Saturday, December 24, 2011
Wrap-up: Bengals 23, Cardinals 16
By Jamison Hensley
Thoughts on the Cincinnati Bengals' 23-16 win over the Arizona Cardinals:
What it means: With the Jets losing, the Bengals (9-6) took back the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC and control their playoff fate. Cincinnati can clinch a playoff spot by beating Baltimore next weekend. The Bengals won their second straight game after losing four of their past five games. Cincinnati improved to 8-0 against teams that don't currently have a winning record.
Surviving a scare: The Bengals ran out to a 23-0 lead before having to sweat out the fourth quarter. Unlike a couple weeks ago against Houston, the Bengals were able to stop a backup quarterback from a monumental comeback. With a chance to tie, Arizona wide receiver Early Doucet was uncovered at the goal line but fell as he ran. That let a fourth-down pass fall incomplete with 71 seconds remaining.
Touchdown of the year: It was a jaw-dropping start for the Bengals, and it had nothing to do with the team scoring the first 23 points of the game. Jerome Simpson delivered one of the top highlights of the season when he somersaulted over a defender into the end zone from three yards out and landed on his feet. You felt like he deserved more than the six points.
Dalton joins elite company: Andy Dalton finished 18 of 31 for 154 yards but he did have something to remember. With two touchdown passes, Dalton joined Peyton Manning, Charlie Conerly and Dan Marino as the only NFL rookies to throw 20 touchdowns.
Poor showing: The Bengals secured only their third winning record in the past 21 years, although few in Cincinnati witnessed it. An announced crowd of 41,273 watched at Paul Brown Stadium. This came close to the smallest crowd in the 12-year history of the stadium (41,142), which was set earlier this season.
What's next: The Bengals finish up the regular season by hosting the Baltimore Ravens. The Bengals lost to the Ravens, 31-24, on Nov. 20 in Baltimore.