Maybe this wasn't the end of an era at Paul Brown Stadium Sunday night, but the start of another.
Palmer hit his first 10 passes and 16-of-21 overall for 269 yards for a career-best 157.2 passer rating. His last toss, a 59-yard touchdown bomb, came on third-and-seven with a 15-to-20 mile-per-hour wind to Simpson running past cornerback Antoine Cason with 6:25 left in the game that made it 27-13. It was Simpson's second touchdown of the game and the second of his career in just the second start of a career that only two weeks ago was mired on the inactive list.
The defense, as it did all day against Rivers' high-octane offense that is second in the NFL, responded with a four-and-out in which rookie tackle
Early in the fourth quarter, Palmer threw a three-yard bullet to Shipley just over the goal line that gave the Bengals a 20-10 lead with 13 minutes left.
The score came courtesy of second-year linebacker
The Chargers closed it to 13-10 with 5:45 left when safety
With wide receiver
The Bengals defense carried Cincinnati's 13-3 run in the first half, topped off by their goal-line stand at the two-minute warning at the Bengals 1 on a series set up by cornerback
With rookie linebacker
But the lead should have been so much more as the kids romped in the first half. Leading 13-0, Palmer had the Bengals in the red zone when he hit Simpson over the middle in a soft zone for 21 yards and then fired a 44-yard bomb into the teeth of the wind as Caldwell raced past cornerback Quentin Jammer to put the ball on the Chargers 20 as the Bengals had the NFL's No. 1 defense reeling.
But running back
Palmer, in the throes of hitting all eight of his passes in a perfect 158.3 passer rating in the first half, flipped a 22-yard screen to Gresham on the first play of the second quarter that was all yards after catch when Gresham screwed defensive tackle Ogemdi Nwagbuo into the ground with a move at the line of scrimmage.
In a half Palmer threw his 150th career touchdown pass, he then found Simpson for his first career touchdown catch on third-and-10 from the 10 when Simpson beat free safety Paul Oliver on a corner route in the end zone as Simpson went in the air to wrench the ball from Oliver in time to get both feet down. After waiting three years to get his first score, Simpson had to wait a few more minutes for the play to survive Chargers head coach Norv Turner's challenge and the Bengals to take a 13-0 lead just 2:06 into the second quarter.
The weather clearly had an impact on the Chargers from the jump. They had minus yardage on the first six snaps and on the seventh fumbled the ball away.
Vincent Jackson fumbled a reverse pitch all the way back to the one-yard line for a 19-yard loss on the game's first play, and punter Mike Scifres shanked a 24-yarder to put the Bengals in great shape at the San Diego 32.
From there it was Gresham's show. He caught a 23-yarder down the middle off bouncing off safety Eric Weddle with the help of Benson picking up the blitz and on third-and-two from the three he caught Palmer's 150th career touchdown pass even though Oliver was called for pass interference. In the middle of the back of the end zone, Gresham simply stretched over Oliver and pulled it down for his third touchdown catch of the season for a 7-0 lead with less than five minutes gone in the game.
The Chargers had to punt right away again when Rivers couldn't get anything on a bad second-down pass and on third down Roy Williams and WILL linebacker
The Bengals came in with the definite mindset of trying to recreate last week's success of running the ball. On their next two series, they didn't throw a pass. After wide receiver
Tolbert left the field strapped to a stretcher when he appeared to injure his head on the hit that led to the fumble. He was later diagnosed with a sprained neck.
The Bengals defense was superb. The Chargers came into the game with the fourth-most first downs in the NFL, but they didn't get their first one until early in the second quarter when Rivers drilled a 17-yarder over the middle to Jackson in front of Joseph. But WILL linebacker Keith Rivers chased down Sproles in pass coverage for a half-yard gain, and on third down Philip Rivers took a shot deep down the left sideline to Jackson but he was well covered by cornerback
PREGAME NOTES: As sporadic snow flurries flew, Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco didn't surface for early pregame warmups with the quarterbacks and receivers, which confirmed his tweet he's not playing Sunday against the Chargers.
The inactive list later confirmed that The Ocho (ankle) was inactive for just the fourth time in the last nine seasons and eighth time in his career and that Jerome Simpson got the second start of his career. With
Also inactive were cornerback
Two of the Chargers' big offensive weapons were out with injuries, tight end Antonio Gates and wide receiver Malcom Floyd.
The flurries stopped, but the weather was still a frigid 29 degrees with a cutting 15 to 20 mile-per-hour wind that made it feel like 17 degrees. Yet, it was a sight better than what was happening in Philadelphia, where NBC took its cameras for the Sunday night game after flexing out Bengals-Chargers. A snow emergency has moved the Eagles-Vikings back to Tuesday night.
The Bengals appeared in their orange jerseys and white pants, in which they have a 7-3 record. Combine that with a 3-0 record in orange jerseys and black pants and they're 10-3 in orange. In what could be his last game as head coach, Marvin Lewis chose to announce the offense in front of a half-filled stadium shivering with the third straight game in 32-degree or colder weather.
San Diego won the toss and received.