1. Redzone struggles
The Bengals opened the game in strong fashion, moving to the Arizona 5-yard line on the first possession after the defense forced a three-and-out, but that was about as good as it got until the final five minutes.
Joe Mixon had eight carries for 60 yards that first drive before the offense stalled and settled for a field goal, and through three-and-a-half quarters, Randy Bullock was the only player putting points on the board for Cincinnati.
Arizona led 23-9 before the Bengals ended about a 120-minute touchdown drought that began after a fourth-quarter score in Week 3 at Buffalo. Cincinnati was 1-for-3 in the red zone Sunday.
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“We missed out on a lot of points,” Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd said. “Every time we get to the red zone, three points aren’t going to win games. Three points aren’t going to get you over the hump. Three points aren’t going to get you to the playoffs. We have to execute on third downs.”
2. Carrying the momentum
The Bengals are hoping their final two drives on offense will carry over into a faster start next week at Baltimore, even though they didn’t get the win.
“Scoring that fast, when we took possession, we looked unstoppable at that point,” wide receiver Auden Tate said. “It’s something we know we can do and we showed it. Scoring that fast both times, we just have to do it earlier in games.”
When Chase Edmonds scored on a 37-yard run to put the Cardinals up by two touchdowns with 7:11 left, the game appeared over, but suddenly the Bengals turned it up a notch and Dalton complete 8 of 9 passes the next drive, including a 2-yard touchdown to Tate, and the defense got a big third-down stop when B.W. Webb broke up a pass intended for future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald.
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Cincinnati needed just four plays to tie the game, starting with a 29-yard pass to Boyd and finishing with a 42-yard touchdown catch by Boyd to make it 23-all with two minutes left.
“We were just clicking,” Boyd said. “Guys wanted to win. There was a sense of urgency out there, and guys were out there doing their assignment. If we could just stay polished like that and out-execute guys early, we can out-execute each and every play.”
3. No stopping Murray
Arizona rookie quarterback Kyler Murray, this year’s top overall draft pick, had his best game of the season, as the Bengals couldn’t figure out how to stop him.
Murray rushed for 93 yards on 10 carries, including an incredible fake handoff that he took for a touchdown for Arizona’s first lead of the season at 7-3 in the first quarter. He also had a critical 24-yard scramble on the final drive to put the Cardinals in scoring position for the game-winning field goal.
“With a guy like that who can run around and has a great arm like that, it’s tough because you always have to keep an eye on him,” Webb said. “He can extend plays with his legs, as you saw today. He got a couple big plays, couple critical third downs. With someone like that it’s tough, but we have to get him on the ground.”
4. Where’s the rush?
The Cardinals came into this game allowing a league-worst 20 sacks, but the Bengals managed to get to Murray just once. At the same time, Cincinnati’s offensive line also has struggled this season and allowed just one sack on Dalton.
Both teams seemed to figure out early on that running the ball was the solution around their struggling offensive lines. When Murray wasn’t scrambling, David Johnson and Edmonds were doing damage on the ground, as Johnson rushed 17 times for 91 yards and Edmonds added 68 yards on eight carries.
Arizona finished with 266 yards and two touchdowns on 38 carries.
Mixon had early success because the offensive line actually made some holes for him to run through – something that had been missing in previous weeks. The opportunities weren’t as open as the game unfolded and he finished with 93 yards on 19 carries, but both were season highs.
Dalton completed 27 of 38 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns, while overcoming the loss of a third wide receiver as Alex Erickson left in the second quarter with a concussion. John Ross went on injured reserve this week, and A.J. Green remains out with an ankle injury.
5. Oh so close
After coming back to tie the game so late in the game, the Bengals were disappointed not to be able to finish with a win, but the message remains the same: They will keep fighting.
The focus going forward for the offense is just to play with more urgency sooner in the game.
“It’s a helpless feeling, but that’s on us,” Tate said. “If we start early, we’re not in that position. We came through at the end and made a lot of plays, but we didn’t do enough at the beginning to come away with the win and that’s what we need to do.”
Bengals at Ravens, 1 p.m., WHIO-TV Ch. 7, Ch. 12, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7