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Bengals reflect on third and two situation in the fourth quarter vs Cardinals

There is a mismatch. Andy Dalton audibles. It makes sense. All of it. It just didn't work out and the Bengals eventually lost.

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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

There was 3:44 remaining in the Bengals game against the Cardinals.

Cincinnati, having already absorbed a Mike Tyson-sized uppercut in the third quarter, responded with subtle fourth quarter jabs that wore Arizona down. Yet, the Cardinals had the upper-hand. A few first downs against an unreliable defense could, at the very least, make it difficult for Cincinnati to break their primetime narrative. Despite the obviousness of the situation, Arizona called a pass on first down -- which landed incomplete.


Regardless, Chris Johnson scampered for nine to the Cardinals 29-yard line, setting up a critical third and one scenario. Rey Maualuga and Vontaze Burfict dropped their usual hammer, selling out against the run and holding Johnson to a no-gain, forcing Arizona to punt. With help from Giovani Bernard, quarterback Andy Dalton artistically (at least in the Picasso school of art) advanced the offense to the Cardinals' 25-yard with 1:14 remaining in the game.

Fast forward to third and two.

If the Bengals run the football, Arizona can't stop the clock. Even if Cincinnati fails to convert the first down (a constant theme for both teams on Sunday), the Bengals would leave  approximately 30 seconds for Arizona if Mike Nugent converted a 43-yard field goal (which he did).

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the called play was "run-pass option, but Dalton switched to a pass" noticing that wide receiver A.J. Green was covered by cornerback Justin Bethel, who has started one game in his four-year career.

"We have our best player against -- their best corner was on the sideline," Jackson said of Arizona's Patrick Peterson, who was out with an injury. "He was done. So you've got your best player out on the field and the safety is standing in the middle of the field, so you've got to take that shot. Game over."

The logic... is sound. The theory... it makes sense. Yes, hindsight solidifies clarity because you already know the outcome. Dalton, seeing a significant advantage, should rely on his instincts. Plus, if the 8-1 Bengals are expected to shed those negative attributes that have shadowed the last four years, they should expect their quarterback to hook up with their top wide receiver -- both of whom are justifiably the highest paid players on the team -- on a critical play that could win the game.

Green immediately gained separation at the snap. A perfect pass hit him in stride and the touchdown is scored -- giving the Bengals a 35-31 lead. But, it wasn't. The pass wasn't perfect; it was extremely short.

Dalton underthrow Cardinals

Dalton underthrow Cardinals

"We don't get to go back and hindsight it," Lewis said via the Cincinnati Enquirer. "If we don't make the fourth down earlier in the game, you are going to sit there and ask me why I didn't go for it on fourth down. Right? It's easy to say after the fact, wish we would have did this or that. If we don't make the third-and-2 and we are kicking the field goal from there and we don't make the field goal, it's why don't you go for a touchdown? You had two timeouts, why not go to score a touchdown?"

Agreed. No, no. I'm serious. Cincinnati has breathing room in the standings to make aggressive calls like this; though the head coach shouldn't complain when the media asks questions regarding their decision-making process. It's part of the gig. Yet, because of Jackson's responses, many fans are wiser, absorbing the logic with clarity. Simply put, the play didn't work. It happens. The Cardinals are good. They're paid to play too.

Once Nugent tied the game with a 43-yard conversion, Arizona had 58 seconds remaining at their own 16-yard line. Carson Palmer completed passes of 19, 18, and 20 before spiking the ball on Cincinnati's 27-yard line. Following a knee and a (bullshit) personal foul on Domata Peko, Arizona won the game on a 32-yard field goal.