The Bengals fought valiantly to overcome a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit, but ultimately fell short to the Cardinals by a 3-point margin. Cincinnati is now 8-2 overall after losing two straight, but not all was bad about this loss. Here are five thoughts from the game.
Close losses sting. Close losses with so many mistakes, penalties and missed plays really sting. Yes, the Cardinals made mistakes of their own, but they were the home team. The Bengals can't have as many errors as they had and hope to beat a quality team on the road, let alone a team as good as the Cardinals.
Still, it was great to see the Bengals fight back amid a lot of adversity and tie this game up after all hope seemed lost. While this counts as a loss, the Bengals should feel better about themselves after pushing a Super Bowl contender to the limit in their house with a host of injuries.
Now, the Bengals must end this mini skid they're on and beat a far inferior Rams team that will travel to Paul Brown Stadium next week. This loss stings, but it shouldn't lower the expectations for this team going forward.
2. Burfict gonna Burfict
When it comes to walking the line, Vontaze Burfict lives on it. His latest move involved a tackle made on Cardinals running back Chris Johnson during the first quarter. During the play, Johnson lost one of his shoes, and after the play was over, Burfict promptly tossed it to the sideline so Johnson would have to retrieve it and miss at least a play.
It ended up working as Andre Ellington came in, got stopped a yard short of the first down on 2nd-and-3 and then David Johnson was stuffed for no gain on 3rd-and-short to force a Cardinals punt. It's kind of cheap, but it's not against the rules, as far as I know.
You'd like to see one of your defensive leaders not do these kinds of things. Burfict didn't have a good game overall, with just eight tackles and one touchdown allowed by running back David Johnson. Maybe it's time Burfict spends more time focusing on what he does before the whistle and not after it.
3. Time to bench Andre Smith?
The Bengals have now reached the point where benching right tackle Andre Smith is worth considering. He was atrocious in this game and gave up a pair of sacks in the second half after committing two costly penalties as well. One of those sacks led to a Cardinals field goal in a game the Cardinals ultimately won by three points.
Even before Smith's concussion, which cost him the past two games, he wasn't playing well this season. The Bengals are looking very smart for drafting not one, but two offensive tackles in this past draft to replace Smith. He's making it easy for the Bengals to say adios this March, and it's getting to the point where benching him is at least up for discussion.
Eric Winston frankly looked better in his two starts in relief of Smith, who still is a much better run blocker, but is becoming far too big of a liability in pass protection to keep starting if this doesn't improve. There's also rookies Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi waiting in the wings.
4. Dre Kirkpatrick still a liability
While he's shown a lot of potential, Dre Kirkpatrick continues to be a liability for this defense. He gave up several big plays once again after having a pretty solid game last Monday night. The low-light of this one was when Cardinals rookie receiver J.J. Nelson caught a 3rd-and-14 about seven yards short of the first down. Kirkpatrick needed to make the tackle, but instead, Nelson juked Kirkpatrick right out of his shoes and ran it 36 yards down to the Bengals 17-yard line before the Cardinals would score to take a 28-14 lead. If Kirkpatrick just makes that one-on-one tackle against a rookie, the Bengals get the ball back with the game tied. But, he missed, and that was essentially the straw that broke the camel's back.
Kirkpatrick also committed a questionable pass interference penalty in the fourth quarter on Nelson that led to a first down on a 3rd-and-10 play. Kirkpatrick commits many penalties and bad plays that referees often don't give him the benefit of the doubt on these kinds of questionable calls. It's clear the Bengals are going to find it hard to win games against pass-happy offenses who have several good receivers, which is pretty much every team Cincinnati will need to beat to reach their ultimate goal.
5. This was dumb:
Bull, bull, bullshit flag. https://t.co/NlhWbFLEjc— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) November 23, 2015
That play had a block in the back penalty on Kirkpatrick that negated a 41-yard punt return by Brandon Tate that should have put the Bengals at the Arizona 43-yard line, but instead put the the offense at the Cincinnati 16-yard line. If the ref had called a personal foul for a helmet to helmet hit, I could understand that, but there's nothing going on here to call a block in the back on.
That was a terrible call that essentially cost the Bengals points since the drive would have started less than a first down away from field-goal range. This was not a good game in general for referees, and unfortunately, most of the questionable calls went against the Bengals.