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Arizona at Cincinnati

Bengals survive Cards, stay in hunt

CBSSports.com wire reports

CINCINNATI -- The stadium was only two-thirds full again. The Cardinals were on another one of their incredible comebacks, threatening to derail the Cincinnati Bengals surprising playoff surge.

A pair of tangled up feet made the difference.

The Bengals moved one win away from the playoffs Saturday, holding on for a 23-16 victory over Arizona that secured only their third winning record in the past 21 years.

Cincinnati (9-6) can clinch the final AFC wild card berth by beating Baltimore at Paul Brown Stadium next Sunday. The Bengals moved a game ahead of the Jets, who fell to 8-7 with a 29-14 loss to the Giants on Saturday.

"It's been a big year for me and for this team," rookie quarterback Andy Dalton said. "It's something we believed we had a chance to do. We weren't getting much credit from outside. We'll find out next week."

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Dalton threw two more touchdown passes, becoming only the fourth rookie to have 20 in a season, and Cincinnati got a break when the NFL's top comeback team tripped itself up in the closing minutes.

Wide-open receiver Early Doucet tripped at the goal line and went down, letting a fourth-down pass fall incomplete with 1:12 left. The Cardinals (7-8) got the ball one more time, but the clock ran out after a completion.

A few minutes later, the Jets' loss put the Bengals in position to reach the playoffs. New York would have won the tiebreaker if both teams won out.

"We started this quite a while ago -- seems like just yesterday," coach Marvin Lewis said. "But now we're right where we want to be at the end."

Their rookie quarterback put them in position.

Dalton threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Gresham and a 19-yarder to Jerome Simpson, who did a somersault over a defender and landed on both feet in the end zone.

Dalton joined Peyton Manning (26), Charlie Conerly (22) and Dan Marino (20) as the only NFL rookies to throw 20 touchdown passes.

CBSSports.com Grades
Arizona Cardinals
Arizona Cardinals
With slim playoff chances on the line, the Cards offense was brutal for three quarters. QB John Skelton threw three INTs, was sacked five times and completed fewer than half of his passes. RB Beanie Wells (53 yards) was held in check. The Cards tried to rally with 16 fourth-quarter points, but it was too little, too late. The defense was on the field far too long, gave up 165 rushing yards and enough big plays to help the Bengals open an insurmountable lead.
Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati's first three quarters were so good, they overshadowed a near-epic meltdown in the final quarter vs. the Cardinals. In a must-win scenario, however, the final result was all that mattered. The Bengals must find a way to play with the lead, but at least for one more week, those plays will matter in the playoff chase.
By Paul Dehner
RapidReports Correspondent

Down 23-0 heading into the fourth quarter, the NFL's best comeback team nearly pulled off its most improbable one yet. Arizona took advantage of Cedric Benson's two fumbles, getting a pair of touchdown passes by John Skelton and Jay Feely's field goal with 3:16 left.

The Cardinals then had their chance to pull even. The Bengals ran an all-out blitz on fourth down from the Cincinnati 17-yard line, and Doucet wound up uncovered at the goal line. Skelton lofted the ball into the end zone, but Doucet tripped and fell.

"It was a blitz and nobody was there," Doucet said. "It was one of those deals where I hadn't hooked it up and my feet got tangled. It's a play I should've made. It was my fault. That's a play I normally make."

The Cardinals had their four-game winning streak snapped and were eliminated from playoff contention.

Cincinnati's defense dominated the first three quarters. Arizona didn't cross midfield until Skelton completed a pass with 13:25 to go, but piled up 208 yards in the final quarter.

Skelton started for the second consecutive week in place of Kevin Kolb, who hasn't fully recovered from a concussion. Skelton was 23 of 44 for 297 yards with three interceptions and five sacks that helped the Bengals get the 23-0 lead.

It could have been worse. Mike Nugent, the NFL's most accurate kicker, missed field goals of 35 and 48 yards in the first half.

Arizona has rallied from fourth-quarter deficits six times this season, one shy of the NFL record. The Cardinals have won three games in overtime, tying the league record.

They couldn't do it one more time.

"Yeah, we're a second-half team," Skelton said. "That's how it has been all year. But in the end, it was too little, too late."

Dalton was 18 of 31 for 154 yards and two touchdowns on a sunny, 39-degree afternoon in front of only 41,273 fans. The Bengals have sold out only one of their seven home games, when the Steelers brought thousands of fans.

