Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson celebrates after breaking up a pass during Sunday night's win over Cincinnati.
Patrick Peterson was in full shutdown corner mode Sunday night, tracking Bengals star wideout A.J. Green all around the field trying to make his life miserable.
For the most part the Cardinals' star cornerback succeeded, but an ankle injury came at an inopportune time. Peterson had to leave the game for most of the final two drives – the severity of the injury is unknown -- and Cincinnati scored 10 points to tie the game at 31.
It could have been worse, though, as the Cardinals kept the Bengals out of the end zone on the last drive to give the
offense the opportunity for the game-winning score in the 34-31 win.
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton threw twice for Green on the final drive with the Bengals trailing 31-28. On the last play before the tying field goal, Bethel had nice coverage and seemed to be primed for the interception. Instead, the ball bounced off his hands and into Green's as he knocked over the end zone pylon.
After a moment of uncertainty, the pass was ruled incomplete.
"I should have picked it, and when he caught it, I was like, 'Oh, man. You've got to be kidding me,'" Bethel said. "And then they said he was out of bounds. I was like, 'Oh, thank you, Jesus.'"
Cornerback Justin Bethel joined Jerraud Powers at cornerback following Peterson's injury, and the Cardinals stopped following Green around defensively.
"When you lose the best corner on your team – and especially when he's going around following the main receiver – it's definitely a tough loss," Bethel said. "All you can do is just hope that the guys backing him up, like me, for example, are making the plays that come to them."
While a few of the defensive playcalls had to be removed with one fewer player in the secondary, for the most part it was business as usual.
"We feel like Justin is just as capable as Pat," safety Tyrann Mathieu said. "Pat just has that experience, but Justin is a big-time athlete as well. We didn't budge not one bit."
OPINIONS DIFFER ON FINAL PENALTY CALL
There were some tense moments as the officials threw a flag and then huddled before kicker Chandler Catanzaro's game-winning field goal. An unsportsmanlike penalty was eventually called on Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko for
simulating the Cardinals' snap count, which made guard Ted Larsen false start.
If the call had been made on Larsen – and with the Cardinals out of timeouts -- it would have resulted in a ten-second runoff to end regulation with the score tied at 31.
"I was concerned that they would blow it, but it was obviously what they called – one of those jump-at-you deals," coach Bruce Arians said. "I still would have rather seen (Larsen) sit there."
Larsen said the time between the whistle and the call was scary, and it was "total relief" once the announcement was made. The Bengals were unhappy the penalty was called on them. Coach Marvin Lewis said it was a "phantom call." Peko said he wasn't trying to fool the Cardinals.
"They were on the ball pretty quick and I am a big communicator on our defensive line about runs, passes, trying to communicate," Peko said. "I was just saying, 'Get set, get set" because they were on the ball quick and I guess when I said "get set" they thought I was saying 'hike' or something. I didn't say hike. It shouldn't have come down to that play. They were already in field goal range and we were trying to make a play to win."
CAT-MAN COMES THROUGH IN THE CLUTCH
The penalty on Peko pushed up the field goal to a more manageable 32-yard distance, but Catanzaro said it didn't change his approach. While the shorter distance gave him more margin for error, Catanzaro focused on his mechanics.
"(Punter) Drew Butler and I talked about it earlier this week," Catanzaro said. "We kind of had a feeling about this one. I had a little butterflies but not really. I just knew to trust my process."
Once he nailed the game-winner – his first in the NFL – all bets were off, as Catanzaro did a bit of the 'Dab' dance and then ran away from the teammates who were trying to mob him.
"I just kind of went berserk, and I think (long snapper) Mike (Leach) grabbed me there for a little," Catanzaro said. "I don't want to run away from the guys but it was just instincts, maybe from my soccer days."
FLOYD SITS, RUCKER LEAVES EARLY
Wide receiver Michael Floyd tested out his hamstring before the game but was ruled inactive. Even without him, the Cardinals finished with 317 passing yards. Arians said Floyd "could have played in the red zone, but he couldn't open it up and run."
Defensive tackle Frostee Rucker left the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury and didn't return. Arians didn't know the severity of the injury.
Guard Mike Iupati missed a portion of the first quarter because of a stinger following a collision with Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga. It wasn't as serious as the double stinger he suffered last week in a collision with Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor – that one sent him to the hospital in an ambulance – but it also came on a pull block.
"It was déjà vu," Arians said. "He hit the guy and the same thing happened. He wanted to go back in and finish so it was really good news."