The Arizona Cardinals are now 8-2 after a thrilling 34-31 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday Night Football. It was the second week in a row in which Carson Palmer had to lead a fourth quarter drive to take the lead. What did we learn in the win?
Good Carson and Bad Carson each make an appearance
In the first quarter, the Carson Palmer everyone remembered with turnovers in big moments was on the field. He forced a pair of throws that got intercepted and was just "out of sync," as head coach Bruce Arians said after the game. "I think he wanted to get after these guys a little too much early," he said. The story all week was about how this game meant a little bit more for Palmer.
But he was lights out the rest of the way. He threw a perfect pass off play action to tight end Darren Fells to get them on the board and then he threw three more scores in the second half. Then, on the final drive, with no timeouts, he completed his first three passes for 19, 18 and 20 yards, respectively, setting up the final sequence and leading to the game-winning kick by Chandler Catanzaro.
Injuries took a toll on both teams
Both teams suffered key player injuries. Arizona lost cornerback Patrick Peterson and defensive tackle Frostee Rucker. They were already without receiver Michael Floyd. Cincinnati was decimated in the secondary. They started the game without starter Adam Jones. Then they lost safety Shawn Williams and cornerback Darqueze Dennard. Corners Dre Kirkpatrick and Josh Shaw also came out with injuries. The difference is the Cardinals got help from their depth.
Bengals were Bungles in key moments
Cincinnati was flagged for 10 penalties for 108 yards. One penalty erased a touchdown, although they would still score one that drive. Another wiped out a 41-yard punt return. The last one was a killer, though. Defensive lineman Domata Peko was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for mimicking the snap count. It moved the Cardinals up 15 yards for the game-winning field goal.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis called it a "phantom call" and said it was "ridiculous" to call there. Peko denies trying to simulate the snap count, saying all he did was say "get set, get set." Larry Fitzgerald said the line shifts the Bengals were doing all game were "loud and demonstrative," noting "it sounded like a cadence. He joked that "Peko is a veteran" and he "has a lot of tricks up his sleeve. Right guard Ted Larsen, who came out of his stance to draw the flag and force the issue, said when Carson was doing his snap count, the very next thing out of Peko's mouth was what Palmer said.
Arians would have preferred Larsen to not stand up there, but he said "it was obviously what (the refs) called." He "as concerned they would blow it," though.
Palmer said "it was real obvious."
No Michael Floyd, no problem
The Cardinals were without Floyd, who Arians said could only have played in the red zone. No problem, though. J.J. Nelson came up huge with four catches for 142 yards and a score. This is a week after Jaron Brown came in and had three key fourth quarter receptions in the team's win in Seattle after Floyd left the game with his injury. It seems unfair how much depth they have at the position. "I trust all seven of our guys, even Jaxon Shipley if we had to play with him, I would trust him to be out there so we have quality depth at the receiver position.
The Cardinals put up 34 points on the league's top scoring defense. The 34 points was the most they had allowed all year. The Cardinals scored the most points the Seahawks have allowed all season as well. Arizona's scoring defense, which was in the league's top 10 before last week, also has seen their opponent go for 30+ in two straight contests.
Both QBs clutch in prime time
Andy Dalton played well. He threw for over 300 yards and two scores. He rallied the Bengals from 14 points down to tie the game with a minute left in the game. Palmer rallied the team from behind early to take a commanding lead and then led the Cardinals to the game-winning kick. Both have been criticized in their careers for not coming up big when it counts. They both did on Sunday night.
Butler not a bum
For the second week in a row, punter Drew Butler has boomed his kicks. Cardinals fans will have to wait at least another week to hope for his release.
Can't say the Cards haven't played anyone now
With wins over Seattle in Seattle and over the now 8-2 Bengals, the criticism the team took early on about not playing well against decent teams has been proven wrong. And when it comes to the offense, the only team who has stopped them are themselves.
More dancing for the Cards
John Brown brought back his "Peanut Butter and Jelly" dance after he scored, although he did rename it the "Doo Doo Brown." After Chandler Catazaro hit his game winner, he dabbed, or whatever it is called. I guess Drew Stanton started something.
Cards in control of getting playoff bye
With the win, they are a full game up on Green Bay and Minnesota as the number two seed in the NFC, and they still have games against both teams. A first round bye in the playoffs is definitely in the mix.