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Week 11 Bengals vs Cardinals: What We Learned

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The Bengals faced their former franchise quarterback and unfortunately the outcome wasn't what they hoped for. But, not all was lost on Sunday night and plenty of good came from that game.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The outcome was heart breaking and certainly not what Bengals fans were hoping for on Sunday night against the Cardinals, but there was plenty of good (and bad) that came from Sunday night.

For three quarters, the Bengals were by far the better team.

The Bengals played very well in the first half, both offensively and defensively. With the exception of the final drive of the game, the Bengals played very well in the fourth quarter. In those three quarters, the Bengals outscored the Cardinals 31-13. Unfortunately, the Bengals played so poorly in the third quarter, being outscored 21-0, that it factored heavily into the team's loss.

It's time to stop the Bengals/Dalton can't perform in the primetime talk.

The Bengals lost, it will go on Dalton's primetime record but Dalton was not to blame for that loss. 22/39, 315 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, a QBR of 68.8 and a rating of 99.8, not to mention he erased a 14 point deficit in the fourth quarter, on the road, against a Super Bowl frontrunner and it was under the big lights. Yes, the Bengals lost, but it should not be put on Dalton.

For the second week in a row, penalties killed the Bengals.

The refs were terrible, yes (more on that in a moment), but, in the last two weeks - games the Bengals lost by a combined seven points - the Bengals have been penalized 19 times for 178 yards...and that doesn't include the 45+ punt return yards which were wiped out by the penalties. You cannot beat good teams (or average teams - see Houston), while trying to overcome an entire football field worth of penalties. If the Bengals cannot get the penalties under control, an early exit in January is extremely likely.

The refs were terrible.

In defense of the Bengals, the refs on Sunday (hell, all year), were terrible - and it went both ways - but seemed to be worse against the Bengals. I don't care what Cris Collinsworth says, the "block from behind" on Dre Kirkpatrick was a terrible call - unless one's face is now considered his back, then it was the right call. That play likely cost the Bengals at least three points - points that would have been quite useful in a three point game. Had they called a hit to the head, I could have at least understood (though not agreed), but not a block from behind. Kirkpatrick was the victim of two bad penalties. The "PI" later in the game was another brutal call, as the receiver slipped and wasn't touched, at all. I know there are a lot of folks who don't want judgment calls like PI to be reviewable, but this is exactly why they should be. And no, it won't slow down the game. The box could have called down to the crew and informed them the receiver slipped and they could have picked up the flag in the same amount of time it took them to announce the terrible call. These are just a few examples of what has been a season-long issue.

The refs missing the shot to A.J. Green's head is inexcusable.

As much as the NFL is touting safety, they missed a huge call on the hit to Green's head in the third quarter and the effects of the missed call reverberated for the entire third quarter. The play came on the Bengals opening drive of the second half and was on a second and four play from the Bengals' 32 yard line. A penalty would have given the Bengals a first down at their own 47. Instead, the Bengals failed to convert on third down and had to punt. The Cardinals immediately tied the game on the ensuing drive, swung momentum and went on to score 21 unanswered points. In my opinion, that game is completely different if that call is made. And, on a side note, I think the refs make the hit to the head call waaay too often, but in a league that goes out of its' way to protect its' "star players," how is one of the top receivers in the game not afforded more protection? Few times has that call been more clear, the defender launched into his head and hit helmet-to-helmet before contacting any other part of Green's body. It was the text book example of the penalty which the league is trying to legislate, yet the missed it. Sure, the defender may be fined, but that won't help the Bengals in terms of the outcome of the game. From a standpoint of watching the game, that was a bad and frustrating missed call. From a safety standpoint, that was an inexcusable missed call.

Hue Jackson let his team down for the second week in a row.

