing: Cards gained 82 net yards (3.3 ypc). Seattle runners were held to 99 (3.5 ypc). C Johnson gained 63 yards; We held Hill to 45-yards and Bernard to 18. Dalton scrambled for 34.
Receiving: JJ Nelson caught 4 for 142-yards and a TD. Fitz picked up 90 yards and 0 TD's on 8 catches. John Brown, Fells and D Johnson each had a TD catch.
Cardinal Run/Pass Ratio: . (Runs: 25/Pass: 31). Cincy Run/Pass Ratio: 28/39).
Minter led the Cards with 10 tackles. Bucannon was next with 8.
Sacks - Cards credited with 4. (Bucannon, Golden, Freeney and Gunter had one apiece). Cincy got to Palmer twice.
Situational Efficiency: Cards converted 5 of 11 third downs (45%). Cincy was 5 of 13 (38%). Cards were 3 of 5 in the Red Zone (60%). Cincy was 4 of 4 (100%).
Penalties: Cards were penalized 7 times for 40 yards (Bengs were penalized 10 times for 108 yds).
Time of Possession: Cards 28:45 - Cincy 31:15
After a rocky start, Palmer settled down and was razor sharp (especially on deep throw accuracy). y.
We remain 7 & 2 (three games ahead of Seattle and further ahead of the Rams and Niners (who both lost).
We beat an 8 & 1 football team considered one of the NFL's elite.
We took command coming out in the 2H.
Palmer's final drive capped by the winning FG was surgical and deadly.
JJ Nelson's arrival on the scene. The way Cardinal backup receivers stepped up to replace Floyd without missing a beat.
C Johnson's second effort between the tackles.
Out backup guards played like starters,
"Sacks by Committee" seems to be working
Minter chugging up the A-Gap.
The Dark Side
We "held serve" vs. Seattle and are getting closer to that time of the season where time is running out for our division rivals to close the gap. All the more reason to keep our noses to the grindstone, pedal to the metal etc. to make sure we win every game we figure to win and leave no "W"'s on the field. Next Sunday: The NIners in SF. The win would make us 9 & 2 and guarantee that we were a better than .500 football team. Bearing down (physically and mentally - at all times) should be a be a key definer of who we are as a football team - and we need to prove ourselves anew every Sunday.