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Defense good enough

Posted: 6:45 a.m.

After capturing a 36-year-old man in the fourth quarter masking himself as Houdini, the Bengals defense has to be wondering what else it has to do after Sunday's 35-27 loss to Arizona at Paul Brown Stadium.

It finally stops the run in giving the Cards' Edgerrin James just 52 yards on 22 carries. It unleashes enough pressure that it makes the second-most accurate quarterback of all time, Kurt Warner, throw left-handed. It is finally stone cold on third down, stopping Arizona eight times on 11 tries.

And yet this is the day the Bengals offense decided to give up two touchdowns on interception returns and five turnovers that translated into 21 points.

"He's allowed to do that; he's a great player," said defensive tackle John Thornton. "We just have to stand by each other and rally and fight as a team."

The defense would probably like two plays back, both in the first half. Warner hit wide receiver Anquan Boldin on a 44-yard touchdown catch down the middle of the field to give the Cardinals a 14-10 lead early in the second quarter.

With cornerback Johnathan Joseph responding to his run responsibility, it appeared that strong safety Dexter Jackson didn't get deep enough in a deep zone and let Boldin get behind him.

The play before raised the Bengals hackles when, on third-and-one from the Arizona 41, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald appeared to push cornerback Leon Hall out of the way of an interception, and the play stood for a 15-yard gain.

The other killer came when the Bengals allowed the Cards to score a late first-half touchdown (as they did against the Browns, Jets and Steelers) on an 85-yard drive that ended on Fitzgerald's five-yard touchdown catch with 13 seconds left.

With linebacker Robert Geathers nearly grabbing Warner out of the pocket on third-and-one, Warner uncorked a 20-yard pass to Fitzgerald on the sideline in front of cornerback Deltha O'Neal.

"I thought he might be going deep," O'Neal said.

Other than that, the Bengals secondary held up pretty well against the Cards' highly-regarded receivers as Warner finished 16-of-28 for 211 yards.

Hall and Jackson came back on a third-and-one to break up a pass for Fitzgerald that led to the Bengals' blocked punt, Geathers had 1.5 sacks for his first since the opener, and Hall had five tackles and two passes defensed.

Warner conspired with the Gods that last drive at the end of the half.

With defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene cutting his legs, Warner fired a sidearm pass falling down to running back J.J. Arrington that put the Cards on the brink of the red zone.

Then when defensive end Bryan Robinson wrapped up Warner's legs, Warner moved the ball to his left hand and flipped a ball over the head of running back Edgerrin James. But tight end Leonard Pope, running across the middle, plucked the ball out of the air for a 22-yard gain.

"He's out there flipping the ball through his legs. Whatever prayer he had before the game definitely was answered," Thornton said. "He's tough. He stays in the pocket. We had guys around him, he was flipping the ball up and they caught it and it got them out of some tough situations. That's just how the ball bounces.

"We had guys getting his legs. Getting him higher would maybe stop him from getting it off. But he did a good job."

Warner wasn't Super Bowl MVP pretty but like Thornton said, "He won."

And Warner will take it.

"The team feels good about the no-huddle offense that we run. We are playing spread out and attacking different things," Warner said. "We have guys stepping up and making big plays for us. Sometimes what we do isn't pretty. Sometimes it is not how you draw it up, but you have to find ways to make plays, and today we did that offensively."

But the Bengals were shaking their heads on the lefty pass. The last time a Bengal tried that, well, can you still spell Gus Frerotte and Cleveland touchdown?

"Kurt Warner throws left-handed and not the guy he's supposed to throw it to?" Houshmandzadeh asked.

"That's the way this year has gone."

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