Overall, the game plan was pretty good. However, the last offensive play of the game was, in my opinion, a huge brain fart by Hue. Yes, I understand Dalton has the ability to choose between a few plays based on the defense, but there are certain situations where the offensive coordinator needs to make the decision. The third and 2 play was one of those situations. With about 1:15 on the clock, the Bengals had two timeouts, the Cardinals had none. A first down would have allowed the Bengals the chance to either: 1) kill more clock and take a four point lead with a touchdown, or 2) kill the clock completely and kick a game tying field goal with no time left. The only thing the Bengals couldn't afford to do was have an incomplete pass and give Palmer more than a minute to get in field goal range against a decimated Bengals secondary. I don't mind the aggressiveness, but not there. Run the ball. If you get the first, then go for the end zone. If you don't get the first, you have at worst, a field goal from the same length and you give the Cardinals 35 less seconds to navigate the field. Many will blame Dalton - to me, this is on Jackson.

The Bengals secondary has some serious injury concerns.

The Bengals have been uncommonly healthy thus far. Well, injuries caught up to them very quickly on Sunday night. The worst part about the injuries is that they all came from the same position group. The season ending injury to Dennard is disappointing for him and big for the Bengals. With Adam Jones out on Sunday night, and with Hall and Kirkpatrick struggling, this injury could be huge. Luckily for the Bengals, their next two opponents do not feature strong passing attacks.

Jeremy Hill is an issue.

How bad has Hill been? So bad that we consider a 13 carry, 45 yard night an improvement. For those counting at home, that is 3.5 YPC - not a good number. Yes, he had two touchdowns, and his seven rushing touchdowns now rank second in the NFL, but the touchdowns are simply the product of him being the short yardage back. They are masking how bad he has been this year. If his play isn't bad enough, now he is hurting the team with 15 yard taunting penalties. If you take away his penalty, his numbers were 13 carries for 30 yards (2.3 YPC). Dear Jeremy, when you averaging less than 3.5 YPC on the season, there is exactly zero reason to be talking trash or taunting anyone. Save your energy for trying to stay on your feet longer.

Dre Kirkpatrick continues to be a big disappointment.

Kirkpatrick and Eifert were all the buzz in training camp. One has lived up to the expectations. One has not. I will give Kirkpatrick a pass on the block from behind and the PI, as I think both were terrible calls, what I won't give him a break on is giving up more big plays. The one that sticks in my mind was the third and 14 when Kirkpatrick's man caught a seven yard slant and Kirkpatrick couldn't make the tackle. Going into the season, I was convinced the Bengals starting corners in 2016 would be Kirkpatrick and Dennard, and more importantly, I thought the Bengals would be in good hands with those two manning the outside. Now, I am not so sure on either front. Had Dennard not suffered a season ending injury, I would say that Dennard and Jones should be the starters once everyone was healthy.

Leon Hall played a good game...until it mattered most.

Hall has had some very good games in 2015. He even looked good in the first half of this game with the early pick on Palmer. But, when the Bengals needed him most, their most experienced corner let them down big. On the game winning drive, Hall surrendered two catches to Larry Fitzgerald for 38 yards.

I don't know what to make of the Peko penalty.

Peko said he wasn't emulating the cadence. He is the type of player who I believe. Either way, I don't like the refs making that call in that situation. All I know is that if the refs called the false start instead, a 10 second runoff should have occurred, meaning the game would have gone to overtime.

Andy Dalton will still not get the credit he deserves.

Despite being plagued again by poor offensive line play and drops, Dalton put together huge drive after huge drive to put the Bengals back in the game. As I said above, Dalton went 22/39 for 315 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, a QBR of 68.8 and a rating of 99.8, and he erased a 14 point deficit in the fourth quarter, on the road, against a Super Bowl contender in primetime.

The Bengals went toe-to-toe with the best team in the NFC on the road.

As frustrating as that loss was, that is not a loss to be upset about. In my opinion, that is the best team in the NFC and the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl and the Bengals went toe-to-toe with them, on the road, short-handed and were seconds from pulling out a victory. If not for the loss the week before, I don't think most Bengals fans would be so frustrated by that loss.

The Bengals are at worst, the second best team in the AFC.

Before jumping off any bridges - as I have heard multiple Bengals fans jokingly state - just remember, this is still an 8-2 team that currently holds its' own destiny for a first round bye. In the words of Aaron Rodgers, R-E-L-A-X.

Mike Brown needs a new hat.

Seriously? WTF is he wearing. Dear Katie Blackburn, for the love of all things holy, get your dad a hat that fits. Perhaps walk down to the Pro know, the one inside your own office building, and purchase a Bengals hat.