Lackluster loss is troubling but not alarming

GLENDALE, Ariz. — There’s nothing like a lackluster third preseason game to whet your appetite for the regular season. 

In the wake of Darnell Dockett’s season-ending ACL injury, some Cardinals fans were probably panicking at the sight of an inept offense in Sunday’s 19-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Quarterback Carson Palmer missed a wide-open Michael Floyd on what should have been a touchdown and Larry Fitzgerald ran the wrong route, resulting in a Palmer pick-6. That was the first interception thrown by Cardinals in the preseason.

The offense may have to carry this team a little more this year with all the defensive losses, so this showing was troubling, especially when you remember what former coach Dennis Green had to say about the importance of the third preseason game.

OK, calm down. There will be no bloodletting here. Green’s take notwithstanding, we won’t be forming too many judgments off this loss.

"It definitely wasn’t the execution we were looking for," Palmer said. "We had a number of things that were just off, from overthrows to missed opportunities, some funky things that happened on a couple routes and some drops.

Bengals 19, Cardinals 13

"That’s what the preseason is for. You hope to get the kinks out before the opener on Monday night. We wanted to play better and we wanted to show better, but we’ll take a look at it and move on. It won’t shake our confidence."

A few observations from Sunday’s game:

— Coach Bruce Arians was disappointed in the red-zone offense (0-2) and third-down offense (3-for-13, 23 percent). 

— Arians was also disappointed in the defense’s inability to close out third downs on a couple of long Bengals drives, and its inability to generate a pass rush out of a four-man front.

— The first-team offense sputtered all night, and the most disturbing aspect of that was that Palmer enjoyed good protection most of the night. 

"They played really well up front," Palmer said. "The run game was really good — we had some opportunities in the run game — and the pass protection was really good. That’s as good a pass rush as you see (Cincinnati’s). It’s a very good front. 

"They brought a lot of pressures for a third preseason game and they brought cover-zero a handful of times and you don’t typically see it. I thought we reacted pretty well up front to some of the situations they put us in."

— Top running back Andre Ellington finally saw some extended action, responding with nine carries for 46 yards (plus one catch) to calm concerns over the run game.

It was nice to get some reps and actually get to where I have to push myself, shape-wise.

-RB Andre Ellington

"It was nice to get some reps and actually get to where I have to push myself, shape-wise," Ellington said. "We still kept (the playbook) a little limited but I got some opportunities to pick up some blitzes and get the ball in space so it felt good."

— Camp standout John Brown had a couple of drops, but he also made a spectacular touchdown grab, laying out for a 30-yard catch from backup QB Drew Stanton.

— Linebacker John Abraham managed to generate some pressure (no sacks) in his first game action, but he was primarily facing a backup tackle, so the jury is still out on what he can bring after missing most of training camp.

— Jay Feely and Chandler Catanzaro were both effective on kickoffs. Feely kicked one eight yards deep and the other nine yards deep. Catanzaro kicked one nine yards deep and one out of the end zone. Catanzaro made his only field goal attempt from 23 yards while Feely was 1 of 2, missing wide right from 48 yards and making a 24-yarder. It’s hard to see anything Catanzaro has done wrong at this point in a job competition he is believed to be leading.

— The Cardinals emerged from the game with no additional injuries. They will have two practices this week before heading to San Diego for their final preseason game on Thursday. The first roster cuts are due Tuesday (down to 75 players), but could come as soon as Monday.

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