While the 34-31 win by the Arizona Cardinals was all that mattered, it was far from a perfect performance. After jumping out to a 28-14 lead, the Cardinals allowed 17 fourth-quarter points to the Cincinnati Bengals, allowing them to tie the game at 31-31.
QB Andy Dalton and company moved the ball at will in the fourth quarter and nearly pulled an improbable comeback before Arizona kicked a game-winning field goal with two seconds remaining. The Cardinals defense will need to be better late in games in order to keep up their winning ways.
In addition to the late defensive woes, Arizona’s red-zone defense was ineffective. Cincinnati reached the red-zone four times, scoring on each occasion. Arizona did manage to hold the Bengals to a field goal late, but each of the other three red-zone trips led to touchdowns.
While the Cardinals defense has been excellent at generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks and forcing turnovers, it has given up its fair share of big plays, particularly late in games. That’s an area the team will need to shore up if it hopes to make a deep playoff run.
Yes, QB Carson Palmer has been tremendous this year but he hasn’t been without some mishaps. Palmer looked severely out of sync early on against a relatively tough Cincinnati defense and threw two bad interceptions during first-half action.
Palmer rebounded to complete 20-of-31 passes for 317 yards along with four touchdowns but the early interceptions could have led to a different result. Palmer has done a good job of limiting turnovers in 2015, but he’s been a bit lose over the past couple of games.
It wasn’t Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown or Michael Floyd who led Arizona in receiving, but instead it was rookie J.J. Nelson. Nelson reeled in four passes for 142 yards, including a 64-yard bomb from Palmer that went for a touchdown.
Nelson is known for his tremendous speed and it’s been on full display in recent weeks. Nelson has seen an expanded role due to injury woes of Brown and he hasn’t disappointed. Nelson is yet another weapon at Palmer’s disposal and we expect him to see more and more looks as the season progresses.
8, 1 and 2
Defensively, it wasn’t a pretty performance by the Cardinals but safety Deone Bucannon was all over the field making plays. Bucannon totaled eight tackles on the evening to go along with two tackles for a loss and one sack.
We’ve talked a lot about Arizona’s tremendous depth at safety and Buncannon along with Tyrann Mathieu, Tony Jefferson and Rashad Johnson continue to prove that on a weekly basis. That group also helped overcome the loss of CB Patrick Peterson who was sidelined late in the game due to injury.