After the Bengals tied Sunday’s game with two minutes left, they watched Cardinals rookie quarterback Kyler Murray drop a 24-yard pass to running back David Johnson and then shoot through a vacated middle for 24 more to set up Zane Gonzalez’s last-play field goal in a 26-23 loss at Paul Brown Stadium.
Down 23-16, the Bengals got the ball back with 3:41 after slot cornerback B.W. Webb made a great play coming from behind to knock the ball away from Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald when he beat the all-time great on third down.
Hot off an 8-for-9 touchdown drive, quarterback Andy Dalton needed just four plays to tie it with the last one coming on a 42-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Tyler Boyd at the two-minute warning.
The Cincinnati offense, which lost another wide receiver when Alex Erickson suffered a concussion on the game’s third series, couldn’t get a touchdown until 4:08 left to break their streak of seven straight quarters without a touchdown. That came on Dalton’s microwave 79-yard drive in 3:05 capped by wide receiver Auden Tate’s first NFL touchdown on a two-yard slant inside cornerback Byron Murphy, Jr.
In the end, the Bengals’ inability to stop the run or run the ball doomed their fifth straight loss to open the season Sunday when the winless Cardinals’ 23rd-ranked rush offense racked up 266 yards on a stunning seven yards per carry.
The Cards appeared to put in the dagger when Murray faked a handoff and pitched to running back Chase Edmonds on the perirmeter for a 37-yard touchdown run where safety Jessie Bates III missed the tackle near the line on the perimeter and got no help behind him to make 23-9 with 7:13 left in the game
Dalton, held to 22 yards in the first half, finished with 262 yards on 27 of 38 passing for a 107.6 passer rater and had a stalemate with Murray (20 of 32 for 253 yards, 87.1), but Murray's 93 rushing yards on 10 carries carried the day to go with running back David Johnson's 91 yards on 17 carries. Johnson and Bengals running back Joe Mixon (19-93) also stalemated, but Edmonds put it away on his way to 68 yards.
The Bengals, with help from a big third-down side-line catch by Tate for 15 yards and 15-yard ramble by Mixon, got into the red zone on the first series of the second half with a shot to tie it at 13. They had it going with running back Giovani Bernard and Mixon on the field together in the red zone and Dalton found Bernard for five yards on a rollout that converted a third-and-two for a first down on the Cards 8.
But left guard Michael Jordan committed a false start, Cards defensive end Terrell Suggs blew up a screen and on third down Dalton threw it behind tight end Tyler Eifert. That meant they hadn’t scored a touchdown on 10 of 13 red-zone trips this season when Randy Bullock hit a field goal to cut it to 13-9. Tight end was a position the Bengals were hoping to exploit, since Seattle tight end Will Dissly had seven catches against the Cards last week and Greg Olsen had 75 yards the week before for Carolina. But they didn't get their first catch by one until 9:10 left in the third quarter. Eifert and the other tight end, C.J. Uzomah each had two catches.
The Bengals defense was also tough in the red zone, forcing three field goals on four of Arizona’s red-zone possessions in the first half. And they forced a punt on the second half’s first series, featuring another Webb blanket job covering Fitzgerald on third-and-long. When the Cards false-started before a 54-yard field goal try, they had to punt.
But the Bengals offense just couldn’t take advantage and it didn’t help they lost left tackle Andre Smith (ankle) late in the first half. One of their fleet of suddenly young wide receivers, rookie Damion Willis, had a nine-yard catch erased when right tackle Bobby Hart was called for illegal hands to the face working one-on-one vs. Chandler Jones. But the Bengals tackles played well, allowing Dalton to get sacked just once.
Then on fourth-and-one from the Bengals 42, the crowd wholeheartedly agreed with head coach Zac Taylor to go for it. But working out of the shot gun, Dalton faked to Mixon and Mixon couldn't get in front of linebacker Haason Reddick for a lead block. That led to Dalton getting stopped short of the marker with 1:37 left in the third quarter.
A game featuring the 31st (Bengals) and 30th (Cardinals) red-zone offenses held true to the stats. The Bengals defense again pitched another red-zone stand, holding the Cards to a field goal for Arizona’s 16-9 lead with 13:25 left in the game. But not before they gave up another third-and-long. Murray aired it down the middle as safety Shawn Williams tried to keep pace with wide receiver Pharoh Cooper. Cooper, a Bengal for about 15 days earlier in the season, extended with a great diving 28-yard catch catch at the Bengals 11
The Bengals tried to take over the day with their run game but the Cardinals executed more crisply as their 27th-ranked rushing attacked gouged the Bengals in the first half for 148 to take a 13-6 half-time lead.