Dalton's second touchdown pass had a highlight finish.

Simpson got open for a catch-and-run to the goal line. With Daryl Washington between him and the end zone, Simpson jumped and twirled past the linebacker, landing on both feet in the end zone and raising both arms like a triumphant gymnast.

"One of the key parts for me was I stuck the landing," Simpson said. "I stuck the landing like a gymnast. That was probably one of the most surprising of all the plays in my career. It was pretty awesome, I thought."

For most of the game, the Cardinals couldn't do anything right. Rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson picked off a Dalton pass in the third quarter, but the interception was nullified by Arizona's second roughing-the-passer penalty of the game.

Worse, Peterson hurt his left hamstring on the play, pulling up on the return. The first-round pick left the game and didn't return. He wore a protective boot after the game.

"He's got a strain, it's not a tear," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "We're fortunate that it doesn't appear to anything long term."


  • Beanie Wells became the first Cardinal to run for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns in a season.
  • After the game, the Bengals made a buy-one, get-one-free offer to season ticket holders, trying to fill the stadium for the final game.
  • A.J. Green, playing with a strained right shoulder, had two catches for 25 yards. He passed Cris Collinsworth's club record for a rookie with 1,013 yards on the season.
Copyright 2016 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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John Skelton, starting at QB for Kevin Kolb, suffers one of five sacks at the hands of the Bengals. (Getty Images)
John Skelton, starting at QB for Kevin Kolb, suffers one of five sacks at the hands of the Bengals. (Getty Images)


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Sat. Dec. 24Final
Pass: J. Skelton (23-44, 297) A. Dalton (18-31, 154)
Rush: B. Wells (14-53) C. Benson (16-57)
Rec: L. Fitzgerald (6-105) J. Gresham (5-56)
Scoring Summary
FGMike Nugent, 24 Yd, 10:55. Drive: 5 plays, 17 yards in 1:59.
TDJermaine Gresham, 11 Yd pass from Andy Dalton (Mike Nugent kick is good), 6:24. Drive: 5 plays, 49 yards in 2:35.
TDJerome Simpson, 19 Yd pass from Andy Dalton (Mike Nugent kick is good), 2:46. Drive: 8 plays, 58 yards in 3:50.
FGMike Nugent, 41 Yd, 0:00. Drive: 6 plays, 36 yards in 1:47.
FGMike Nugent, 32 Yd, 3:09. Drive: 8 plays, 48 yards in 3:51.
TDLarry Fitzgerald, 30 Yd pass from John Skelton (Jay Feely kick is good), 11:25. Drive: 9 plays, 61 yards in 2:52.
TDJeff King, 2 Yd pass from John Skelton (John Skelton Run for 2 Pt. Conversion failed), 7:39. Drive: 4 plays, 39 yards in 1:40.
FGJay Feely, 29 Yd, 3:16. Drive: 8 plays, 68 yards in 2:56.
Players of the Game

A. Dalton
Att 31
Comp 18
Yds 154
TD 2

L. Fitzgerald
Rec 6
Yds 105
Avg 17.5
TD 1
J. Skelton23/4429723
B. Wells145308
J. Skelton4604
L. Fitzgerald6105139
A. Roberts675022
E. Doucet247027
T. Heap229020
C. Taylor219010
R. Housler111011
B. Wells1808
L. Stephens-Howling1202
J. King1212
P. Peterson1-10-1
A. Dalton18/3115420
C. Benson165709
A. Dalton548017
B. Scott102809
A. Green225022
C. Peerman1707
J. Gresham556112
J. Simpson542119
A. Green225017
R. Whalen320013
C. Benson1808
A. Hawkins1303
D. Lee1000
Complete Player Stats
Other Games
HOU 16 Final
IND 19
CLE 14 Final
BAL 20
DEN 14 Final
BUF 40
TB 16 Final
CAR 48
OAK 16 Final
KC 13
MIA 24 Final
NE 27
NYG 29 Final
NYJ 14
STL 0 Final
PIT 27
JAC 17 Final
TEN 23
MIN 33 Final
WAS 26
SD 10 Final
DET 38
PHI 20 Final
SF 19 Final
SEA 17
CHI 21 Final
GB 35
ATL 16 Final
NO 45