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Rapid Reactions: Cardinals upend Bengals for 1st win of season

(AP Photo/Frank Victores)

It may have taken five weeks, but the Arizona Cardinals are in the win column.

Behind the team’s rushing attack, the Cardinals took down the hosting Cincinnati Bengals 26-23.

While rookie quarterback Kyler Murray threw for more than 250 yards, it was the QB’s running ability that was on display this week. All told, the rookie ran for 93 yards and a touchdown on just 10 carries.

The win, however, wasn’t without some late-game drama.

Down 23-9, the Bengals found their rhythm, scoring on consecutive drives to tie the game at 23-23.

But unlike previous games, the Cardinals stayed locked in, finishing off a 6-play, 62-yard drive with a game-winning field courtesy of Zane Gonzalez.

Here are the rapid reactions from the 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station staff:

Luke Lapinski, Host of The Rundown with Luke Lapinski

It definitely wasn’t pretty, but a win’s a win. And even in a Cardinals’ season that ultimately won’t be defined by their record as much as the progress they show from Week 1 to Week 17, this team needed to show they could get that first victory with Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray.

Now they’ve done it, and they can focus on trying to stack another win against Atlanta next week, rather than wondering just how close they might be to the wheels completely coming off this season. Granted, they let a bad Bengals team rally from 14 down in the final five minutes, mustering nothing more than a 16-second drive between Cincinnati touchdowns that didn’t gain yards or kill any clock. We wanted to know what this team would look like with a late lead, and today wasn’t exactly encouraging in that regard.

The end result, however, was encouraging. Sure it’s just one win and the Cardinals play in arguably the toughest division in football right now. So they’re not suddenly playoff-bound. But today gives them something tangible to feel good about. Instead of just listening to their coach preach the hypothetical virtues of trusting the process, they have an actual win to point to as proof that what Kingsbury is selling can work at the NFL level. And now they’ve experienced what it’s like to win together as a group — the first time this particular roster has ever done that.

Murray once again showed the ability to step up at the end of a tight game, using the final two minutes to march the offense down the field so Zane Gonzalez could win it. He also spared us overtime and the unthinkable prospect of a second tie for Arizona this season. And — maybe most importantly — Kingsbury again showed his willingness to adapt, rather than simply be stubborn and take the I’m-smarter-than-everyone-else-in-the-room-so-I-don’t-have-to-change-anything-I’m-doing approach that coaches sometimes take. He has a potentially great offensive mind, but he’s not too proud to identify the parts of his plan that aren’t working and try to fix them. That bodes well for this team in the future.

John Gambadoro, Co-host of Burns & Gambo

Relief is the term my radio partner Dave Burns said he would feel if the Cards won this game and he is right.

This wasn’t a must win more than it was a can’t lose. The Bengals are not good and although Arizona has struggled out of the gates this was the game they were kind of expected to win. And so they did but it should have been easier with a two-touchdown lead late. This win by itself, because the Bengals are one of the worst teams in the league, doesn’t stand out. It’s not a Tampa Bay-like win over the Rams. But if they can follow up with wins over Atlanta and the Giants the totality of winning those three games will stand out.

For now we take relief but also can admire some individual performances. The 1-2 punch of David Johnson and Chase Edmonds in the Ground Raid really stood out. The OL was very good in pass protection and run blocking, and Murray was fantastic using his arm and legs to key scoring drives.

The lack of a pass rush was disturbing as was the defensive breakdowns late in the fourth quarter that allowed Cincy to score two touchdowns in the final 5 minutes. The defense did shut down Mixon after the first drive holding him to just 33 yards on 11 carries. And the lack of red zone success resulting in touchdowns is still a work in progress. Overall, a relief and some hope after the first win of the Kingsbury/Murray era.

Vince Marotta, Co-host of Bickley & Marotta

So much to be encouraged by, so much to be concerned about.

But a win is a win, and although they did their best to squander it, the Cardinals got their first of the year, and for that they should be grateful.

