For every step they took Monday night at Paul Brown Stadium, the Bengals took two back in a frustrating Monday night they lost to the Steelers, 27-21, summing up their uphill climb in the AFC North at 2-6.
The Bengals had one last shot when they got the ball at their own 36 after Jeff Reed missed a 46-yard field goal with 3:59 left.
But Palmer’s pass to Owens down the middle in the end zone was high and on fourth down rookie wide receiver
The Bengals couldn’t protect Palmer earlier in the fourth quarter so he decided to throw a touchdown pass while getting hit. With blitzing linebacker James Farrior banging into him, Palmer hit Owens for a touchdown for the second time in the game on a 27-yard pass that cut Pittsburgh’s lead to 27-14 with 13:12 left in the game. Owens caught his 151st career TD racing past cornerback Bryant McFadden on an immense night he finished with 141 yards on 10 catches.
That ignited the Bengals. Safety
The only time the Bengals defense faltered in the second half was on a gadget play on the first play of the fourth quarter when wide receiver Antwan Randle-El took the ball from Roethlisberger and jacked it to wide receiver Mike Wallace for a 39-yard touchdown pass when Wallace got position on cornerback
After the Bengals special teams staked the Steelers to much of their lead, the punchless offense couldn’t take advantage of three straight three-and-outs by the defense to open the second half and saw their offensive line blow up late in the third quarter.
After Palmer hit Ochocinco for his first catch of the night with about three minutes left in the quarter, right tackle
Smith, who had trouble at various points, was then benched in favor of
The Bengals defense came up big in the third, which featured their first sack (by defensive lineman
But the offense was close to imploding. After The Ocho was jawing with Palmer, he was on the bench early in the fourth quarter for a play when head coach Marvin Lewis wanted to cool him off.
For the third time in four games the Bengals gave up points in the last seconds of the half or the game when Reed drilled a 53-yarder with five seconds left in the half just 36 seconds after the Bengals’
That came after running back
After the Bengals cut the lead to 10-7 midway through the second quarter, Palmer appeared to have the Bengals on the march again. He found Owens four times for 60 yards in the half and had him for a first down on this drive. But left tackle
Roethlisberger (17-for-27 for 163 yards and 76.5 rating) then hit the speedster Wallace running past Hall for a 35-yard play on third-and-two. The killer came on third-and-eight when wide receiver Hines Ward knifed inside linebacker
That took a lot of gas out of the Bengals. Staring into a 10-0 hole, the Bengals got a huge turnover from Hall that turned into Palmer’s 19-yard touchdown pass to Owens wide open down the middle on third-and-five to cut the Steelers lead to 10-7 with 8:46 left in the first half.
On a screen pass to Ward, Hall put his helmet on the ball to get it out and Roy Williams, playing his first game in a month after injuring his knee, recovered at the Pittsburgh 38. Palmer then hit Owens for a leaping 14-yard catch and as the Bengals worked out of the no-huddle, Benson made hay to get them into the red zone. Benson finished with 54 yards on 18 carries, the most gained against the Steelers this season.
It was a brutal start. Just exactly what couldn’t happen did: A fumbled kickoff and blocked punt. The Chicago Fire had a better start as the Bengals fell behind 10-0 with just 7:14 gone in the game.
Scott coughed up the opening kickoff at the Bengals 25 and the Steelers took a 7-0 led just 2:03 into the game when running back Rashard Mendenhall bucked over from the 1.
Scott, who returned a kick for a touchdown the last time the two met, had the ball knocked loose by his fellow return man Emmanuel Sanders. Then on third-and-three Roethlisberger worked a fake reverse from Mendenhall to Randle-El and when rookie defensive end
After Mendenhall scored, the Bengals watched Benson hammer the NFL’s top-ranked run defense for 20 yards on their first four snaps, the first three out of no-huddle. When they threw their first pass on third-and-one and McFadden knocked the ball away from Ochocinco over the middle, the Bengals had to punt.
Steelers cornerback William Gay came roaring up the middle to take the ball off Huber’s foot at his own 30 and it turned into Reed’s 25-yard field goal.
Palmer had a shaky start. He missed his first three passes and the last two could have been picked off. One was thrown behind Owens and another was thrown outside of Shipley in the slot.
On the Steelers’ first possession on their side of the field, Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer forced Roethlisberger to call a timeout on third-and-six in their own version of the no-huddle when he lined up five players outside the right tackle. The Bengals then forced the punt even though Roethlisberger got a pass off despite being in the embrace of right end
The one thing the Bengals could do Monday was run the ball. Benson had 41 yards on his first nine carries against a defense that hadn’t allowed more than 48 yards by a back this season. But picking up where they left off last week, the Bengals missed their first three third-down tries and missed six of their first eight.
The Bengals had the Steelers backed up on their 1 when wide receiver
The Steelers lost two offensive linemen on those plays to injury, left guard Chris Kemoeatu and center Maurkice Pouncey. Pouncey came back in the second half.
PREGAME NOTES: With
Out for the sixth time in eight games, defensive lineman Jon Fanene (hamstring) was iced, as was special teamer
In response to Johnson being down, the Bengals signed
Head coach Marvin Lewis chose to announce the offense in its all-black uniforms, in which the Bengals have an 8-5-1 record. The Steelers won the toss and deferred and kicked the ball to the Bengals.
About three and a half hours before kickoff, the radio man wearing a ballcap came in through the media gate holding his cardboard depth charts and gave the lady his name so he could get his press-box pass.
“Boomer Esiason,” he said. “I used to play here. Probably when you were a little girl.”
Esiason, who quarterbacked the Bengals in 123 games in the ‘80s and ‘90s, has some decided opinions about the current quarterback when asked about Monday night’s game.
“The wide receivers have to run the right routes. If they don’t run the right routes, I as a quarterback don’t know where they’re going,” Esiason said. “There’s a lot egos. Somebody has to keep those egos straight. It’s up to the quarterback.”
Esiason has always liked the Terrell Owens pickup, but he says, “Something is wrong.”
And there’s little time.
“Tonight is their season,” he said. “If they lose tonight, forget it. It’s over.”