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Cardinals Left Chasing Bengals In Injury-Filled Home Loss

Conner, Thompson go down in 34-20 defeat

Cardinals cornerback Marco Wilson tries to stop Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase from making a catch during Sunday's game.
Cardinals cornerback Marco Wilson tries to stop Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase from making a catch during Sunday's game.

The frustration was evident, and the way Sunday's loss played out for the Cardinals, it was understandable.

Playing from behind doesn't suit Jonathan Gannon's team, nor can it survive multiple turnovers. The Bengals came to State Farm Stadium struggling mightily on offense and left feeling really good about the Joe Burrow-to-Ja'Marr Chase connection.

After the 34-20 defeat, coach Jonathan Gannon took the blame for the defensive issues. Cornerback Antonio Hamilton acknowledged he really didn't want to talk about the game but said he believed the secondary will only get better. Fellow cornerback Marco Wilson, with a group of media waiting to ask him questions, left them and the locker room without saying a word.

Chase was at the forefront, days after telling Cincinnati media he was "always (expletive) open." The Pro Bowl wideout had 15 receptions for 192 yards and three touchdowns, single-handedly bringing back to life the offense of the Bengals (2-3) and quarterback Joe Burrow.

"He caught a lot of balls today for a lot of yards and a lot of touchdowns," Gannon said. "As a defensive staff, myself being the leader of that, we didn't do enough on that side. You can't let their best player beat you and that's what we did.

"That falls solely on me, and we can't let that happen again. Point blank, that's the game right there. You let their best player beat you. I'm pissed off about it. It's my fault."

Stopping Chase – who had his big day a week after 49ers running back Christian McCaffery tallied four touchdowns himself against the Cardinals – was the lead story. But there were other issues.

Losing two more key players to injury hurt. Running back James Conner broke off an electrifying 35-yard run in the first half, but a leap at the end led him to suffer a knee injury that ultimately ended his day. Rookie Emari Demercado filled in admirably – including his first NFL touchdown – but losing the Conner intangible seemed to make a difference.

Safety Jalen Thompson, who has been playing the nickel role, also left the game with a hamstring injury – a rough turn given that Budda Baker is already on IR with a hamstring injury himself.

Quarterback Joshua Dobbs also had his worst outing since the opener, throwing his first two interceptions of the season and losing a fumble. His first pick, in the shadow of his own goal posts, deflected off the hands of wideout Zach Pascal and to Bengals cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt for an 11-yard Pick-6.

The score, right before halftime, had come just after a dynamic goal-line stand by the Cardinals defense on fourth down. Dobbs said the pass was intended for Hollywood Brown.

"Turnovers are tough," said Dobbs, who completed only 15-of-32 passes for 166 yards although he did have TD passes to Brown and Zach Ertz. "We take pride in taking care of the ball. Both of those (interceptions) are on me – especially when you are about to go into the half with the lead on that area of the field."

Yet, even with all that, the Cardinals still had some life late in the third quarter, resilient as they are.

Down four after kicker Matt Prater had missed an extra point, had the ball at the Cincinnati 16-yard line in the third quarter facing a fourth-and-1. With Dobbs in the shotgun, the Cardinals attempted a quarterback sweep to the right – and Dobbs was stopped for a loss of one.

"Fourth-and-1 on the opposing team's (16)-yard line, we feel like we should get the first down," Dobbs said. "Those little plays that have such a huge impact on the game, we have to come out on the other side victorious."

The Bengals went on to score a touchdown, strip-sacked Dobbs on the next Cardinals' offensive play, and then kicked a field goal – meaning Arizona ran one offensive play in a span of 10:03 of game-clock time.

Down 14, it was a hole from which they couldn't climb from.

Burrow, who has been dealing with an injured calf, had his best game of the season – 36-of-46, 317 yards, the three touchdowns and one interception. The Bengals weren't necessarily dominate offensively, other than when they turned to Chase.

"I think we have a pretty good scheme, to be honest," Hamilton said. "A few of the calls we didn't do certain techniques right, which gave them free access on some throws. We're going to continue to grow at it, continue to mesh and gel at as we play with one another."

Hamilton was in the starting lineup for the first time this season, replacing rookie Kei'Trel Clark. The pass defense will be tested again next week on the road when the Cardinals go to Los Angeles to play the Rams, which just got back wide receiver Cooper Kupp.

The Cardinals need to make sure he doesn't have a Chase-like performance.

"(Chase) is a great, phenomenal player," said safety K'Von Wallace, who had an interception against Burrow. "He did his thing. They were the better team tonight. Wish we could see them again, but it is what it is."