Bengals vs. Cardinals: From the End Zone

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Nov 22, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) throws a pass against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Analysis

The Bengals’ comeback was very surprising, given the amount of injuries sustained in the secondary. Adam Jones was already out for the game, Darqueze Dennard suffered a season-ending shoulder injury, and Shawn Williams went out with an ankle injury. That left rookie Josh Shaw and journeyman depth corner Chris Lewis-Harris getting significant snaps against the league’s best offense. The fact that the Bengals stopped Arizona’s offense on multiple fourth-quarter drives down two of their top four corners was impressive.

But most concerning to fans was Andy Dalton’s election to pass the ball to A.J. Green rather than hand the ball off to Giovani Bernard on third-and-two. After expressing that I agreed with the play call, I heard from a lot of people about why the Bengals made the wrong call.

I’m going to start by laying out the points people made about why this was the wrong call, following it up with why I believe the Bengals made the right call.

Here are the cons I’ve heard and thought of:

  • Running on third-and-two would’ve run down the clock, giving the Cardinals less time to score
  • Cardinals didn’t stack the line run-heavy (I disagree with that point, by the way)
  • Gio had the hot hand, so he should’ve gotten the ball

I may have heard more, but this is all I can remember as of now.

Here are the pros:

  • Andy Dalton had A.J. Green in one-on-one coverage against Jerraud Powers
  • Cincinnati had momentum and was playing for the win, not overtime
  • Dalton’s throw wasn’t perfect, but it was a catchable pass
  • Bengals defense was hot and had just stopped Cardinals offense with ease on multiple drives

At the end of the day, people are always going to bash the call when the team loses–but the fact that Dalton played for the win is encouraging, at least to me. Good quarterbacks don’t settle for overtime; they try to win the game.

Dalton had the read he wanted and threw the ball to the Bengals’ best player. A.J. had a chance to make a play, but he came up just short. Dalton’s pass could’ve been better, as well. Ultimately, just because the Bengals didn’t execute the play perfectly, that doesn’t mean that going for the win wasn’t the right play call.

The Cardinals are a good football team, and they pulled off a nice victory. It’s unfortunate to see Cincinnati drop two straight games, but it happens from time to time.

Next: What to Expect Moving Forward

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