BENGALS GAMEDAY: Photos, analysis, video highlights, stats* * *
Posted: 4:30 a.m.
A week after watching Chiefs quarterback Trent Green leave the field strapped to a stretcher, the Bengals went through the same sickening scenario when strong-side linebacker David Pollack suffered "a significant neck injury" Sunday that very well could have ended his season.
"Anytime you say a back or a neck, it's scary," said middle linebacker Brian Simmons an hour after the game. "We still really don't know what it is. We're just praying for him and are thinking about him and his family."
Details were sparse Sunday night after Pollack collided with Browns running back Reuben Droughns on Cleveland's second offensive snap, but the Bengals expected Pollack to spend the night at University Hospital. He left the field giving the thumbs-up, and the club said he didn't suffer paralysis and didn't lose consciousness.
"I didn't get a chance to talk to him, but he was moving around, and that was good to see," Simmons said.
If Pollack didn't have bad luck, he'd have no luck. The Bengals first-round pick in 2005, Pollack sprained his knee and missed about three weeks during midseason after he missed three weeks of training camp because of a holdout.
Then he missed most of this past spring's workouts with a foot injury stemming from the knee injury. Then Pollack pulled his hamstring the first week of this training camp and it has lingered so long that he hardly played last week. Now he could be done for this season after just two snaps in Week 2.
Vintage Rudi. With 26 carries for 145 yards, it was his fourth straight 100-yard game against the Browns and puts him within 25 yards of NFL-leading rusher Warrick Dunn after Dunn finished the day with 366 yards for the season.
Last Sunday Johnson became the fourth Bengal to rush for more than 4,000 yards (he now has 4,177) and this Sunday he racked up his 14th 100-yard game, tying Pete Johnson for third on the Bengals list, three behind James Brooks and 14 behind Corey Dillon.
"Rudi is unbelievable; he's just a beast," said quarterback Carson Palmer. "You can't tackle him with an arm tackle, and you rarely tackle him with one guy. He's got that little patented spin move where he spins off the guy once he gets eight yards down the field. We run behind Bobbie (Williams) and Willie (Anderson) a lot, and they push guys away. When you have safeties making tackles and you have corners making tackles, you know you're having a good day offensively."
Palmer looked at the table he sat behind at his news conference, and he said that was about the size of three or four of the holes of the fourth-quarter runs Johnson sprung on the Browns.
The spin move got Johnson into the end zone on a one-yard run, and it helped him elude safety Brian Russell at the two-yard line on his nine-yard touchdown run.
"It's about feeling it; feeling him. Feeling the defender and where he's going," Johnson said of the spin. "I don't really know myself. I can't explain it."
What he can explain is he loves the ball in division games. Heck make that any game. The Bengals are 12-2 when he rushes for 100 yards, 13-0 when he carries at least 25 times, and six of his 100-yard games have come against AFC North teams.
Johnson has now carried 19 times in the fourth quarter for 93 of his 241 yards.
"That's just from continuing to work and wear them down," Johnson said. "Once the fourth quarter comes, you feel the defense get tired and everything opens up."
It was Simmons's 10th career interception, moving him past such former Bengals as Bill Bergey and Artrell Hawkins, and tying him with Jim LeClair and Barney Bussey.
The Browns, who gave up five sacks in their opener, made sure they didn't give up any to a Cincinnati team that had seven last week.
"It was that kind of day where they left a tight end in (to pass protect) and they went with quick passes," Thornton said. "We gave up too many yards (301). This was supposed to be a day we were supposed to have a great day, and we gave up the kind of long plays we gave up last year. This is the kind of game that makes you 28th in the league. Not because you're a bad defense, but because you can't finish off teams after you get the lead."
But he's lucky he's standing after Russell delivered a helmet shot to his chin the last play before the two-minute warning as cornerback Leigh Bodden used the traffic to make an interception.
After a play that will no doubt be reviewed by the NFL, Johnson had to get his chin sewed up with some stitches and he was clearly disoriented.
He did hang around his locker long enough to show off his new cornerbacks checklist, but he needed help filling it out. Asked if Bodden got a "No" for not covering him, one guy told him to put "No" because he scored a touchdown.
When he started asking people if they won the game, club officials were immediately placed around his locker to prevent interviews. His eyes were glassy, and as Palmer said, "He's a very charismatic guy when he doesn't take a shot in the head. He took a shot in the head. I don't know how much you guys had a chance to see him, but he's a little out of it. He'll come to his senses and come around."
"Is that what it was? That's exciting," Henry said. "That's my first one."
Palmer loves throwing the ball to Henry and Henry loves to catch it from him. Their 43-yard bomb down the right sideline in the second quarter was eerily similar to that 66-yarder in the playoff game against the Steelers in which both injured their knees.
He also lured cornerback Gary Baxter's 12-yard interference penalty in the red zone.
Now both seem in top form as the Steelers beckon in Pittsburgh.
"Carson is like another coach out there for me," Henry said.
Palmer: "I think Chris is the X-factor in this offense. Everybody talks about T.J. and Chad so much, but Chris makes this offense move. If they take away Chad, that leaves Chris one-on-one. He's a big-play receiver. He's 6-5 and he's a mismatch whether it's a safety or a corner, whoever covers him. He's a guy I lean on and a guy I depend on a lot."
Word is that new commissioner Roger Goodell is to visit Cincinnati this week on his introductory tour and he's the guy that may hold Henry's fate once the league deciphers the policies regarding drug and alcohol and personal conduct policy.
Goodell has the discretion to fine or suspend Henry if the league decides he doesn't already net an automatic suspension following his plea of guilty last week on a weapons charge. That's his second guilty plea and he has two cases pending.
Asked if he's worried about getting suspended, Henry said, "I don't have time to think about that stuff. I just love playing ball."
"I had people talking to me about it during the offseason, so it's nice to get it," Graham said as he tossed the ball to himself, reflecting on getting cut five times. "I've got the ball, so it means something to me. It's nice to know after I went from team to team and didn't know where my place was in the league, and now I'm near the top. I want to stay there."
Earlier in the day, Graham pushed a 44-yard try to the right, snapping his Bengals record 17 straight. But that was only after right tackle Willie Anderson had to hustle back onto the field with 10 seconds left on the play clock and the operation looked hurried. It had been awhile. Graham's last miss came back on Nov. 6 of last year when he went right with a 48-yarder in Baltimore.
"I just missed it," said Graham, when asked if the operation was off.