The Carson Palmer Reunion bash Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium against the Raiders had a couple of different entrances and exits before 56,503 that saw Palmer get lit up by a day-long Bengals pass rush to go along with a bizarre fourth-quarter brawl that saw three players ejected.
Racing to a 24-0 halftime lead, the Bengals withstood a horrendous third quarter and rebounded to step over their former franchise quarterback to go to 6-5 on the season with a 34-10 victory that pulled them even with the 6-5 Steelers.
While holding the Raiders to 83 yards in the first half, the Bengals rolled up 289 yards and then suffered a mystifying paralysis. They started the second half with four straight three-and-outs and ended up with just minus-four yards in the third quarter while the Raiders cut the lead to 24-10 with 2:21 left in the quarter when Palmer barely beat a blitz by safety Reggie Nelson to find wide receiver Denarius Moore beating cornerback Leon Hall down the middle for a 20-yard touchdown pass.
But the game changed again on the first snap of the fourth quarter as the Bengals kept their game-long heat on Palmer. SAM linebacker Manny Lawson logged the fourth and last sack of the day and forced a fumble that turned into middle linebacker Rey Maualuga's first fumble recovery of the season at the Raiders 46.
Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis did the rest. In the first half he ripped off the longest run of his career, a 48-yarder. This time, running behind left tackle Andrew Whitworth and left guard Clint Boling, he got his second on a 39-yarder that took him inside the Oakland 1.
The Bengals couldn't punch it in, but Mike Nugent's 20-yard field goal with 12:29 left in the game made it 27-10 and it was just getting interesting.
When the Raiders were robbed of a touchdown off a fumble return because of an inadverdant whistle, tempers flared. Whitworth didn't like the way left end Lamarr Houston took down quarterback Andy Dalton on the next snap when a flag for right tackle Andre Smith's false start was supposed to stop the play.
Whitworth confronted Houston, Houston yapped back and the two went at it in a tussle that turned into a scrum with both on the bottom. Both Whitworth and Houston were ejected, as was Raiders defensive tackle Tommy Kelly.
As they did all day, the Bengals had the last word. On the next snap from his own 15, a third-and-11, Dalton (16-of-30, 210 yards, 109.0 rating for his third straight triple-digit outing), leaned back and smoked a 48-yard completion down the middle to the sprawling wide receiver A.J. Green. The ball put Green over 1,000 yards for the season and gave him 111 yards on three catches for the day.
And it set up Dalton's third touchdown pass of the day, a seven-yarder to tight end Jermaine Gresham with 3:39 left that gave Dalton a clear win over Palmer. Palmer, coming off three straight 300-yard games, passed for just 146 yards on 19-of-34 passing while getting hit 13 times.
The Bengals also rolled up 221 rushing yards, 129 going to BJGE.
It was BJGE that sparked the Bengals to a 7-0 lead on the longest run of his career and rookie wide receiver Mohamed Sanu did his best Green imitation on a spectacular two-yard touchdown catch to give the Bengals a 14-0 lead 12 minutes into the party that turned into a rollicking 24-0 halftime lead when Nugent ended the half with a 55-yard field goal that tied Chris Bahr's franchise record.
By that time the Bengals had sacked Palmer twice, hit him five more times, and set up Nugent's blast on safety Chris Crocker's interception forced by right end Michael Johnson's hit on Palmer that altered the throw enough to bounce off the hands of fullback Marcel Reece into the arms of Crocker.
While Palmer struggled to a 36.8 passer rating in the half on 9-of-18 passing for 70 yards, his successor lit it up. Dalton hit 13 of 20 passes for 151 yards and his two touchdown passes gave him a 121 rating.
The Bengals defense just didn't save their abuse for Palmer. With 1:55 left in the half, the middle of the line stoned the 250-pound Owen Schmitt for no gain on fourth-and-1 from the Bengals 45 and rookie WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict came flying over the top of the pile to finish it off as the Bengals extended their streak to six quarters without allowing a touchdown.
