GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP)The Arizona Cardinals made what appeared to be a crucial stop just before halftime, stuffing Cincinnati on consecutive plays at the 1-yard line.
Two plays later, Josh Dobbs threw his first interception of the season and Cam Taylor-Britt returned it 11 yards for a touchdown, giving the Bengals a three-point lead instead of a deficit.
For all the Cardinals did right, mistakes at critical junctures led to another what-could-have-been loss, 34-20 to the Bengals on Sunday.
“When you lose the takeaway game 3-1, it’s a hard way to go,” Cardinals coach Jonathan Gannon said. “We’ve got to do a better job of protecting the football and that’s all 11.”
The Cardinals (1-4) left San Francisco last week with a bit of optimism despite losing by 19.
Arizona also had some good moments against the Bengals (2-3).
The Cardinals rallied from an early 10-point hole, matched a Cincinnati touchdown early in the third quarter and were in scoring position on another second-half drive.
Dobbs threw for two touchdowns in his fifth start for the injured Kyler Murray, but had two interceptions on overthrows and lost a fumble that set up a Bengals’ fourth-quarter field goal.
The Cardinals also turned the ball over on downs at the Cincinnati 17-yard line early in the fourth quarter and Joe Burrow followed by finding Ja’Marr Chase for a 3-yard touchdown that put the Bengals up 31-20.
“Turnovers are tough,” Dobbs said. “We take pride in taking care of the football. ”I have to be extremely smart and take care of the football, no matter what the circumstance is.”
Arizona managed to get some early pressure on Burrow, testing the Cincinnati quarterback’s lingering calf injury.
The NFL’s highest-paid player showed no lack of mobility despite three early sacks, extending plays with his legs to find open receivers downfield.
Burrow threw for 317 yards and three touchdowns on 36-of-46 passing. Chase had a huge game with Tee Higgins (ribs) out, finishing with a team-record 15 catches for 192 yards and three touchdowns.
“You can’t let their best player beat you and that’s what we just did,” Gannon said. “That falls false solely on me and we can’t let that happen again.”
The Cardinals fell into an early hole for the second straight week, trailing 10-0 after Burrow hit Chase on a 2-yard touchdown and a Bengals’ field goal the next drive.
Arizona’s offense started to find a better rhythm after a pair of three-and-outs, going up 14-10 on Dobbs’ 25-yard TD pass to Marquise Brown and a 4-yard score to Zach Ertz.
The Cardinals lost momentum with the pick-6 in the first half and gave up a 63-yard touchdown pass from Burrow to Chase early in the third quarter. Arizona responded quickly, pulling within 24-20 on Emari Demercado’s first NFL touchdown, an 11-yard run.
That was it for the Cardinals.
Gannon opted to go for it on fourth-and-nearly-2 from the Cincinnati 16-yard line, but the Bengals blew up Arizona’s running play to take over on downs. The Cardinals ran one play over the next 10 minutes – Dobbs’ interception – and Cincinnati scored twice to go up 34-20.
Arizona didn’t have much of a run game after James Conner went out with a knee injury in the second quarter. Dobbs was inconsistent, throwing for 166 yards and two touchdowns on 15-of-32 passing while turning it over three times.
“When we take care of the football we have a chance and we are in games,” Dobbs said.
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