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The Cincinnati Bengals (9-6) put together a highly impressive performance in their 23-16 victory over the in-form Arizona Cardinals (7-8). The win keeps the Bengals in the hunt for the final wild card slot in the AFC, with the first already taken by either the Baltimore Ravens or Pittsburgh Steelers, depending on which team eventually takes top spot in the AFC North.
The Bengals took control of the game immediately, moving into a 10-point lead by the end of the first quarter. An early field goal gave Cincinnati the lead, then Jermaine Gresham extended it when he collected an 11-yard touchdown pass from rookie quarterback, Andy Dalton.
Cincinnati then doubled their lead before halftime. Jerome Simpson acrobatically jumped over an Arizona defender to complete a 19-yard touchdown pass before Mike Nugent added a field goal, as time ran down in the second quarter. Despite Nugent adding another field goal in the third quarter and extending the Bengals lead to 23 points, the fourth quarter brought a scare for the home fans, with the Cardinals mounting a dangerous comeback. A 30-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald sparked the Cardinals into life, and soon after, they were celebrating another touchdown after a 2-yard pass to Jeff King in the end zone.
A field goal for Arizona late in the fourth quarter reduced the deficit further and made it a one possession game with time running down. Despite being inside the Cincinnati 20-yard line with two minutes left on the clock, the Cardinals were unable to breach the Bengals defense and succumbed to a disappointing defeat.
Although Arizona fans will be pleased with the two touchdowns and 298-yards thrown by John Skelton, they will look back at the three interceptions given up by the second-year quarterback as arguably the most definitive factors behind their defeat. The Cincinnati defense was suffocating all game long, picking up three interceptions and five sacks, with safety Reggie Nelson picking up one of each, as the Bengals defense did a great job of giving their offense good field position. Dalton put in another efficient performance, throwing for two touchdowns and giving up no interceptions, but may find his hopes of earning the accolade of Offensive Rookie of the Year dashed, due to the more dynamic and explosive performances of Cam Newton.