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Long day's journey into victory

Shayne Graham and his teammates celebrate Graham's game-winning field goal. (AP photo)

Posted: 9:10 p.m.

CLEVELAND - It was the only way that Carson Comeback and his Cardiac Kids could have topped their thrillers of the first three games of the season.

At the end of a long day?s journey into victory, quarterback Carson Palmer convinced head coach Marvin Lewis to go for the win and he delivered, 23-20, on the last possible play of the damp, dank Lake Erie afternoon, when Shayne Graham's 31-yard field goal nearing the overtime gun sent the Bengals into a tie with the Ravens for the AFC North lead at 3-1 on the wings of their longest victory ever played.

"Marvin was saying we were going to punt, but I told him I think we can get this, let?s go for the win instead of going for the tie," Palmer said. "That?s why Marvin is great. Some guys, once they make up their mind, they make up their mind. He listened to what I had to say. He takes coaches opinions and players? input and waits to make a decision. That?s why it?s great playing for a guy like Marvin, your opinion does matter. A lot of coaches, it's their ego or it's their way or the highway. Marvin listens to guys around him and listens to their input, and makes the best decisions possible.?

Don?t do this at home kids, but for the third time in four games this season Palmer drove down the field at least 70 yards to produce at least a tie with less than two minutes left in regulation.

Last week he threw the winning touchdown pass against the Steelers with 18 seconds left after engineering a go-ahead touchdown against Denver with 38 seconds left in the opener that later got trumped. 

?It?s what we do,? said left tackle Andrew Whitworth as the Bengals took a deep breath before next Sunday?s early-season division showdown in Baltimore.

It was fitting Sunday?s win came at the last instant because twice Palmer stared at make-or-lose fourth downs and converted them both to fashion his second straight fourth quarter victory and ninth of his career.

With 1:55 left in regulation and the Bengals down, 20-14, Palmer converted a fourth-and-two from the 2 by biding time Ben Roethlisberger-like in rolling around the pocket before flipping a touchdown to wide receiver Chad Ochocinco on the back line in the middle of the end zone to tie the game.

OT was forced suddenly and sickeningly for the Bengals because of a blocked winning extra point. But as they have all year the Bengals turned it from Armageddon into annoyance when Palmer stunned the Browns from the Cleveland 41 with 1:04 left and rambled 15 yards on an all or nothing fourth-and-11 to set up the first successful overtime kick of Graham?s nine-year career. The ball was snapped at seven seconds and four seconds were left when the game ended.

It was the first Bengals OT win since 2001 (a Neil Rackers field goal against Pittsburgh) and their first on the road in 11 years and a month, when Corey Sawyer stepped in front of a Scott Mitchell pass in Detroit and returned it 58 yards for a touchdown. The last time a Bengals road OT win ended on a field goal? Go back to the 1995 opener and Doug Pelfrey's 47-yarder in Indianapolis.

Running back Brian Leonard got it nine yards closer to the 17 on a dump pass over the middle on the next snap, but the buzz was about head coach Marvin Lewis? decision to go for it and what Palmer did with it.

At first Lewis wasn't ready to go for it in on fourth-and-10. The Browns wouldn?t have to go far to score if the Bengals didn?t get it. But Lewis relented with some input from his quarterback and other offensive players who were pretty emotional.

"We've been very aggressive all year and we've kind of been riding that; ... Carson was very confident in picking it up as he always is," Lewis said.

?I think in reflecting on it, I told the offense ?let?s not give the ball back to them,? In order to not give the ball back to them, you don?t want to punt it there. I think our guys were pretty confident in getting something going and making the play. [The Browns] didn?t have any timeouts left so if we did give the ball over to them there, it isn?t necessarily that they had a big advantage. It worked out today and I feel good about it.?

Palmer looked pretty hot on the TV monitors, but Lewis listened.

"He made a gutsy call,? Palmer said. ?That's a call that most coaches, especially defensive-minded coaches, wouldn't make. He believes in our offense. We've made plays for him. As long as we keep making plays for him, he'll trust and believe in us."

But a Palmer run?

?I said in the locker room we?ve been waiting for that Michael Vick-like move and we got it, braces and all," said right guard Bobbie Williams.

Moments before, Palmer had limped off the field after getting sacked on what appeared to be his sprained ankle. But after watching Palmer tie the longest run of his pro career, Whitworth said, ?What else would you expect? The perfect call: Carson Palmer up the middle.?

It wasn?t the call, but Palmer didn?t hesitate when he saw that the Browns ?max dropped? most of their players into coverage like they did on the trying touchdown.

?We were trying to get someone deep downfield; they just max dropped,? Palmer said. ?I kind of ran for the goal line. Ran for the fences. The offensive line created a big seam on the right. I just saw a big opening and I was just thinking, get the first down and put us in a field-goal situation ... I don?t want to do that again. I?ll leave that to Cedric (Benson).?

Staring at a 20-14 deficit with 6:34 left and running an offense that had not had a first down since the first quarter, Palmer set sail an another beauty, punctuated by wide receiver Chris Henry?s 16-yard catch on third-and-14, rookie running Bernard Scott?s first big NFL run (16 yards) and the biggest catch of tight end J.P. Foschi?s career (27 yards).

Then came Ocho for his second touchdown. Eight Browns dropped, three rushed, Palmer used the time to wait for someone to get open, and The Ocho was waving to him in back of the end zone for his first multi-TD game since the 2007 finale.

Palmer said if it wasn?t for The Ocho?s pink gloves in honor breast cancer awareness week, he wouldn?t have seen him. As it is, the Bengals are in the pink, playing for first place.

?Our offense never flinches,? Palmer said. ?We expect and we believe in each other. We believe in winning and kind of a never say die attitude. That?s something that Bobbie Williams is always talking about. Three of the four games have gone like this. It would be nice to be drinking some Gatorade and taking a knee at the end of the game.?

In honor of Lewis? 100th regular-season game as head coach, the Bengals nearly played their second 75-minute game in history. This time they won it in 74:56. Last year they tied it against the Eagles.

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