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Deep thoughts

Posted: 11:20 p.m.

IRVING, Texas - The Bengals are having some deep thoughts.

The longest completion Sunday was a 25-yarder to wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The longest completion to a wide receiver all season is a 26-yarder to Houshmandzadeh. The longest catch this season for wide receiver Chad Ocho Cinco is just 22 yards after a career he has spent at the top of the NFL charts for catches of 40-plus yards. Wide receiver Chris Henry, who has eight career catches of 40-plus among his 88 career catches, had no catches of any kind Sunday in his first game back off a four-game suspension.



"I thought with Slim (Henry) back, it would make it easier for them to go deep. It would give them more confidence to go down the field," Houshmandzadeh said. "Going down the field hasn't been a focus for us in the first five games and I can't tell you why."

Ocho Cinco shrugged.

"We don't try it. You're watching the same thing I'm watching," he said.

Now the soap opera for the next week could be if Carson Palmer's ailing elbow is allowing him to throw deep. But even Palmer is beginning to lobby.

"We need to do a better job of picking our shots, picking our times," Palmer said. "I know (offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski) wants to go deep and now we're sitting 0-5, what have you got to lose? Might as well start taking more shots, try to get more big plays, try to score quick, get some easy, quick touchdowns."

And here was Ocho Cinco extolling the virtues of his quarterback when asked if Palmer was off a week after missing two days of practice:

"Nine is in the upper echelon of quarterbacks. I don't care if he doesn't practice for a month," he said. "He can go out and play with 85, 84, 83 and 15. This is not an excuse and I'm not going to buy it if anybody else uses it. He's (bleeping) good. I'm trying to express how great he is. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer. Then there's everybody else."

But Palmer did exercise caution as he looked at the five teams the Bengals just played.

"We want to take some shots, but you don't want to just throw some deep foul balls and put yourself in second-and-long, and third-and-long against good pass rushers," he said.

"The grass is always greener. It's always easy to say, 'Let's throw the ball deep,' but go back there for seven steps and hold the ball forever and you've got DeMarcus Ware, Terrell Suggs, Kyle VandenBosch, Albert Haynesworth coming in, you put yourself in vulnerable situations. You get in third-and-long against exotic, good defensive football teams; you're going to be in uphill battle situations. Hopefully we start taking more shots and we put ourselves in position to take those shots."

Some reasons for not going or being unable to go deep?

Lack of pass protection, lack of Henry, lack of having a lead, and the lack of timing with Palmer and his two top receivers because of injuries.

But the offensive line was brilliant Sunday. Palmer got sacked twice against a superb pass rush team, and only until the last 1:44 of garbage time.



"The offensive line played phenomenal. That's one of the best pass rushes there is and I didn't get touched until the last drive," Palmer said. "You feel so bad for them because they've been working so hard under a lot of criticism. Under a lot of pressure.

"They come in and against DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis, two guys with double-digit sacks each year, it's amazing the way they played. To not be able to get those guys a win and give them the confidence they need and deserve after a game like that is tough."

Left guard Andrew Whitworth said if the line had blocked like that earlier in the season, the Bengals would have won last least three of the first four games.

"I thought our pass pro was OK against Cleveland last week," Whitworth said. "Today was the first time we didn't have one guy breaking down here and one guy breaking down there. We all manned it up and that's what it was. We didn't help anybody or chip. It was man-on-man blocking for the most part, and we prepared for it during the week."

A tip of the hat, then, to left tackle Levi Jones. He'd been under scrutiny, but he blanked Ware until 1:44 left, and Ware owns three of the four best Dallas sack seasons and came into the game with four this year.

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