The Arizona Cardinals’ starters played the entire first half for the first time this preseason in their game Sunday night against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The results were decidedly mixed, as the Bengals took a 13-3 lead into halftime:
• Carson Palmer looked like a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback during limited action in the Cardinals’ first two preseason games. He looked nothing of the sort in the first half Sunday night against his former team.
Palmer committed the Cardinals’ first turnover of the preseason, and it was an especially ugly and costly one. On the Cards’ second drive, his pass intended for Larry Fitzgerald was easily picked off by cornerback Terence Newman, who returned it 54 yards for a touchdown.
Palmer appeared to panic under pressure — and even when he had time, he didn’t look like the 11-year veteran he is. He missed a wide-open Michael Floyd for what should have been a sure touchdown in the first quarter, and he overthrew John Brown in the corner of the end zone in the second quarter. For the half, Palmer completed just 7 of 19 passes for 92 yards.
• Floyd, who missed Arizona’s first two exhibition games with a groin injury, made his first and only catch of the game with a 4-yard grab midway through the first quarter.
• Starting running back Andre Ellington, who carried just four times for 12 yards in Arizona’s first two preseason games, reminded fans why he led the NFL with 5.5 yards per rush in his rookie season.
Earlier this week, Ellington said he bulked up during the offseason, and that work appeared to pay off during a 9-yard first-quarter run in which he (with some help from the offensive line) moved the pile a few additional yards on the Cardinals’ first possession.
Ellington also reeled off a 24-yard gain in the second quarter that ultimately set up a short field goal. He finished the first half with 46 yards on nine rushes (5.1 yards per carry).
• Bengals starting tailback Giovani Bernard had little room to run against the Cards, who held him to minus-2 yards on four carries in the first quarter. The Cardinals, which were No. 1 in the NFL against the run last season, limited Cincinnati to 41 yards on 15 first-half carries.
• Linebacker Kenny Demens made the most of his expanded playing time in the absence of Kevin Minter, who sat out with a pectoral injury. In the first quarter, Demens’ pressure of quarterback Andy Dalton forced an intentional grounding call, and in the second quarter, Demens had an impressive open-field tackle of three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green to prevent a long gain.
• The Cards’ secondary had a mixed performance. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie did a stellar job of blanketing Green on a deep pass in the second quarter, but he also badly missed a tackle of wideout Mohamed Sanu on a screen pass several plays earlier. Cornerback Jerraud Powers expertly swatted away a Dalton pass on third down to hold the Bengals to a field goal in the second quarter.
• Mired in a position battle with rookie Chandler Catanzaro, kicker Jay Feely didn’t do himself any favors by sending a 48-yard first-quarter field goal attempt well wide right. Feely somewhat atoned with a successful 24-yard field goal to put the Cardinals on the board, along with an ensuing kickoff that he booted nine yards deep into the end zone.