Passing game continues struggles


Carson Palmer

Updated: 6:40 p.m.

One of the themes coming out of the game centered around a young Bengals team's first exposure to a playoff atmosphere. Quarterback Carson Palmer said his team must learn from it. The learning process better happen quickly with an important game against San Diego on deck next Sunday.

Asked if this was a measuring-stick game, Palmer said, "Yeah, but I don't think we played our best football."

With a passing game that could muster just 91 yards passing on the day, there has to be some concern about the Bengals' inability to get any big plays downfield, a theme that has been evident most of the season. With the Vikings trying to take away wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, Palmer had trouble consistently finding other receivers open.

"We need to do a better job with that," Palmer said. "They did a really good job with a game plan that took away Chad. We didn't do a good enough job of countering that and finding our other guys and moving the chains. They're too good at home and too good on defense to put yourself into 2nd and 20 and 1st and 15 situations."

The Bengals gave away a gift three points as the first-half ended when they were caught in between whether or not to run out the clock and enter halftime with a 13-7 deficit or try to move the ball downfield to get into field goal position. Palmer threw a screen pass to running back Brian Leonard, who was hit by Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield and flipped head over heels. The ball came out and Minnesota recovered at the Bengals 28 with four seconds left in the half. Ryan Longwell's 45-yard field goal gave the Vikings a 16-7 lead at the half.

Palmer indicated the Bengals were trying to go for a score on that possession.

"We were trying to get a 10- to 15-yard play and go for the field goal," he said. "Looking back on it, it was a big momentum-changer. That and when we got stopped on 3rd and 1 and had to punt (with five minutes left in the third quarter)."

It was Winfield's second big hit on Leonard. Earlier, Leonard said Winfield drilled him on a play that was the first time someone had ever hit him before he had a chance to do his patented Leonard Leap over the defender. "He must have been watching film," he said.

Then, on the fumble, he said, "I caught the ball and turned upfield but I didn't have enough time to protect it."

Running back Cedric Benson had a nice game with 96 yards on 16 carries, but he expressed concerned about Cincinnati's mental state entering the game.

"Today guys weren't ready mentally," Benson said. "(We) didn't mentally prepare. Not many of these guys have been in playoff-type games. We've played big games this year. We've played the Pittsburghs and the Baltimores. Today should have been that same approach for us, but it wasn't there."

Benson topped 1,000 yards on the season for the first time in his career. "I would rather have the win but it is a tremendous achievement," he said. "It's a tremendous effort by the guys up front. Without them, I couldn't have done it."

Bengals tackle Andrew Whitworth cited the 11 penalties by the Bengals as one of the keys to the game.

"That is another example of why this is a great experience for us, coming on the road and playing a great team like this and killing ourselves," he said. "Us killing ourselves is the big issue. I don't feel they out-physicaled us. I don't feel they are better than us as much as the score allowed. I think it's like the Oakland game. When you make critical mistakes it can get away from you in a hurry."

Asked what the Bnegals need to do in order to get better, Whitworth said, "We've got to get better in the passing game and dominate in the running game earlier."

QUICK HITS

» The Bengals had a season-low 210 yards of total offense and a season-low 91 yards passing.

» Sunday was the second time in three games the Bengals have had less than 100 yards passing (Cleveland on November 29).

» Minnesota's 30 points were the most points the Bengals have allowed this year.

» The 322 total yards by the Vikings were the most allowed by the Bengals since the Houston game on October 18.

» The Vikings had 142 yards rushing, the second-most the Bengals have allowed this year (146 at Cleveland).

» Sunday was the first time in eight games the Bengals have allowed a team to top 100 yards rushing (142).

» The Bengals came into the game with a defense that led the league in opponents third-down conversion percentage (32 percent). The Vikings were 8-for-14 Sunday for 57 percent.

» The Bengals had 11 penalties for 85 yards. Over the last three weeks they now have incurred 30 penalties. The 11 were the second most penalties in a game by the Bengals this season (13 for 100 yards against Green Bay on September 20).

» Safety Chris Crocker reaggravated the same ankle he injured last week. He is not sure about his availability for next week's game against San Diego.

» When told the Bengals only had 91 yards passing, wide receiver Chad Ochocinco said, "What? Serious? You've got to be (kidding). Well, I don't know why." When asked further if this was a barometer of where the Bengals stand, he said, "Not at all. I recall last year that Arizona got beat really bad by New England by 50-something, but they kept marching on (to the Super Bowl)."

» Ochocinco got an autographed horn from Vikings mascot Ragnar after the game, but after his touchdown Ochocinco didn't do a celebration with the horn as he promised earlier in the week because he said the Bengals were losing at the time.

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