Palmer leads Cardinals past Bengals with late drive

*Carson Palmer led a late scoring drive to send the Cardinals (8-2) past Andy Dalton and the slumping Bengals (8-2), 34-31. *

  1. After a week of speculation and he-said, she-said over Carson Palmer's unceremonious departure from Cincinnati in 2011, the Cardinals quarterback finally stuck it to his former team -- it just took a while. Palmer got off to an uncharacteristically slow start, tossing two picks in the first quarter alone. However, he got going in the second quarter with a beautiful touchdown pass to Darren Fells and then continued to light up the Bengals' secondary in the second half en route to a 317-yard, four-touchdown performance.

To top it all off, Palmer led the Cardinals on a 70-yard game-winning drive in just 52 seconds after the Bengals tied the game late in the fourth quarter. Palmer connected with J.J. Nelson and Larry Fitzgerald twice in the span of 24 seconds on the perfectly-executed drill before Cardinals kicker Chandler Catanzaro nailed a 32-yarder at the buzzer.

Still going unrecognized in the MVP debate, Palmer now leads the league in touchdown passes (27) -- Tom Brady (24) looks to surge back ahead on Monday night -- and has moved the Cardinals against two dominant secondaries two weeks in a row. Try ignoring him now. Try.

  1. Is it possible that 'Primetime' Andy Dalton is actually a flattering moniker? One week after being humbled by a stingy Texans secondary on Monday night, Dalton rebounded with a 315-yard, two-touchdown outing. He didn't throw an interception, and his lone fumble, allowed by a collapsing offensive line, resulted in just three Cardinals points. With A.J. Green locked up for much of the night, Dalton found success underneath with Giovani Bernard (8 rec, 128 yards). On Sunday night, the Bengals quarterback wasn't quite a Red Rifle, nor was he a Red Ryder BB gun. His new nickname is TBD, as is Cincinnati's fading home-field advantage.
  1. They say football's a game you have to play for sixty minutes, but one quarter nearly decided this matchup. After closing the first half with a go-ahead touchdown, the Bengals got the ball first in the third and had an opportunity to build on their own momentum, but Cincinnati's offense stalled. In three drives, Dalton led the Bengals to just one first down for -1 yards and three punts. On the other side of the ball, Arizona made adjustments and turned its three drives into 21 points and 195 yards, swinging the entire trajectory of the game.
  1. Tyler Eifert remains a Gronk-like presence in the red zone for the Bengals. The tight end reeled in two more touchdowns on the goal line -- Dalton's only two of the game -- and further established himself as a fantasy stud.
  1. Another season, another speedy Cardinals rookie wide receiver bursting onto the scene. With Fitzgerald and John Brown garnering attention from Cincinnati's tough corners, J.J. Nelson made a name for himself. Nelson caught four balls -- including one on the final drive -- for 142 yards and set the tone inthe second half with a 64-yard third-quarter touchdown grab. Nelson's emergence should scare secondaries around the league. The Cardinals just have too many weapons, even with Michael Floyd out, for most NFL defenses to contain.
  1. If it weren't for a controversial Bengals penalty, Catanzaro's 32-yard game-winning kick could have been less of a sure thing. NFL Media's Alex Flanagan reported after the game that Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko's unsportsmanlike penalty in the game's final seconds was actually overdue. Cardinals guard Ted Larsen told Flanagan that Peko had been mimicking Palmer's signal-calling cadence throughout the entire game and he did so again on the play that caused Larsen to false start. For what it's worth, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis denied his team was mimicking cadence and called the penalty a phantom call.
  1. This well-contested game between certain playoff teams changed their postseason hopes and our perceptions of them very little. At 8-2, the Cardinals are still sitting pretty as the second seed in the NFC behind the undefeated Panthers and remain three games ahead of the Seahawks in the West. The 8-2 Bengals have lost two in a row, but still hold a two-game lead in the division. They are tied with the Brock Osweiler-led Broncos for the second seed in the AFC, but should pull away if the Broncos' offense continues to struggle.
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