Posted: 6:20 a.m.
GREEN BAY, Wis. - Chad Ochocinco took the historic Lambeau Leap Sunday on a day the Bengals offense jumped back a few years and his team added a few more with one of the biggest wins of head coach Marvin Lewis' seven seasons.
For the first since the Bengals beat the Dolphins, 38-25, in the '07 finale:
» Quarterback Carson Palmer threw three touchdown passes in a game after a 2008 season in which he threw three touchdown passes all year.
» He threw a touchdown to The Ocho for the first time in 21 months, one of the nine third downs Palmer converted out of 14 tries. It was a shoestring catch off Ochocinco's laces and through a zone that proved to be the winner from 13 yards out with 1:09 left in the third quarter for the duos' first scoring hookup since their 70-yard bomb in Miami.
» For the first time in 18 games the Bengals scored four touchdowns and broke 30 points.
It was a game where Lewis said everybody but the two backup quarterbacks contributed to the victory and the defense was brilliant again by holding the Packers to 10 points since 14 came off two Palmer interceptions.
But the offense needed to score if this team was going to win Sunday. And for the first time in nine games they hit on more than half their third-downs.
"I like the fact we now have a run-first team and a pass-second team," The Ocho said, wearing a black "Kiss The Baby" T-shirt. "It will open it up more for myself and the rest of the (receivers)."
What? From the man who used to blow a gasket when he didn't get the ball?
There were plenty of other things that were unheard of for long-time observers of Bengaldom. Such as six sacks and not one, but two, long punt returns when rookie wide receiver Quan Cosby boosted the Bengals with a 60-yarder early and a 32-yarder late that led to Shayne Graham's 40-yard field goal that sealed it.
And Lewis' call way back in the spring that this was his most mature and resilient team never looked better after not only getting past last week's Spike Strike, but also Sunday's 13 penalties and two horrendous Palmer picks that gave the Packers 14 points.
Not to mention winning a game on the road where the Bengals have never won a week after one of the most devastating losses in club history.
The Bengals were 0-4 at Lambeau and 2-11 under Lewis on the road the week after a home loss and hadn't done it since 2006.
"We didn't do enough to win the game last week and you get what you deserve," said a sweat-soaked Lewis after Sunday's game. "Today we made one or two more plays and won the game. I think our team understands that. That's maybe the maturity of things. There was really no sense of something got stolen from us. We had to finish something and didn't get it done."
The Bengals got it done with the politest trash-talking this side of public radio. The Ocho spent some time talking to fans before the game looking for just the right place to Leap. He indicated that he had hooked up with some Bengals fans via Twitter to set up the Leap rendezvous.
"They're nice; they're cool," he said of the Green Bay faithful. "I told them I respect what you guys have got going on here. I just want to make sure I didn't piss anybody off.
"With the Leap thing, I wanted be as respectful as I can. I did ask. I don't want to be disrespectful to the Packers, to the tradition or their fans. I was asking for a spot. Bengals fans were (amenable), but Packers fans, they weren't happy."
The Ocho searched briefly after the touchdown and conveniently found a group with an orange cheesehead. Palmer and Lewis said they didn't see it, but Palmer couldn't help notice Ochocinco's touchdown catch on a huge third-and-11. The Ocho found the middle wide open when he ran an outside route and then slanted underneath away from cornerback Tramon Williams.
"Great call by Brat," Palmer said of offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski. "Chad did a great job beating the one-on-one. ... They zoned him, they manned him, they clouded him. They took him out of a number of different situations. He did a good job winning one-on-one battles."
A 44-yard flea-flicker (which he came a safety away from breaking after some nifty moves) helped The Ocho get to 91 yards on four catches to give him a 20-yard average for his nine catches this season. Even he seems flabbergasted at how his yards after catch have pumped up his yards per catch.
"I just don't know; I've never done this," he said, forwarding all YAC questions to Lewis and Bratkowski.
