Bengals’ Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase give Cardinals reality check in Week 5
Oct 8, 2023, 6:42 PM | Updated: Oct 9, 2023, 12:06 am
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
GLENDALE — Entering the week, it felt like the Arizona Cardinals’ matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals would go one of two ways.
Either Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow would wake up following a disastrous start to the season or the Cardinals were going to steal one from a team many pegged as a Super Bowl contender this past offseason.
Unfortunately for those in attendance donning Cardinals threads on Sunday, it was the former, as Burrow returned to form in Cincinnati’s 34-20 win over the home team.
Based on his stat line, Burrow’s calf must not have bothered him like it had the previous four games. The signal caller walked out of State Farm Stadium having completed 36 of his 46 passes for 317 yards and a trio of touchdowns.
The biggest beneficiary of Burrow’s performance, easily, was star wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase.
After making it known that he is “always (bleeping) open” following a Week 4 loss, he backed it up behind 15 catches on 19 targets for 192 yards and three scores.
The performance also marks a concerning trend of allowing at least three scores to an opposing player in consecutive weeks following San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey’s four-touchdown effort in Week 4.
But while it was a memorable outing for the Bengal, it was anything but for Cardinals cornerback Marco Wilson, who was tasked with traveling with Chase throughout the afternoon, head coach Jonathan Gannon and the rest of the coaching staff.
“It seemed like he caught a lot of balls today for a lot of yards and a lot of touchdowns,” Gannon said postgame. “Obviously 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 they just did.
“That falls solely on me and we can’t let that happen again. Point blank, there’s the game on defense. You let their best player beat you. I’m pissed off about it, it’s my fault and we got to get that cleaned up.”
Burrow and Co. quickly made their presence felt at State Farm Stadium on Sunday with a touchdown strike and field goal on back-to-back drives to start the game.
And while the defense looked out of sorts from the jump, the offense wasn’t much better behind a pair of opening drive three-and-outs.
All those good feelings Arizona had fostered through four weeks of growth had seemingly been sucked out of State Farm Stadium.
That was until the light bulb appeared to click on for both sides of the rock.
After being ran through like a wet paper bag by Cincinnati, Arizona’s defense responded by forcing consecutive punts while the Cardinals offense got back into a groove behind a pair of touchdowns.
Wide receiver Hollywood Brown struck first on a 25-yard strike before tight end Zach Ertz found pay dirt for the first time under the new regime on a four-yard connection from quarterback Joshua Dobbs.
Just like that, the Bengals’ 10-0 lead dissolved into a 14-10 advantage for the Cardinals.
That advantage — and Arizona’s mounting momentum — wouldn’t last long, however.
Forcing a turnover on downs with an impressive goal line stand, the Cardinals handed the ball back over to Dobbs looking to manufacture some of that same magic he had during the team’s 99-yard scoring drive to open up the second half against the 49ers last week.
Two plays into the drive, it was evident that wouldn’t be the case.
Looking to get some more room to work with after rushing for no gain, Dobbs dropped back to pass. But instead of finding one of either Zach Pascal or Brown, the quarterback found the mitts of cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt, who took it the other way for a pick-6.
And along with Arizona losing its lead, the momentum that had returned found the nearest exit.
Starting running back James Conner exiting the game in the second quarter didn’t help matters, either.
A casualty in Arizona’s second touchdown drive of the afternoon, Conner left the game with a knee injury and did not return after putting the Cardinals into position to score on an impressive 35-yard scamper.
That’s not to say undrafted rookie Emari Demercado didn’t fill in admirably behind 11 touches for 57 scrimmage yards and a touchdown, but losing the team’s main rusher in a run-heavy offense is tough to overcome.
“He’s feeling OK,” Gannon said of Conner postgame. “I think on his long run he might have got his foot stuck in the ground and might have twisted his knee up. We’ll see tomorrow.”
Demercado’s third-quarter score marked the first of his NFL career. It also represented Arizona’s final score of the day as Cincinnati put up 10 unanswered fourth-quarter points and never looked back to a 34-20 finish.
The Cardinals entered Sunday with their heads held high despite a 1-3 mark on the year. Even in their worst showing before Week 5, Arizona did enough to show steady growth moving forward.
This time around, that was not the case, as Cardinals coaches and players alike understand there are a lot of things to clean up with a surprisingly tough Los Angeles Rams team next up on the docket.
How this team responds to the massive amount of adversity in front of it will be something to watch throughout the week.