GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Carson Palmer said last week this was “not just another game.”
His Arizona Cardinals were facing Cincinnati, the franchise where his NFL career began and where he sat at home rather than play before the team finally traded him.
So maybe that explains the early difficulties Arizona had in Sunday night’s games, but he sure made up for it after that in the Cardinals’ 34-31 victory.
Palmer overcame two early interceptions to throw four touchdown passes, then capped his night off by completing three quick passes in the final 57 seconds to set up Chandler Catanzaro’s game-winning 32-yard field goal with 2 seconds to play.
“I just made two really stupid plays,” Palmer said. “Just kind of got the jitters out and we got rolling. We caught fire in the second half.”
In the second half, Palmer completed 13 of 19 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.
“I think he wanted to get after these guys a little too much early,” Arizona coach Bruce Arians said, “and then he settled down and got into rhythm.”
Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton bounced back from a subpar performance the previous week against Houston to lead the Bengals back after Arizona took leads of 28-14 and 31-21 in the second half.
“I think the one thing you can take from this is that there’s no quit,” Dalton said. “We fought until the very end and that’s good to see. We’ve got to keep that mentality. We’ve got to keep doing that. So there is some positive you can take from it.”
Here are some things to ponder in the wake of Arizona’s victory.
THAT PENALTY: Bengals coach Marvin Lewis called it “that phantom call.”
It may not have cost Cincinnati, but it sure made that last field goal a whole lot easier.
The Cardinals were at the Cincinnati 27-yard line and were trying to spike the ball to stop the clock and set up the game-winning attempt.
There was movement up front but, rather than call a false start, the official ruled that defensive tackle Domata Peko was barking out offensive signals, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that moved the ball to the 14. Had there been a false start, the kick would have been pushed back instead and the game could have wound up in overtime.
“I trust what our player did and said,” Lewis said. “He’s alerting a run and not anything to do with what they (the Cardinals) are saying. I don’t see how they make that call at that point in the game like that. I trust our guy to be honest with me.”
Peko said he’d never seen that penalty called since he’s been in the NFL.
He said the Cardinals simply jumped ahead of the snap.
“I was just saying ‘get set, get set, get set’ because they were on the ball quick,” Peko said, “and I guess they thought I said hike or something. I didn’t say hike. … They were already in field goal range and we were just trying to make a play to win, they jump offside and I thought that would knock them out of field goal range.”
SO FAST: John Brown might not be Arizona’s fastest receiver anymore. J.J. Nelson might win that race.
Nelson, a slim, slight rookie from Alabama-Birmingham, caught four passes for 142 yards, including a spectacular 64-yard reception for a touchdown to tie it at 14-14 early in the second half.
As he watched the ball soar toward him, Nelson said he was just thinking “Come down, come down as quick as possible, and it did.”
“I was just thankful to get that first touchdown,” he said.
EIFERT STRONG: Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert had a few uncharacteristic drops in the team’s 10-6 loss to Houston the previous week, but he had two big ones for touchdowns against the Cardinals.
His second one cut the lead to three points late.
INJURIES: Several players went down with injuries, including Arizona’s Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson, who injured his ankle late in the game. There was no indication how serious it might be. Arizona also lost Frostee Rucker to an ankle injury.
Among the injured Bengals were cornerback Darqueze Dennard with a chest injury and cornerback Josh Shaw with a shoulder injury.
YOU CALL THAT LOUD? The roof was open for the first time in more than a year for a Cardinals home game, perhaps commemorating the 100th consecutive sellout — every game that’s been played there since the University of Phoenix Stadium opened.
And it was very loud. But Lewis wasn’t impressed.
“I didn’t notice it,” he said. “We’ve been in places that have been louder.”