GLENDALE, Ariz. - After the Bengals erased a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to tie the game with 1:03 left when Mike Nugent hit a 43-yard field goal from the right hash to tie it at 31, Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer hit three passes to put his team in field-goal position.
Cincinnati Bengals travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals in week 11 of the regular season
Then when Bengals nose tackle Domata Peko was called for calling out signals for a 15-yard penalty, the field goal became a 32-yard chip shot by Chandler Catanzaro with one second left for a stunning 34-31 Bengals loss at University of Phoenix Stadium.
The Bengals shook off a 21-0 third quarter and Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton finished 22 of 39 for 315 yards and a 99.8 passer rating. Palmer logged 111.2 on 20 of 31 for 317 yards, 57 on the last three throws.
Dalton hit tight end Tyler Eifert for his second touchdown of the night with 3:44 left in the game on a 10-yard pass where Eifert held on despite a hellacious hit from safety Tony Jefferson across the middle of the end zone.
The defense then gave the Bengals one final shot to win it on a third-and-one stand for the ages with 2:44 left when safety Reggie Nelson and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga stormed up the middle to stop running back Chris Johnson for no gain.
Bengals running back Giovani Bernard, on his way to a 128-yard career-high receiving night on eight catches, had a 30-yard run catch and run to set up Nugent's field goal.
After holding the Cardinals top-ranked offense to 102 yards in the first half, the Bengals' No. 1 scoring defense imploded when Palmer threw three touchdown passes in a nine-minute span of the third quarter to erase a 14-7 half-time deficit. By the time Palmer lofted a 16-yard touchdown pass to Cardinals running back David Johnson running a wheel route on WILL backer Vontaze Burfict to give Arizona a 28-14 lead with 1:26 left in the third quarter, the Cardinals had 215 yards of offense and the Bengals had negative yardage in the third quarter.
The Bengals couldn't withstand the flurry. They did cut it to 28-21 early in the fourth quarter when Dalton hit wide receiver Marvin Jones across the middle for a 22-yard gain on third-and-26, and then he converted the fourth-and-four on a pass to wide receiver Mohamed Sanu for 10 yards to set up running back Jeremy Hill's second touchdown of the night on a one-yard plunge with 11:26 left in the game.
But the Bengals offensive line struggled all night protecting Dalton. When the Bengals stopped Arizona for the first time in the second half, the Bengals got the ball with 9:01 left with a chance to tie. But on third down, right tackle Andre Smith let linebacker Markus Golden get around him and it forced a sack and fumble at the Bengals 10 for their first turnover of the game.
Yet the Bengals defense bowed its back and held the Cardinals to a field goal to make it 31-21 with 6:27 left.
Palmer got back 64 yards on one play on his first drive of the second half when he hit the wide-open rookie wide receiver J.J. Nelson down the middle of the field. There was no safety in the picture as Palmer executed a play-action pass and gunned one of his signature deep bells to Nelson, the fastest player at this year's NFL scouting combine, to tie the game at 14 early in the third quarter.
On the snap before the TD, a third-and-eight, Palmer got the first down when he hit wide receiver Jaron Brown working against Hall on the sideline.
Meanwhile the Bengals offense had nothing to add on their first three series of the second half and two were three-and-outs that came courtesy of an Arizona pass rush that had Dalton scrambling out of the pocket all night.
And as well as the Bengals' defense played in the first half, the Cards ripped them on the first three series of the second half as Palmer hit nine of 11 passes for 171 yards in the quarter. The Cards got their running game going with running back Chris Johnson racking up 22 yards on four runs in the quarter and they took a 21-14 lead with 5:32 left in third quarter when wide receiver John Brown got inside cornerback Darqueze Dennard on an 18-yard slant for a touchdown.
Dennard suffered a game-ending shoulder injury after he had already replaced the inactive Adam Jones. That put rookie Josh Shaw in the nickel and Hall outside. The Bengals also lost safety Shawn Williams for the game with an ankle injury in the quarter.
And the Bengals had no response on the third series, either. Bernard fumbled for a six-yard loss on first down. Dalton missed a wide-open touchdown pass when he put no air under a bomb to wide receiver Marvin Jones and overthrew him. On third down defensive end Dwight Freeney ran over left tackle Andrew Whitworth for a sack to set up the Cardinals' final score of the third quarter.
The Bengals' quelled the Cardinals explosive offense in the first half when they intercepted old friend Palmer twice and added two touchdowns of their own to take a 14-7 half-time lead.
The Bengals, who led the Cards to 102 yards in the half, took control of the game when they kept Palmer's Cardinals on the sidelines for 8:37 with a 14-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in Hill's two-yard touchdown run behind fullback Ryan Hewitt, Eifert, and right tackle Andre Smith with 1:12 left in the half.
