Bengals vs. Cardinals: From the End Zone

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Nov 22, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) and Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) look on prior to facing the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Game Environment

University of Phoenix is an extremely magnificent piece of architecture. It’s strange that the Cardinals elected to build an indoor stadium while located in the middle of the desert, but that’s just the way it is. Having only been to football games at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, notoriously the NFL’s second-worst stadium behind only Oakland’s Coliseum, attending Sunday night’s game gave me a whole new perspective.

The Cardinals’ stadium is built like a work of art. It incorporates technologically very well with two enormous video screens–one above each end zone, so that fans can see the action going on if the players look distant on the field. There is free stadium WiFi that actually works, unlike the WiFi in the Chargers’ stadium. But even most impressive, the club box was insane. With glass windows, carpet and fancy foods, the club section looked like the place to be. Shoutout to my Dad for sneaking us into the club box without even having to show anyone our tickets–he’s the best. And because we were able to sneak into the club box before the main gates opened, we got to watch the Bengals warm up before they put on their uniforms.

Here’s what we saw in and from the press box:

This Bengals fan easily had the coolest outwear of any fan I saw on either team–although I will admit, the Cardinals fans had some pretty sweet face-painted beaks. I could get on board with that.

Several Bengals players were warming up, but Marcus Hardison‘s cannon of an arm was perhaps the most impressive thing I saw during this time.

After we spent some time in the club section, my Dad and I walked down to our actual seats, in the front row behind the end zone. There, we watched the official warm ups take place.

Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick were chatting it up with some nasty Cardinals fans who were yelling insanely degrading insults at the two corners, Domata Peko signed a few autographs, but for the most part, the Bengals’ players just warmed up and kept a business-first mindset. A large group of Bengals fans sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Gio Bernard, but the running back didn’t even turn his head to acknowledge them! It was interesting, to say the least.

For me, the most intriguing part of warm ups was watching punter Kevin Huber launch the ball downfield with insane hangtime and precision accuracy. He even puts a certain spin on the ball, ensuring that the football will land nose-first when it hits the grass.

And finally, the game started. One thing immediately caught my attention as soon as the first whistle blew:

University of Phoenix Stadium is insanely loud.

I couldn’t even hear my dad talking to me from the seat next to mine, so it must’ve been near impossible for Andy Dalton to communicate with his line pre-snap. Bengals fans chastised their team’s offensive line for giving up so much pressure to Dalton, but the Cardinals’ crowd noise, coupled with an aggressive, blitz-first defensive scheme created the perfect recipe for chaos.

It’s crazy that the crowd noise actually helps the Cardinals gain a competitive advantage in football games; I’ve never seen–or heard–anything like it (although I’m sure Paul Brown Stadium gets loud, as well).

As soon as Leon Hall picked off Carson Palmer on the Cardinals’ opening drive, I immediately picked up my Leon Hall jersey and waved it around, cheering like this Ravens fan hilariously did at a Browns game last season (NFSW content in the linked video). That was a big mistake.

Having been the owner of a Leon Hall jersey, I can attest that it is only on the rarest of occasions that the slot corner makes a big play, so when one of my favorite Bengals made a huge play at the start of the game, it was instinctive of me to just freak out, grab his jersey and celebrate. But surrounded by Cardinals fans, I quickly realized that my antics could get me into some serious trouble.

For the rest of the game, the entire section surrounding me would jeer me every time the Cardinals made a good play, call Dalton a ginger every 30 seconds, give me grief when the Bengals surrendered penalty yards and shut up when Cincinnati scored.

With middle school-level insults like this, it was very hard not to laugh when Cardinals fans around me kept saying stuff that was clearly not thought out.  But perhaps the strangest thing I remember Cardinal fans yelling was “we ain’t the Texans, bro!”

Of course you aren’t the Texans, Cardinals fans–the Texans have been a thorn in the Bengals’ heel for five years; the Cardinals beat the Bengals by a field goal in their own stadium, almost surrendering a fourth-quarter comeback win. And the Texans beat the Bengals by more points than the Cardinals did. So nice one, man. Really got me on that one.

To end the section, here are two pictures:

First, here’s a picture of Andy Dalton and me.

And here’s a picture of me and Robert, a Bengals fan from Arizona who attended his first Bengals game on Sunday night! It was great meeting him, and I hope to meet more Bengals fans in the future.

With that, let’s get into what everyone is likely waiting for: analysis and perspective on the Bengals’ decision to run the ball on third-and-two.

Next: Analysis