Kyler Murray is special — there’s no two ways about it. Watching the Cardinals run the ball with Murray, David Johnson or Chase Edmonds was fun to watch.

The play-calling in and out of the red zone was curious at times (the pass to Fitzgerald at the end of the first half and throwing three passes after Cincy’s first fourth-quarter touchdown).

The defense is short-handed, but still can’t generate a pass rush or force turnovers. They were gashed at different times by the run and the pass.

Hopefully the feeling of winning is the lasting takeaway from this game and can be used as fuel against better opponents in the future.

Dave Burns, Co-host of Burns & Gambo 

When you’re hungry – absolutely famished – just about anything will taste good. When you’ve won just 3 of your last 20 football games, a 26-23 win over a dreadful Bengals team looks like a medium rare filet with a twice baked potato on the side. There was a lot to like. There was a lot not to like. Mostly though it’s a moment of relief. Relief in knowing that your team isn’t as bad as their team is.

What I liked:

The balance offensively. The yards of offense piling up, a major improvement from a year ago. David Johnson’s impact on this game and Chase Edmonds’ aggressive running style. I liked Kyler Murray’s ability to take off in both planned and unplanned situations. I liked that after Joe Mixon gutted the Cards on the first drive, the adjustment was made and he was shut down. Kingsbury’s moxie on that 4th down call. I liked Zane Gonzalez doing his job at the end.

What I didn’t:

Zane Gonzalez missing field goals in this game and last game. The red zone production, which has the feel of a borderline epidemic at this point. The mind numbing penalties. The defense giving up two quick touchdowns at the end to make this affair more interesting than it had a right to be.

It’s mostly relief though. Relief that the Bengals are the winless team and the Cards aren’t.

Tyler Drake, ArizonaSports.com editor and reporter

After watching Joe Mixon run the rock with ease for 60 yards on the opening drive — almost tying his season high in the process — it looked like RB was going to be a problem all day.

But instead of letting Mixon torch the defense, adjustments were made, allowing just 33 yards from the back the rest of the way. He still managed 93 yards but was held scoreless, a positive for a unit that’s allowed three 100-yard rushers over the last three games.

The biggest issue for the defense was the end of the game, when the Bengals clawed back with two consecutive touchdown drives. The lack of turnovers and the lone sack from Chandler Jones sticks out too given the level of talent on the Bengals’ sideline.

Offensively, Chase Edmonds continues to impress me.

The running back has seen an uptick in usage each week and has done the most with what he’s given. And while the statlines haven’t been at the top of the NFL, Edmonds provides an explosive style of running when he has the ball in his hands.

His style of play payed off Sunday as Edmonds found the end zone on the 37-yard TD run.

And with the elevated carries, it seems the Cardinals are figuring out how to properly utilize both Edmonds and Johnson in the run game.

Oh yeah, and Murray has found his stride in the rushing attack.

Although he didn’t find the end zone through the air, Murray burned the Bengals on the ground, rushing for 93 yards and score on just 10 carries. The rookie now has two straight rushing scores in the last two outings.

Week 5 represented the best chance up to this point in the season for the Cardinals to get a win. There’s still a lot to work on, but the proverbial monkey is off the backs of Kingsbury and Murray.

Jordan Byrd, producer of Burns & Gambo

It wasn’t pretty but that sound you heard was the entire Valley breathing a sigh of relief.

It looked like the Cardinals were going to win the game going away, but just as they were beginning to resemble a real NFL team, the defense fell apart and one offensive three and out made this much more uncomfortable than it should have been.

Kyler Murray showed some real progress Sunday. He continued to make big plays on key drives that kept his team out front and then led a game winning drive. He minimized the sacks, learned to throw the ball away and used his legs to give the entire offense a new dynamic.

Speaking of running the ball, Kliff Kingsbury might have found the right balance at running back in Cincinnati. Both David Johnson and Chase Edmonds had solid performances and along with Murray, gave the Cardinals three different runners to turn to.

Make no mistake. There are still plenty of issues and problems the Cardinals need to clean up. But at least for one week, it feels good to get that winless monkey off the back.

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