BENGALS GAMEDAY: Photos, analysis, video highlights, stats, quotes* * *
Posted: 6:35 a.m.
Yes Virginia, Carson Palmer ended up playing Rams quarterback Brock Berlin to a virtual standoff with his 60.8 passer rating and Berlin's 60.6 in his NFL debut.
And Palmer actually made the mistake that everyone thought Berlin was going to make when cornerback Fakhir Brown jumped a route to wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh in the slot and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown on the second play of the second half that cut the Bengals lead to 10-7.
But Palmer knows he's ultimately judged on wins and losses.
"It wasn't pretty offensively for either team. But you just want to come out on top in these ugly games," he said. "At the end of the year, it's a win in the win column and nobody worries about how many yards we threw for or whatever case it is. It's just a win. It's good to get one, because we've been struggling to get them."
Tough crowd. Bengals fans are now openly booing running back Rudi Johnson and grousing about their darling, the two-time Pro Bowler Palmer who has struggled the past month.
After last Sunday night's woeful outing in Pittsburgh, he followed up that 51.6 passer rating with another clinker. He hasn't been so low in back-to-back games since the Ravens and Steelers put up a 43.4 and 52.1 in the third and fourth starts of his career in 2004.
He's also gone eight straight quarters without throwing a touchdown pass, his longest skein that also goes back to his rookie year when he didn't throw for a score in his second and third starts.
The nice thing about Palmer is he expects the shots.
Palmer "At this position, and where we are as a team, I need to play great every week," Palmer said. "And I haven't been great every week. As far as I'm concerned, I just want to give us a chance to win. Of course, I want to throw a bunch of touchdown passes and throw the ball all over the field, but at this point in the year, where we're at, we need wins."
Brown's return was reminiscent of the two cornerback Antrell Rolle took back for touchdowns three weeks ago at Paul Brown Stadium in Arizona's 35-27 victory. Brown originally looked to be covering wide receiver Chad Johnson on the outside and then cheated down into the middle of the field.
Palmer also gave a similar answer.
"Kind of bluffing one coverage and then flying out late with another one," Palmer said. "They caught me with my eyes in the wrong spot. I didn't see the guy crashing from the outside—the corner come flying in. They just made a good play. I need to do a better job of seeing that and expecting that coverage earlier, readjusting my read and decision, and (instead) taking off and running in that situation."
But, like last Sunday night, particularly in the first half, the conditions were far from perfect for a passing game. And the Rams sold out their run defense to blitz him.
"It was tough. We were expecting a light drizzle, which is better," Palmer said. "But it was pouring early. It was pouring early when we were warming up on the field. I'm just thankful it let up there in the end (of the first quarter) and dried up enough for both teams to get chances to throw the ball."
HoushmandzadehT.J. ON WAY: T.J. Houshmandzadeh didn't have a particularly good day, but the NFL's leading receiver was pleased with the win, so he's not one of those guys. Yet he was mad he had a drop, which went right into the arms of cornerback Ron Bartell for an interception, and he had a fumble overt the middle that was recovered by running back Kenny Watson.
Give Palmer one more completion and one fewer pick and his passer rating is a heck of a lot better.
"I don't want to blame the weather because everyone was playing in it and I was the only one putting it on the ground," Houshmandzadeh said. "I'm trying to catch the ball with my body, which I never do because of the rain. It just hit me in the forearm and bounced in the air."
Houshmandzadeh, who now has a personal-best 96 catches and is five away from setting the Bengals single-season record with 101, says he's only thinking about winning. And he figures he'd already have it "but I've dropped six or seven this year." But he did have a nice conversation with Rams receiver Torry Holt after the game.
"You know what he told me?" Houshmandzadeh asked. "He told me, 'See (you) in Hawaii.' So hopefully I go (to the Pro Bowl)."
Houshmandzadeh says he has a good relationship with Holt and has talked to him on a few occasions, but he didn't get a chance to speak to Bruce. Houshmandzadeh did give Chad Johnson some advice on how to pull off a signed jersey trade with Bruce and Holt after the game.
GrahamSHAYNE-O-MATIC: Shayne Graham, looking as spry as ever on his 30th birthday, was singing in the rain Sunday. He drilled all four field goals in less than perfect conditions, the last from 46 yards with 2:22 left to seal it.
Think there's any difference kicking on FieldTurf as opposed to the slop at Heinz Field last Sunday night, where he yanked a 43-yarder wide right? That's still his only miss between the 40 and 49 this year and he now has a four-FG game to go along with his Bengals-record seven against Baltimore last month.
It also gives him 29 on the season, three shy of Doug Pelfrey's club record in 1995 and two short of his own record of 28 set two years ago.