Before he left the Bengals locker room after Sunday's game, head coach Zac Taylor made sure he went to each player still left to embrace him and offer a few words.
"It's a family in here. Tight-knit group, especially the way the season's gone so far," said center Trey Hopkins after the Bengals lost a fourth-quarter lead or tie for the third time this season. "Things haven't been going our way. You have to turn inward. You have to circle the wagons and that's just what he's doing. He's leading this family."
- Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick gave the players' post-game speech and word was is that he gave an impassioned plea to stick together and work as hard as ever on Wednesday. He was just as passionate talking to the media.
"Our veterans, our older guys, we need them. We need them to step up and whatever I've got to do, I've got to do it. We're young, but I don't make excuses," Kirkpatrick said. "It's the most frustrating it's been since I've been here. It's not about me, it's about winning games. It hurts. You can't be yourself when you lose. I like to be energetic, smile, and have fun. But it's hard to do that when you lose."
- Hopkins' offensive line manned up Sunday. After giving up eight sacks Monday night, they gave up one on the stat sheet to Arizona's torrid duo of Chandler Jones and Terrell Suggs. And they won't count that as a sack because it was a screen that got fouled up and was really a run. And they did it down to their fourth left tackle when John Jerry had to go in for Andre Smith (ankle) in the second quarter. Smith left the locker room in a boot but said he'll play next week in Baltimore.
The line got help with not only a season-high 21 rushes from the running backs, but also more multiple tight end packages. They really held up on those last two touchdown drives when the Cards unleashed the blitz.
"I'm proud of my guys. I'm proud of the way we fought," Hopkins said. "We had big Dre do down and John Jerry stepped and kept fighting."
Check out some of the best gameday images from the Bengals hosting the Arizona Cardinals in Week 5.
- Dept. of You Can't Keep A Good Man Down: Safety Shawn Williams got carted off the field late in the first half with a quad problem and came back for the second half. But he pulled himself out as time went on.
"I wanted to try it. But I felt like I was hurting the team," Williams said.
One of the three killing plays in the second half (running back David Johnson's 24-yard catch and quarterback Kyler Murray's 24-yard draw-scramble-dash whatever you want to call it in the last drive were the others) came with Williams covering Cardinals receiver Pharoh Cooper in the slot. Murray flung it down the seam and Cooper extended to make a diving 28-yard catch to set up a field goal on one of Murray's three conversions of at least third-and-seven.
"Combination of both," Williams said. "Healthy and he makes a great play."
Asked if he'll play in Baltimore on Sunday Williams said, "Yep. You know me."
- Since Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown scored on that zero blitz back on Oct. 14, 2018 with 10 seconds left to turn the Bengals' 21-20 lead into a 28-21 loss, the Bengals are 2-14. And Sunday's loss was as tough as any of them after two more of their red zone trips ended in field goals. Make that now 14 red-zone trips and just four TDs this season after wide receiver Auden Tate scored his first NFL touchdown on a two-yard slant with 4:08 left in the game.
The game was there for the asking. That should have been Tate's second NFL TD. He ended the game's first series dropping a third-down slant that would have put the Bengals up 7-0. Dalton ended the first series of the second half throwing behind tight end Tyler Eifert on third down from the 5.
"That's what we're going to have to go and look at. There definitely have been some execution issues," Dalton said. "When you're down there, you've got to make a play, and you've got to score touchdowns. There's a huge difference between seven and three points. We saw that today. Kicking three field goals, that hurts you. It's opportunities to take a bigger lead or give us a chance at the end to win the game. We're going to have to take a good look at it, because it's obviously hurting us."
Tate: "A dropped ball. He put the ball in the perfect place. I've got to catch it."
- After the fifth 100-yard game of his career and second this season, wide receiver Tyler Boyd (123 on 10 catches) is on pace for 1,299 yards, a number A.J. Green has reached only twice. He had to do it the hard way Sunday when Alex Erickson went out with a concussion on the third series. That left Boyd with Tate and his career 15 catches coming in, along two rookie wide receivers. One of them, Stanley Morgan, Jr., made a catch in his NFL debut. Boyd said he didn't see any special coverages and he did manage to shake loose for a 47-yard TD that tied at 23 with two minutes left
But Boyd was thinking how the Bengals had all of 22 yards passing in the first half.
"I'm sick of losing — sick of not finishing the game the way we want to," Boyd said. "We always finish strong, but we never start it (strong). We just stayed the course and started believing in each other the whole fourth quarter, man. (We) just (have to) continue to fight and execute, and don't wait until the last minute to try and get it going."
- Everyone was trying to figure out where the running game went after the first series, when running back Joe Mixon took it eight times for 60 yards. He got 33 yards on his last 11 carries. Taylor saw no real adjustment by the Cards.
"They really didn't. They were playing base to our 11 personnel, trying to get us to throw the ball," Taylor said. "We felt good early in the game, and found some runs we liked. They made some good adjustments, and it became a real game after that. They stopped us on a couple, but we wanted to make sure we kept the ball moving forward. We called some runs, some completion plays. We didn't want their edge rushers to get going because that have done that in some games. It hasn't shown up in the sack column, but (Terrell) Suggs and Chandler Jones have created sack-fumbles — some turnovers that way —and we weren't going to allow that to happen."
- The snafus in the red zone were big, but the blown fourth-and-1 from the Bengals 42 with 1:37 left in the third quarter of a 13-9 game may have been the biggest play. After Dalton tried to follow Mixon up the middle after faking it to him out of the shot gun. Dalton didn't say there was a mistake or the play was changed.
"We've got to make that play," Dalton said. "I've got to be better, everybody has to be better. That's a crucial part of the game where you need to get a first down."
- Another tough one for the defense. They did a good job in the red zone holding the Cards to one touchdown in six red-zone tries. But they also gave up the 15th most yards in team history with 514. The Bengals have allowed 500 yards in their history 25 times, five of them in the last 15 games. On Sunday they allowed 266 rushing yards, eighth most in history. And four different receivers had catches of at least 23 yards. Plus, they had just one sack, meaning they've had two sacks in the four games since the opener.
"We've got to stop the run so we can rush the passer and all that stuff," said end Carl Lawson, looking for his first sack this season. "We need to figure out what we need to do."
- Kirkpatrick was also passionate when he was asked about the trade rumors swirling as they inevitably do around a 0-5 team. Particularly about stories saying teams are targeting A.J. Green.
"It better not happen. It's going to fall apart if you do that," Kirkpatrick said. "That's our best player on the team. He's not even out there. We don't know how the team really should look. They can't do that. I'm a team player first. I rally around my guys. That would really hurt my spirit if he walked out this door … I want everybody to stay. I want to win here. I don't want to go anywhere. I'm not just a player for the Bengals. I do things in the community. A lot of guys in here do."