Posted: 9:20 a.m.
OAKLAND, Calif. - For the fifth time in six games in Sunday's 20-17 loss to the Raiders, the Bengals failed to score 20 points. While the questions that have dogged this offense since the last three games of 2006 begin to surface again, there seems to be one answer.
Rookie running back Bernard Scott continues to be the real deal. A week after beating the Steelers with an AFC Special Teams Player of the Week performance on a 96-yard kick return for the game's only score, Scott followed it up with the first 100-yard game of his career with 119 on 21 carries.
In a feast-or-famine day toiling in the absence of the inactive Cedric Benson (hip), Scott zipped off the biggest run in seven seasons of head coach Marvin Lewis on a remarkable 61-yarder. He also ripped off a 23-yarder on a screen pass on a day the Raiders stopped him for no gain or less eight times.
Maybe Scott's biggest play was the one he didn't make. He said the Bengals wanted him to return the kickoff after the game was tied, but he couldn't because he was cramping and Andre Caldwell ended up fumbling.
"But he's a threat back there, too, so it not like it's a big let off," Scott said.
Scott did go back for the next kickoff, but it was squibbed to wide receiver Quan Cosby.
The Bengals wasted Scott's 61-yarder in the middle of the third quarter when quarterback Carson Palmer got sacked for an 18-yard loss and kicker Shayne Graham was wide right on a 37-yard field goal attempt. Scott was seemingly hemmed in for about an eight-yard gain on a sweep on the left side when he made a vicious cut to send the pack rolling into the sideline and he zigzagged all the way to the sideline and nearly scored but couldn't run away from safety Michael Huff at the Raiders 19.
"I ran out of gas again," said Scott, who nearly didn't finish his kick return the week before. "I was just trying to make a play, keep my legs moving. Instead of making a move inside, they were running so fast I was just trying to stop and cut back. ... I'm working hard to get back in game shape."
The newest Bengal, running back Larry Johnson, ended up carrying just twice for five yards after going through three practices with the team.
"Bernard's doing what we expected him to do," Lewis said. "To play as much as he did today, he worked through it. You've got to make sure we know what's going on and doing things the right way. Brian (Leonard) gave us some good snaps in there (36 yards on 13 carries) and Larry gave us two good snaps."
PROTECTION WOES: The next biggest key to the game after the Bengals turnovers (including their first in 43 red-zone possessions dating back to last year) was the protection. For the first time this season the Bengals defense didn't get a sack and quarterback Carson Palmer was sacked three times for the first time since the opener.
The Bengals got just one hit on quarterback Bruce Gradkowski and as right end Jon Fanene hit him, he threw the ball short and cornerback Johnathan Joseph picked it off with six minutes left in the game.
Gradkowski was too comfortable back there throwing two touchdown passes, matching JaMarcus Russell's season total in 30 minutes and getting his first scoring pass in 116 throws dating back to his rookie season of 2006.
The Bengals got nowhere near the rush they got on Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger last week in the final drive. They've been praised for knowing how to break down protections, but it didn't happen Sunday.
"They did their normal protections," said left end Robert Geathers. "They max protected. They chipped. They kept guys in to block. They didn't do anything we didn't expect. We didn't let him get out of pocket, but we still need to get some pressure on him. We know what we should have done to break the protection, we've just got to play better up front."
The Raiders broke down the Bengals protection with aggressive blitzes from the defensive backs, and end Greg Ellis nearly caught Palmer for a safety when he beat right tackle Dennis Roland to the outside for a sack late in the game.
"We got beat on the snap a couple of times backed up in the end zone," Lewis said. "Greg's a fine player. He jumped the snap a little bit and anticipated the right way. We got beat."
KICKED GAME: As good as special teams were last week with Scott's return and Graham's four field goals, they were killers this week. Besides Caldwell's fumble and Graham's missed field goal from 37 yards out, a high snap on Kevin Huber's last punt forced him to hurry and he put it in the end zone instead of pinning the Raiders deep in their own territory. That allowed the Raiders' tying touchdown drive to start at the 20 with 2:20 left.
A snap or handling or the snap could have been the problem on the missed field goal. It looked like the ball didn't get teed up smoothly.