Despite a Jay Glazier report on Fox that Carson Palmer is done for the year, the Bengals said Sunday night that he has not been ruled out for the final two games.
No one has believed for the last six weeks that Palmer would return, but head coach Marvin Lewis has been adamant, just the same, about not ruling him out for the rest of the year.
HENRY REBOUNDS: The much-maligned Chris Henry atoned for last week's misery in Indy Sunday and it had nothing to do with his 12-yard catch for his first touchdown of the season.
He not only hustled down field to block on running back Cedric Benson's 79-yard screen pass, but he alertly broke up two interceptions and one saved Shayne Graham's 32-yard field goal that gave the Bengals a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter.
On second-and-10 from from the Washington 17, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's pass was tipped at the line and it held up long enough in the middle of the field to be trouble. But Henry jumped into the fray to bat it out of trouble and, in fact, Benson almost caught the rebound.
Oh yes, Henry also had his best day of the season with four catches for 54 yards, including his first 20-plus yard play of the season on a 22-yarder on first down. He also kept the first drive of the second half alive with a 13-yard catch on third-and-nine.
"It's probably been a little frustrating for him because he hasn't made as big of an impact as he probably thought he was going to make," Fitzpatrick said. "On Cedric's screen play, I think he was on the opposite side, you saw him sprint 70 yards to make a block for Cedric. His effort has been great all year. He definitely has a changed attitude, and he's fun to play with. It's good to throw balls up to him and have him come down with them."
Before the enormity of his off-field problems set in, Henry was a touchdown machine with 15 in his first two seasons, or one every 4.5 catches. But since 2007, when he has lost 12 games to susension, he has three touchdowns on 37 catches.
What a difference a week makes. In the 35-3 loss to the Colts, Henry got an unsportsmanlike penalty for grabbing a defender with two hands by the helmet after the play. He also ran a route badly enough that it got returned 85 yards for an interception touchdown.
One surprise in the receiver ranks was the deactivation of rookie Jerome Simpson with indications it was a coach's decision and not a medical one.
Graham said the winds were pretty similar to the ones last month and the stat sheet said they were at 15 miles per hour.
That gave the Bengals a 20-10 lead and as Graham said, "It was nice to know that there were consequences for the kick. It just wasn't points on the board. If we missed it, they'd be going for a touchdown at the end of the game instead of kicking the field goal and just giving them a chance. They knew they needed two scores."
Graham, who hit a 32-yarder earlier, tied his long for the year with the 45-yarder and is now 8-for-9 from 40 and beyond with the only miss the one against the Eagles.
"I learned from my mistakes in the past where I have to have the ball to play the wind," Graham said. "I can't do anything about it. All I have to do is use it for the future."
Graham is now 18-for-20 this year, zeoring in on his fewest attempts since 2003 when he was 22-for-25. Since then, he hasn't had a season with fewer than 30 attempts.
If not surprised them.
"It was a good call by Coach Lew," said wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. "He shocked me. Yeah, he shocked me. I was running off the field, then I went back on. Play to win. That's what we did today. Sometimes."
Lewis won the challenge on Washington fullback Mike Sellers' one-yard touchdown run in the middle of the third quarter, which was, of course, huge, because on the next play Bengals linebacker Corey Mays stole the ball from Sellers for what turned out to be the win.
"Both wing officials came in and marked him down, and then once everything had unpiled, they said he did score, said Lewis, who got the high sign quickly from his coaches in the booth looking at the replay that Sellers' knee hit the ground before he got in.
"It's a help at home. You get more of an advantage at home, no question," Lewis said of the video on the scoreboard. "But on that one, they had already told me that they felt like they had seen it upstairs. I don't think fans and everybody realize this, but on the road, you don't get replay. At home you get replay, and that's the inequity we have right now in the system. So that was good. That was big, being able to see that and getting an opportunity to see that he was probably down."
He also won a challenge early in the fourth quarter when Redskins running back Clinton Portis fumbled on a third-and-two run from his own 19. Middle linebacker Dhani Jones forced it and the Redskins recovered the fumble at the 24, but Lewis challenged the spot and while the 'Skins still got the first down the officials did rule Portis' knee did touch at the 21. The Bengals forced a punt three snaps later and were off on their clinching 16-play field-goal drive.
Since he won two straight challenges, Lewis got an extra one.
"I don't know a guy that plays receiver that doesn't get (frustrated) when he doesn't get the ball," he said. "But we won the game. You're in the game, it gets tight, and you get antsy. 'Try to get me the ball.' But we won the game, so that's cool."
The Bengals rolled up 155 yards in the first quarter and then just 155 the rest of the way for their third-most yards of the season with 310. They got 100 yards rushing for just the fourth time this season (106), and 62 were in the first quarter as the Bengals were held to a field goal in the final 41:19. Houshmandzadeh thinks he knows why.
"They made adjustments. When we go three receivers, they usually bring in their nickel package. They stopped doing that," he said of the second half. "They left their regular package in and dropped their safety down so they could play the run a little better. They stopped the run. They did a good job."
The Bengals called seven runs to Benson in that first quarter, but he got it just 14 more times and finished with 73 yards, his second most behind the 104 yards he had in the Nov. 2 win over Jacksonville. Asked why the passing game didn't take off with the new alignment, Houshmandzadeh said, "I don't know."
"Still a first down, though, right?" Benson asked.
"I think he looked up and was shocked to see me," Portis said. "He just handed me the ball. All of a sudden, that got him a 15-yard penalty. The officials are watching everything."
The Bengals overcame it to get the clinching field goal, but The Ocho insisted he had done it before and nothing had happened.
"Twice before," he said. "I think (the officials) were being very petty. I should have known after they flagged Santana (Moss) for his mild wipe-my-shoes-off celebration."
"Just having fun," Ocho Cinco said. "No matter what you guys say about me, I'm still a kid at heart on the field."