The Bengals lost another wide receiver (Alex Erickson with a concussion), saw Shawn Williams carted off the field with a quad injury (he came back in the second half but left again) and extended their streak to six quarters without a touchdown when they could muster just 90 yards, 22 in the air. Dalton was four of 10 and had three passes dropped.
Meanwhile, Murray juked the zone read for 48 yards and David Johnson skated for 64 more on just 10 carries. The Cards rolled down the field with ease in the final 3:27 of the half and needed a huge play from cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and curious play call from Cards head coach Kliff Kingsbury. With 14 seconds left, Kirkpatrick read a screen to Fitzgerald and the Cards had to scramble to get the field goal for the 13-6 half-time lead.
After the Bengals nice opening drive (when they got 65 of their yards in the half), the Cards adjusted and gummed up the running game. Dalton, the victim of two dropped passes in the first drive, might have been the victim of another on third down on the third series. He was throwing to rookie Stanley Morgan, Jr., who ran a come-back route and got his hand on a ball that rookie cornerback Byron Murphy, Jr., also got hand on.
Morgan, who had his first NFL catch on the snap before when he took a six-yarder on the sideline, was playing in his first NFL game because a few snaps before Erickson was escorted off the field after he banged his head on the turf converting a first down on a short slant and was done with a concussion. They already went into the game with two receivers on the inactive list and that left them with Morgan, another rookie Damion Willis and his four career catches and Tate and his 15 career catches. Plus, last year’s 1,000-yard receiver, Boyd.
Not only that, with Erickson down they had to turn to new return men. Safety Brandon Wilson took the opportunity and took off on his second pro kick return for 52 yards. The Bengals parlayed that, five yards of offense and a Cardinals’ personal foul penalty into Randy Bullock’s 48-yard field goal with 3:27 left in the half to cut it to 13-6.
Coming into the game with an offensive imbalance, the Bengals moved right away to right it when they gave Mixon the ball eight times on their first drive of the game as he chewed up 60 yards, two off his season-high. But it wasn’t enough to end the NFL’s longest drought without an opening-drive touchdown.
On third-and-goal from the Arizona 5, Tate dropped a slant that would have walked him into the end zone and for the ninth time in 12 red-zone trips this season the Bengals couldn’t get a touchdown. They had to settle for Bullock’s chip shot for a 3-0 lead with 8:30 left in the first quarter.
With a reduced roster of receivers, there had been speculation Bengals were forced to look beyond their base personnel set of three wides. Some options would be pairing Bernard with Mixon in the backfield or using more double tight end sets. That would entail getting more use out of Bernard, who took 31 percent of the snaps Monday night in Pittsburgh, as well as second-round pick Drew Sample at tight end after averaging 13 snaps per game in his first four games.
They did open with double tight ends and it looked like Tate dropped the first snap, too, on a roll-out pass. But the Bengals then gave it six straight times to Mixon against an Arizona defense ranked next-to-last overall and fourth from last against the run. Mixon took his turns left and right on inside zones. The biggest pop was an 18-yarder behind left tackle Andre Smith and left guard Michael Jordan. When they got in the red zone, the Bengals did toy Mixon and Bernard on the field together during the afternoon.
The Cardinals promptly took their first lead of the season with Murray dinking, dunking and running them down the middle of the field. He hit four of his first six passes for just 27 yards, but David Johnson ripped off 17 on his first three carries. Still, the Cards were facing fourth-and-2 from the Bengals 6 and went for it. Murray faked to Johnson, hid the ball behind his left leg on a rollout and cornerback William Jackson III bit on the fake just enough lto et Murray get outside for a leap-and-lean run that made it 7-3 with 3:40 left in the first quarter.
Check out some of the best gameday images from the Bengals hosting the Arizona Cardinals in Week 5.
Murray followed the same script on the next drive. Johnson bolted for 17 yards and Murray found tight end Charles Clay wide open for 23 more behind Will Jackson after coming into the game with 23 yards all year. Murray also muscled a third-and-three first down over the middle that had the benefit of a nice spot. But wide receiver KeeSean Jackson dropped a fade on third-and-six with the help of Kirkpatrick defending and Gonzalez saw his streak of 19 straight field goals snapped when he sliced a 37-yard try right.
With Mixon getting 67 yards on his first six carries and then six on the next six (he ended the half with 63 yards on 13 carries) and wide receivers dropping like flies, the offense was going nowhere. The Cards jacked it to 10-3 on Gonzalez’s 23-yarder set up by Murray’s two conversions on third-and-long. Murray came into the game sacked a league-high 20 times, but not on those two throws because he had plenty of time. On one of them, defensive tackle Geno Atkins was called for roughing Murray and on another Webb tried to muscle Fitzgerald in the slot but ended up on the ground.