Cincinnati's 23-16 win over the Arizona Cardinals wasn't without its heart-stopping moments. In the end the game was won in the first half, putting together a lead that Arizona would be unable to overcome. And that was largely thanks to a strong defensive effort in the first half. This week's top five defensive plays.
REY MAUALUGA INTERCEPTION IN THE FIRST
During Arizona's second play of the game with 14:21 remaining in the first quarter, Skelton unleashed a fast ball to Larry Fitzgerald on second and four from Arizona's 18-yard line. Though the pass was completed, Maualuga instinctively read the route. It was a perfect pass, just beyond Maualuga's reach.
Two plays later on second and 21 on Arizona's 20-yard line, Skelton badly overthrew Roberts on a shallow crossing route, directly into the loving embrace of Cincinnati's middle linebacker. It was Maualuga's third career interception and first this season.
The Cincinnati Bengals red zone effort would falter and Mike Nugent converted a 24-yard field goal to give the Bengals a 3-0 lead.
NATE CLEMENTS INTERCEPTION IN THE SECOND
With 6:48 remaining in the second quarter and the Bengals securing a 10-point lead, the Cardinals setup from their own 48-yard line on third and ten. Trips to the right and Larry Fitzgerald lining up wide left, Skelton takes the shotgun snap.
Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins loops around on a stunt, finding a path to disrupt Skelton's periphial vision, forcing the quarterback to scramble out of the pocket towards the right sidelines. With Atkins already in pursuit, Carlos Dunlap cut off Skelton's path for any attempted run upfield, forcing the quarterback to throw the football.
A veteran probably throws the football away. Not Skelton.
As he's rolling out towards the right sidelines, Skelton tries hitting Roberts on a hitch route, three yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Problem is that Skelton didn't see Nate Clements patrolling underneath, easily hauling in the interception.
The Bengals would take a 17-0 lead eight plays later.
REGGIE NELSON INTERCEPTION IN THE THIRD
Beanie Wells gained 19 yards rushing on Arizona's three of four offensive plays during the Cardinals first possession in the second half. The Cardinals moved the football to their own 42-yard line with 10:34 remaining in the second quarter, setting up first and ten in I-formation.
Skelton takes a seven-step drop, looks downfield and finds Larry Fitzgerald near the right sidelines. And by finds Larry Fitzgerald, I really mean badly overthrowing him where Reggie Nelson secures the interception.
ADAM JONES PASS DEFLECTION IN THE FOURTH
The clock seemed to tick away slowly in the fourth quarter, with the Bengals sporting a 23-13 and over five minutes remaining in the game. From the Cardinals 40-yard line on first and ten, John Skelton takes the snap and throws the football down the middle of the field.
Cincinnati's safeties were gone and Adam Jones stood alone on an island as he and Cardinals wide receiver Andre Roberts track the football coming down around the goalline.
Jones finally cut in front of the receiver, using both hands in an attempt to intercept the football. He didn't. But the deflection caused an incompletion. A touchdown would have given Arizona a three-point deficit with plenty of time to sustain a game-tying or even game-winning possession. Instead...
CHRIS CROCKER DEFLECTION IN THE FOURTH
The Arizona Cardinals were threatening the Cincinnati Bengals, taking what was a 23-0 lead and reducing their deficit to 10 points. Additionally the Cardinals were sitting on Cincinnati's 11-yard line with 3:25 remaining in the game on third down. Convert the touchdown and Cincinnati's advantage is reduced to three points.
Skelton takes the shotgun snap and targets Larry Fitzgerald in the slot, running parallel from left to right along the goalline.
Crocker, already shadowing Fitzgerald, broke on Skelton's pass, diving through Fitzgerald and forcing the incompletion. Instead the Cardinals kick a field goal, still reducing the game to within a possession.