It may have something to do with that running game The Ocho is suddenly pushing. With running back Cedric Benson grinding for 141 yards on 29 carries, the club broke the 150-yard mark (151) for the seventh time since 2007. And it allowed the Bengals to hog the ball for nearly 34 minutes, which Palmer pointed out is valuable to get the ball to everybody.
"To have the ball for that long, that gives us the chance to get the ball in our hands," Palmer said. "When you've got guys like Chad, Chris Henry, now Cedric, Laveranues (Coles). We need to score and we need the ball."
After Benson's enormous 14-yard run as the clock ticked under seven minutes and the Bengals clinging to the 28-21 lead, Palmer weighed in after Benson broke out of the third-and-two by stepping out of three tacklers behind the line of scrimmage.
"His will and his drive is something we feed off offensively," Palmer said. "The group we have in front of him is creating holes for him and is doing a good job getting a push and moving the line of scrimmage. Combine the power we have up front and Cedric's will, speed, explosiveness and all that, that's what we expect. We're going to expect that all year long."
Benson did what his old Bears couldn't do last week and beat the Packers, but he didn't dwell on that. He did say he appreciated how his line blocked and his 4.9 yard average is indicative of how the line won the push. With right tackle Anthony Collins shutting down linebacker Aaron Kampman on the pass rush, Palmer got sacked just twice.
Benson said he did slightly sprain his foot in the first quarter when defensive end Johnny Jolly fell on it.
"A Jolly old guy," Benson said with a smile and when asked about his 14-yard run, he said, "Yeah, a lot of people mentioned that. A sweet run, I guess."
Lewis emerged enthused about the running game, the part of the offense he knows will eventually unleash the deep ball.
"We're getting hats on people," he said. "We're knowing who to block and our back makes people miss if we happen to let a guy slip off. Our quarterback has to keep rounding into shape. The same thing with our receivers. We're going to be a better team."
Palmer blamed himself for giving the Packers 14 points on two first-half picks. He said he never should have thrown a back shoulder fade route that didn't reach The Ocho at the Bengals 33 and got picked by Packers cornerback Charles Woodson underneath. And he never saw Woodson in the second quarter when he threw a ball across the field to the sideline to tight end Dan Coats and Woodson just strolled in from the 37.
"Got to clean it up. We're not going to beat the Pittsburghs of the world and Minnesota and the other teams we play later this year and we're not going to beat them making plays like that," Palmer said.
Coles, the 10-year veteran receiver, typified the resiliency of his team. After last Sunday's three-drop game, he got the Bengals on the board with a five-yard touchdown catch to cap the first drive. But his biggest contribution came on the biggest play of the game.
The Bengals were staring into the maw of 0-2 after Palmer's second interception put them in a 21-14 hole. A holding, a sack, a delay of game and they were 3rd-and-34 from their own 7 with 3:38 left in the half. But Palmer's screen pass to Coats went for 23 yards and when he fumbled Coles corralled it for a first down at the Bengals 45. Five plays later, Palmer tied the game at 21 on a five-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Chris Henry.
"He blocked his butt off all day long," Palmer said of Coles. "He got the touchdown early to put us up. And the reason he got that fumble is he's always hustling. He's a pure professional and a guy a lot of guys can learn from because of the way he plays and the way he prepares."
If there was any group that overcame it all, it was the offensive line. Of the 13 penalties, the line had three holds.
"I think it's fun we won the same kind of game we lost last week," said left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who had two of the holds. "Once again we were put into a situation where something could have gone bad and we pulled it out because we believe. This is a mature team. It took maturity to go 91 yards last week to take the lead. And that was a silly play that lost it. With this team's resiliency we should be 2-0 right now."
The Ocho, who took the Leap, was already thinking of the Steelers, knowing that injured safety Troy Polamalu might not play.
"Who do we play next week?" he asked.
Told the Steelers, he said, "Is Troy going to play? I want to pull his hair."