Cardinals alone as NFC No. 2 after beating Bengals - Sports Illustrated

Cardinals alone as NFC No. 2 after beating Bengals

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TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Cardinals (8-2) have won four in a row and find themselves alone with the second-best record in the NFL (behind Carolina's 10-0).

But coach Bruce Arians gave his team mixed reviews for Sunday night's 34-31 home victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

''We were very, very poor with execution in the first half (offensively),'' he said at Monday's day-after news conference. ''We ran the ball OK, but our passing was very poor. In the second half, offensively, I thought we played extremely well.''

The defense was uneven all evening.

Arians traced some of the late defensive problems to substitution issues after cornerback Patrick Peterson left the game with an ankle injury.

''When Pat went down, we had a couple big changes in the secondary where our matchups got exposed a little bit from the rest of the game,'' Arians said. '' ... In-game substitutions with injuries, you have to be able to step up and play. A couple guys did not do that.''

Peterson tweeted out Monday that he was ''good.''

Arians said he was still awaiting the MRI results.

''He ran a little bit in the pool and he'll be day to day,'' Arians said, ''as will (defensive lineman) Frostee Rucker (ankle).''

Carson Palmer's performance mirrored that of the offense overall.

''The first half, probably as poorly as he's played here in three years,'' Arians said. ''In the second half, probably as good as he's played in three years. That's the type of guy he is.''

Palmer threw two interceptions early in the game but in the second half completed 13 of 19 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.

''He can have rough moments, shake them off and just come on back,'' Arians said. ''He's like a really good pitcher who can't find the plate, then all of a sudden he gets in a groove.''

Overall, Palmer threw four touchdown passes. That gives him 27 for the season, three shy of the franchise single-season record.

The end featured a rarely called penalty that moved the ball to the Bengals 14 and made Chandler Catanzaro's 32-yard kick a much easier one. He hit it with two seconds left for the game winner.

Cincinnati's Domato Peko was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for mimicking Palmer's offensive counts as Arizona prepared to spike the ball and bring in the field goal unit.

Arians was asked if the Cardinals, as has been reported, had alerted the officials that the Bengals were mimicking Arizona's cadence.

''Probably,'' Arians said, ''because they had flinched a few other times and they have a history of it.''

If a false start would have been called on Arizona, there would have been a 10-second runoff of the clock and the game would have gone into overtime.

With the game tied at 31-31, Arizona had received the ball on its own 14-yard line with 57 seconds to go.

No one who's paid any attention to Arians should have thought he would just run the clock out from there and take his chances with overtime. That's not in his ''no risk it, no biscuit'' philosophy.

So Palmer zipped a 17-yard pass to rookie J.J. Nelson, who had a breakout game that included a 64-yard touchdown catch. Palmer followed with strikes of 18 and 20 yards to ultra-reliable Larry Fitzgerald to get the team into field goal range with plenty of time to spare.

''If you kneel down or run a draw and see what happens, the game's over. You roll the dice on overtime,'' Arians said. `I trust our guys to execute. Normally, with the first play, you're not going to get a strong pass rush because they're thinking draw and screen, and you get a chance to shoot one down the field and get a 20-yard gain and get rolling.''

Arians gave three rookies game balls, something the coach thought he'd never done before: Nelson, defensive lineman Rodney Gunter and outside linebacker Markus Golden. Golden stripped the ball from Andy Dalton for Cincinnati's lone turnover. Nelson was drafted in the fifth round out of Alabama-Birmingham, Gunter in the fourth round out of Delaware State and Golden in the second round out of Missouri.

''It's a blessing to be on this team,'' Golden said. ''You've got a lot of guys that work hard and a lot of leaders that talk what they talk and back it up on the field and off the field. It motivates me. You want to be a competitor and make plays with the guys. It's great to be on this team right now.''



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