It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, with the Cincinnati Bengals sporting a comfortable fourth quarter 23-point lead. Suddenly the storm clouds rolled in with a vengeance with the Arizona Cardinals scoring 16 points in the fourth quarter, reaching Cincinnati’s 17-yard line on fourth and five with 1:18 remaining in the game. If not for the wide receiver slipping before reaching the endzone, John Skelton’s pass would have been completed for a game-tying or winning touchdown.
Instead it was turnover on downs and the Bengals regained possession for a depressing three-play possession, compounded with a Nate Livings personal foul, eventually giving the Cardinals the football at their own 40-yard line with 0:48 seconds remaining in the game. Cedric Benson was pulled from the game after two lost fumbles in the fourth quarter, helping the Cardinals big time with their fourth quarter comeback effort.
Eventually quarterback John Skelton moved the football to Cincinnati’s 34-yard line with six seconds remaining in the game, when the quarterback completed a 19-yard pass over the middle as the game’s clock expires, giving Cincinnati the 23-16 win.
Cincinnati has now guaranteed their third winning season since 1991.
The Cincinnati Bengals needed this win, keeping their overall playoff advantage against everyone save for the Jets, alive. We’re not just talking about the need to win out and hope for the Jets to trip up; rather the need to keep their distance from scavengers like the Tennessee Titans, Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers, waiting to pounce on a Cincinnati Bengals stumble.
And for their part, the Cincinnati Bengals held up their end. And through the first three quarters, they did it with discipline, brilliance, aggressiveness and near-perfect play-calling from the Bengals coaching staff. Despite the fourth quarter implosion that nearly led to an epic collapse, Cincinnati's first three quarters was a mixture of perfection in all three phases of the game.
Cincinnati jumped out with an early 10-point lead in the first quarter, behind tremendous field position and a stoic Andy Dalton distribution amongst weapons not just named A.J. Green. Most importantly during Saturday’s win over the Arizona Cardinals is Cincinnati’s defense pressuring quarterback John Skelton all afternoon, recording five quarterback sacks along with additional pressure and hits throughout the afternoon.
Cincinnati will finish the regular season next week against the Baltimore Ravens, which at its simplest, is a must-win.
Cedric Benson rushed for 57 yards on Saturday, giving him over 1,000 yards rushing for the third consecutive season.
A.J. Green, showing affects from his shoulder injury, hauled in a 22-yard reception, giving him 1,031 during his rookie season, breaking Cris Collinsworth's franchise record for receiving yards by a rookie.