INDIANAPOLIS - Chad Ocho Cinco had made 102 straight starts before he was benched and sent home for insubordination in Pittsburgh last month. On Sunday he didn't start for the first time when he was active since his rookie year and there were a couple of different explanations.
The Ocho checked back into the game in place of rookie wide receiver Jerome Simpson after the Bengals got two first downs. Head coach Marvin Lewis said, "I chose not to start him. My decision. I wanted to play the other guys a little bit."
Ocho Cinco ended up having a season-high 79 yards on five catches, as well as his longest catch of the year, a 26-yarder. He also had a 22-yard catch after not getting a 20-plus reception since the opener.
The Ocho's take: "I was stretching. I wasn't ready to go in."
Another receiver that has knocked heads with Lewis in the past, Chris Henry, had a real bad day in his very forgettable season of 12 catches for 127 yards. After Colts cornerback Kelvin Hayden's interception at the end of the first half, Henry allowed Indy to set up at the Bengals 7 with an unnecessary roughness call. After the play, he gave a two-handed shove to the Colt that hit him in the back.
"I guess he got hit from behind, and then he can't retaliate. It's selfish when you retaliate," Lewis said. "That hurt us too. Now the ball goes inside the 10-yard line. I guess Chris got hit late and everybody witnessed it but the official. But that's fine. You can't be the second guy in there. We've gone most of the football season without those kinds of things, and they can't happen."
Lewis also wasn't happy with Henry after the coup de grace, Hayden's 85-yard interception return for a touchdown with 5:02 left in the game. It looked like Fitzpatrick anticipated Henry to run some kind of stop route, but Henry kept going. Lewis blamed both of Fitzpatrick's interceptions on the receivers.
It was the second longest interception return ever against the Bengals. Only Chad Williams' 98-yarder for a touchdown against Jon Kitna on Dec. 1, 2002 at Paul Brown Stadium was longer.
"Nothing 100 percent yet; working my way into it," Palmer said. "I'm taking it slowly, hoping to throw more and more balls as I get cleared to do. No catastrophic news that you guys are looking for."
Still, he says he has no pain and if it feels like this after he starts throwing routes to receivers and he guns it and goes deep, he won't have surgery. But he has indicated he still has a week or two to get to that level.
No one believes Palmer plays in the final three games, but he has to believe for himself. Every Friday before practice he sits at his locker filling out the weekly game plan test for the quarterbacks.
"I'm trying to get prepared to play whether I play or not," Palmer said. "I can't go about my business any other way. I'm working out, taking care of my body, going through game plans in my head like I am playing. That's the only way I know how to do it."
NUMBERS, NUMBERS: First the good numbers. T.J. Houshmandzadeh became the 102nd player in NFL history and third Bengal (Ocho, Carl Pickens) to reach 500 career catches. He now has 504 (89 this season) after getting eight for 75 yards Sunday.
With his 19-yard field goal, Shayne Graham became the second-leading scorer in Bengals history with 662 points, two ahead of Doug Pelfrey and about four and a half seasons behind Jim Breech's 1,151.
The bad news is that the Bengals are no longer on pace to score 200 points this season. The projection is down to 190, behind only the '00 Bengals' 185 and the 1993 club's 187.
The '00 club played in an apt year. They hold the Bengals record for scoring the fewest points in back-to-back games: Zero, courtesy of shutouts to Jacksonville and Baltimore Sept. 17-24, 2000. The second fewest is three points, done twice in three games in October 1978 when shutouts in Miami and Buffalo sandwiched a 10-3 loss to New England. Then comes six points by the '08 team, with Sunday's loss on top of the 34-3 loss to Baltimore last week.
Elias Sports Bureau said Sunday night it's the first time ever the Bengals have lost back-to-back games by at least 30 points.