The Arizona Cardinals received game-long consistency from their talented kicker Chandler Catanzaro, who authored a game-winning 34 yard field goal that gave the Cardinals a 34-31 victory at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Catanzaro who went undrafted in the 2014 NFL Draft, has been one of the key discoveries by Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians and his staff. Just think, there were only two placekickers taken in that aforementioned draft in Nate Freese (Boston College) and Zach Hocker (Arkansas), and neither one of those kickers are employed in the NFL as of this writing. Catanzaro in his own mind probably still has a chip on his shoulder from that draft slight, and he’s used that chip to be one of the better kickers in the NFL today.
In this game, Catanzaro made all his extra points (4) and converted two field goals including the game winner. Catanzaro has been a placekicking talent for years dating back to his days at Clemson, but it always takes a game-winning field goal for the nation to really care about what kickers do.
This game and last week’s Seattle game should let the Cards know that they have to do something about their defense. Last week, these same Bengals (8-2) couldn’t even find a way to score a touchdown versus the Houston Texans in their own home, Paul Brown Stadium.
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (22 of 39 for 315 yards, 2 touchdowns and no picks) didn’t have a great game, but he had a good enough game that had the Cards defense worrying from time to time. He distributed his 22 completions to six different offensive players, including running back Giovani Bernard (8 catches for 128 yards). Bernard was a constant threat and headache to the Cards in the short and intermediate areas.
Cards quarterback Carson Palmer (20 of 31 for 317 yards, 4 touchdowns and 2 picks) picked himself up from a murky first quarter, and proceeded to slowly but surely tear apart the Bengals defense.
The fact that the Cards beat the breaks off the Bengals defense without their star receiver in Michael Floyd, who sat out this game due to a hamstring injury he suffered versus Seattle last week. And that future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald (8 catches for 90 yards) wasn’t 100 percent as far as health for this game. It makes one wonder how potent the Cards offense really is when they have all their weapons healthy and ready to go.
Palmer used his brain in this game to not only scald the Bengals secondary, but he also took advantage of the fact that the Bengals’ secondary was hit hard by injuries before and during the game.
After Palmer threw his second interception of the first quarter, the Bengals took advantage on their ensuing drive. On 1st and 10 from the CIN 36, Dalton took the snap and dropped back to pass. Palmer then let go of a deep pass that ended up in the hands of receiver A.J. Green (4 catches for 79 yards), who caught the pass along his left sideline and eventually went out of bounds at the ARZ 22. That 42 yard reception by Green set up tight end Tyler Eifert’s (3 catches for 22 yards and 2 scores) right corner of the end zone 3 yard touchdown reception in front of Cardinals strong safety Tony Jefferson. With 22 seconds left in the 1st quarter the Bengals took a 7-0 lead.
Here’s a little bit of significant history for Bengals football fans. That 3 yard touchdown reception by Eifert, gave him 10 touchdown receptions for the season. The Bengals have been playing football since 1968. So from 1968 to 2014, 47 years of Bengals football, no Bengals tight end ever caught more than 9 touchdown receptions in a season until tonight, November 22, 2015. The last Bengal tight end to catch anywhere near 10 touchdown passes in a single season was Rodney Holman who caught 9 in 1989.
Rookie receiver J.J. Nelson (4 catches for 142 yards and 2 scores) who had the game of his life tonight, bailed out the Cardinals on their next drive after that Eifert touchdown reception. Nelson’s 23 yard reception between double coverage gave the Cards the first down and the ball was placed at the CIN 27. Nelson’s huge reception set up an 18 yard back of the end zone touchdown reception by tight end Darren Fells. With 9:44 left in the second quarter the score was tied at 7-7.
Cincinnati running back Jeremy Hill (13 carries for 45 yards and 2 scores) authored a much needed 2 yard touchdown run up the middle late in the second quarter. With 1:07 left in the second quarter, the Bengals took the lead again at 14-7.
Meanwhile, Nelson authored his second bailout of the Cards offense. This one took place early in the third quarter, when he ran a deep slant and out pattern, which enabled him to get behind the Bengals defense to latch onto a Palmer pass that he took 64 yards to the end zone. With 11:21 left in the third quarter the game was tied at 14-14.
Palmer’s babysitter of his two kids and his number three receiver, John Brown (3 catches for 43 yards and 1 score), got into the scoring action late in the third quarter. On 2nd and 1 from the CIN 18, Palmer fired a laser pass into the hands of Brown who caught the pass amid close coverage and near the beginning of the end zone. With 5:32 left in the third quarter the Cards had their first lead of the game at 21-14.
Nelson later in the third quarter, used his 4.28 speed to zoom past the Bengals defense for a 36 yard gain to the CIN 17 yard line. That play set up a 16 yard touchdown reception by rookie running back David Johnson, who caught the pass over his left shoulder and near the top left corner of the end zone. With 1:26 left in the third quarter the Cards took a commanding 28-14 lead.
But the Bengals weren’t done yet, and Hill made sure of that. He carried up the middle for a 1 yard touchdown run that cut into the Cards’ lead at 28-21 early in the fourth quarter.
The Cardinals extended their lead to 31-21, when Catanzaro executed an easy 24 yard field goal. With 6:27 left in the game the Cardinals were in control.
Then Eifert added to his Bengals franchise tight end touchdown reception record, when he beat Arizona cornerback Jerraud Powers for a 10 yard touchdown reception near the back of the end zone. With 3:44 left in the game the score was now 31-28 with Arizona in the lead.
Bengals placekicker Mike Nugent tied the game at 31-31 with his 43 yard successful field goal. With 1:03 left in the game, both teams at that point were either looking at overtime or a game-winning field goal or touchdown from Arizona.
The Cardinals ended all speculation when at the end of their 6 play, 70 yard game-winning drive, Catanzaro came in and booted a 34 yard field goal through the uprights. That game-winning field goal with just one second left in the game, gave the Cards an eventual 34-31 victory after the Bengals couldn’t get that far on the ensuing kickoff.
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