But it was another rookie who dominated the half. After he beat Raiders cornerback Ron Bartell off the two-yard line, Sanu made a leaping one-handed grab with his left hand while somehow keeping his feet inbounds a la Green.
Then Sanu caught his third touchdown pass on third down in the red zone for the third week in a row when he took Dalton's five-yard heater in the gut over the middle to make it 21-0 with 7:28 left in the half. Sanu also converted a third-and-four on a run out of the backfield when he shook off tackle Desmond Bryant in the backfield for five yards and got the first down.
Even though Green didn't score, he had a busy half. He converted a third down on a 44-yard slant that was half catch and half run, and he also had an end-around for 20 yards to go along with his two catches for 63 yards.
Facing his third-and-one specialty on Cincinnati's third play of the game, Green-Ellis burst up the middle for a 48-yarder. Green-Ellis, who came into the game 9-for-10 on third-and-one this this season, dove on the pylon and was given the touchdown but the replay said he was out of bounds just inside the 1.
Two plays later BJGE picked up his fifth touchdown of the season when he banged it over the middle for a 7-0 lead with 9:12 left in the quarter. Green-Ellis had a 33-yarder for a touchdown two years ago for the Patriots and he had a 21-yarder last week in Kansas City. But when he popped out of a huge hole Sunday manufactured by right guard Kevin Zeitler and right tackle Andre Smith, he had plenty more than that because there was nobody home at the second level and he was all by himself.
As for Palmer, it was just the way defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer drew it up with a bevy of blitzes to complement the four-man rush in his effort to make sure his old quarterback didn't get comfortable in the pocket.
With the crowd booing each time Palmer emerged from the sidelines, the Bengals sacked him twice in Oakland's first series on rushes by tackle Geno Atkins and right end Michael Johnson. With his ninth sack of the season, Atkins set the Bengals single-season sacks record for a tackle.
If the linemen weren't all over Palmer, the defensive backs were all over his receiver. Palmer's third-down pass outside the numbers floated just enough for Hall to knock it down and cornerback Adam Jones forced another punt when he tracked down Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey over the middle and knocked away another third-down pass.
Green-Ellis finished the half with 74 yards on 10 carries, and the Bengals also got a big-time run from backup Cedric Peerman. Peerman set up the TD that made it 21-0 when he bolted up the middle and shook off a big hit by Raiders strong safety Tyvon Branch when he put his left hand on the ground and then rattled off about 20 more yards for a 31-yard gain that put the ball on the Oakland 5.
PREGAME NOTES: Wide receiver Andrew Hawkins (knee) was inactive for the second straight game Sunday, but rookie wide receiver Marvin Jones was active for the first time since he sprained his knee Oct. 21 against the Steelers.
The other rookie receiver, Mohamed Sanu, drew his second straight start opposite A.J. Green against the Raiders at Paul Brown Stadium. He's coming off playing a career-high 68 snaps last week in Kansas City while Armon Binns was inactive for the second time in three games after he started five of the first six. Jones and Brandon Tate figured to play outside with Sanu again taking Hawkins's spot in the slot. Sanu has caught a red-zone touchdown pass on third down in each of the last two weeks.
Also inactive for the Bengals were three rookies in defensive tackles Devin Still and Brandon Thompson and safety George Iloka, as well as cornerback Jason Allen and tight end Richard Quinn.
As expected, the Raiders were without their top two running backs, Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson, as well as defensive tackle Richard Seymour.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis chose to introduce his defense, which may give a slight clue about his desire to shut down his old quarterback, Oakland's Carson Palmer. The Raiders were booed a little bit more heavily than most visitors.
The Bengals game captains were Rey Maualuga, Dan Skuta, Andy Dalton, Chris Crocker and Clint Boling. Palmer got booed as he came out with the other Raiders captains for a coin flip the Bengals won, giving Palmer the ball first.