A third-down incompletion early in the drive was wiped out on Golden's holding call and on third-and nine Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green made a tremendous leaping catch on the sidelines working against Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson. Dalton beat the blitz when he shot-putted a screen pass to the wide open Bernard and he had a police escort with 6-7, 330-pound left tackle Andrew Whitworth leading the way to the Cardinals 2 to set up Hill's touchdown.
Dalton won the first half with his 141.1 passer rating courtesy of 127 yards on eight of 11 passing. Palmer, who came in battling Dalton for the NFL passing title with a 108 that was second to Tom Brady's 111.1, could manage just 81 yards and 67 rating on seven of 12 passing
The Bengals' No. 1 scoring defense wasted no going after Palmer when they intercepted him on consecutive passes with the last one staking them a 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
On first down Palmer tried to hit one of his speedy receivers with a bomb down the middle to no one and the closest guy was safety Reggie Nelson for his fifth interception of the season to give the Bengals a first down at their 36.
Dalton answered with a deep ball of his own right away on first down, a sweet 42-yarder to Green down the left sideline. The Bengals came out with a shift that freed up Green from Peterson and put him on cornerback Jerraud Powers.
The Bengals then committed one of their many killing penalties of the half when right tackle Andre Smith's holding call wiped out Sanu's nine-yard touchdown run up the middle off a direct snap with Sanu as the Wildcat quarterback. The Bengals had a season-high 10 flags.
But Dalton found Bernard for a nifty 12-yard pickup out of the backfield on a pass on second down. And on third down, with the 6-6 Eifert split out and matched up on 5-11 safety Tony Jefferson, Dalton hit Eifert's back shoulder for a three-yard touchdown pass with 22 seconds left in the first quarter to give the Bengals a 7-0 lead and Eifert the Bengals record for tight end touchdowns in a season with ten.
But the Cards came right back to tie it at 7 when a late hit call on Dennard in his first NFL start and a hands-to-the-face call on Burfict jump-started a touchdown drive. Seven penalties for 73 yards stunned the Bengals in the first half, ranging from a taunting on Hill, to the late hit on Dennard, to a leg whip on Andre Smith.
Palmer kept it alive on a big third-and-16 pass over the middle where he stepped up in the pocket away from the rush and got it to Nelson for his fourth catch of the season. Nelson had four for the game with 142 yards in his coming out party.
Palmer then got the touchdown when he launched an 18-yard pass to the back end of the end zone to his big tight end target, 6-7 Darren Fells. Fells outjumped safety Shawn Williams with 9:44 left in the second quarter.
Defensive tackle Geno Atkins did what he did the other time they played Palmer and sacked him on the first series to set up third-and-17. With left guard Mike Iupati nicked up, Atkins ran over his backup.
Palmer then tried to hit wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald over the middle and cornerback Leon Hall ran the route better than Fitzgerald for the interception. It was Hall's first interception of the season and 25th of his career, tying him Lemar Parrish for fourth on the Bengals' all-time list.
Then on the next series they forced a three-and-out when Burfict came flying up the middle to stone running back David Johnson on third-and-one.
On the ensuing punt, the Bengals saw a great return wiped out for the second straight week by a penalty. Brandon Tate's 49-yard returned to the Cards 43 got negated by a block-in-the-back call on cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. Instead, the Bengals started at their own 8 and they returned the favor by getting stuffed on third-and-1 when Bernard lost a yard running out of the I.
The Bengals defense came in leading the NFL in scoring defense after three straight games of allowing 10 points, their best stretch since a three-game winning streak in 2006 they beat Cleveland, 30-0, Baltimore, 13-7, and Oakland, 27-10.
And they played as advertised in the first half in getting to Palmer for the two picks, a sack, and held the Cardsto 31 yards rushing. Hill was the game's leading rusher with 35 yards on nine carries.
PREGAME NOTES: Cornerback Adam Jones' streak of 57 straight games came to an end Sunday when a foot injury landed him on the inactive list and Darqueze Dennard was expected to make his first NFL start in his place Sunday night against the Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Right end Michael Johnson (back), who missed practice Thursday and Friday, got the start after being upgraded from doubtful to questionable. So the Bengals keep this season's streak intact of not having two starters on a game day inactive list. Backup defensive tackle Pat Sims (knee) had been ruled out Saturday.
Backup right end Margus Hunt, who had been active for the first time this season in the last two games, was inactive. Also inactive were the usual quartet of rookies in wide receiver Mario Alford, linebacker P.J. Dawson, tight end C.J. Uzomah, and defensive lineman Marcus Hardison.
Starting wide receiver Michael Floyd and starting right guard Jonathan Cooper were also ruled out for Arizona.