Updated: 7:45 a.m.
Two sides of the rookie coin each stared up at sixth-round pick Bernard Scott during the 24-21 loss to the Rams in the Bengals' third preseason game at the Paul Brown Stadium opener.
This is why everybody from HBO to ESPN and everybody else who showed up at PBS Thursday night is initially saying rookie running back Bernard Scott has this team made. Even ML showed a little love.
"He's a talented player, and thank goodness you have these games to let him play and work through those mistakes," said head coach Marvin Lewis. "He hasn't showed that he's going to shy away from anything, and I like that."
The Bengals were in the midst of their worst offensive series since the dog days of last December. After three penalties, a sack, and a fumble, it was third-and-21 from their own four and quarterback Jordan Palmer gratefully handed it off to Scott sweeping left.
Then a funny thing happened on the way to the punt. Scott left two defenders lurching who had penetrated his path on the line of scrimmage and shot up the sideline so quickly that the only thing standing between him and the first down was a body and a couple of yards and he solved that by hurtling his own body in the air to get the first with a yard to spare.
Before that, a not-so-funny thing happened on the way to the tying touchdown early in the second quarter. The Rams led, 14-7, but the Bengals were on the St. Louis 32 and had just replaced starting running back Cedric Benson with Scott and gave it to him for the first time in the game.
Scott got stopped for a yard by safety Oshiomongho Atogwe, but Scott kept trying to get another yard or two and with Scott standing straight up, Atogwe punched the ball out and safety James Butler collected it to start his 73-yard touchdown run for a 21-7 lead.
"A veteran move," Scott said. "I was just trying to get extra yards. I've got to get back to my fundamentals. Protect the ball more. I had both hands on it and he just poked it out. I'll learn from it. I felt a lot of pressure to bounce back. I wanted to let them know I can bounce back from a mistake."
Scott is confident it's a mistake that won't happen very often. By his own count he fumbled just twice during the past two seasons at Abilene Christian, a stunning career he capped off last year winning the Division II Heisman. In '07 and '08 he touched it 610 times.
Counting a kickoff he fumbled and then picked up, that made two in about 15 minutes.
"I don't think it's going to be a problem," he said.
The rest of the night was pretty solid in showing why he's one of the most exciting young Bengals to come along in a while. Scott finished with 54 yards on eight carries, but the 22-yarder is the keeper. The 5-10, 200-pounder showed why there are whispers comparing him to Tennessee's Rookie of the Year last season, the speedy Chris Johnson.
"It wasn't really a move; I just outran them to the sideline," said Scott of what he did to those two defenders back at the line. "Sometimes you've got to make people miss. Sometimes it's open. You've just got to make a play. When I looked, I knew I was a couple of yards short, so I just put it out there on the line. When I took the corner, I felt good about getting the first down."
Scott didn't catch Wednesday night's third episode of Hard Knocks, but he heard the coaches were talking him up. Told they allowed on air that Scott was going to make the team, Scott shrugged.
"I haven't heard it yet," Scott said. "There's a lot of time left. Regardless, I want to be the best so I'll keep working hard no matter what they tell me if I made the team or not."
INSIDE THE TD: The next cornerback who covers wide receiver Chris Henry is going to be the first. He's now scored a touchdown in all three preseason games and this was his longest one, a pretty and wide-open 54-yard floater from Jordan Palmer in which Henry had ridiculous separation.
In an odd way, Palmer's underthrown ball to Henry moments before that got intercepted by cornerback Quincy Butler and retuned 68 yards may have set up the play. Certainly the 22-yard pass to tight end J.P. Foschi on the snap before was a factor.
"We kind of set him up," Henry said. "We ran a play. Jordan hit a tight end in Cover 2 and I guess (offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski) saw something upstairs. This time they gave me a double-move. I had to stutter him. He broke like he was going to get the interception. It was a lazy route. I baited him and I took it to the 9 (route). It was open."
Palmer was still hot at himself after the game about the pick.
"(Henry) should have had two touchdowns. It was a great opportunity to keep the safety in one spot and to throw it outside," Palmer said. "It was just a good read, but a bad ball. That's frustrating, and I really want that ball back."
But he came back to throw his first NFL touchdown pass, giving Henry 13 catches on the season and a TD about every four balls.
"We were going to be able to hit the bender to the tight end like we did, or they were going to play man where they bump and (run)," Palmer said. "And you're stupid if you try to bump Chris Henry. He proved it. It was his third game in a row catching a deep ball, and that is what he does best."
But Lewis is keeping a close eye on Henry and it is a demanding one.
"Chris scored another touchdown and also Chris didn't make a tackle on the interception return and had a number of plays that weren't very good," Lewis said. "There's more to playing football, receiver, than just catching the ball. There's a lot of other things that have to occur."
Despite the glittering numbers (16.7 yards per catch), Henry is still running with the second team.
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Palmer took out his frustration on Butler with a nice tackle after guys like Henry and everybody else missed tackles on that 68-yard run.
"Unfortunately, I have a lot of tackles in my career; and they weren't from fumbles," Palmer said. "It was frustrating, especially when it was a chance for a big play. It's one thing if you throw it in there and the MIKE (linebacker) catches it for a five-yard return, but its another thing when you have the opportunity to put the ball down the field. I have to be able to make those throws; I am better than that."
» Early in the game a plume of black smoke rose from one of the parking lots in what looked to be a fairly significant tailgate fire. It was bad enough that two asthmatic Rams starters had to leave the game, SAM linebacker Chris Draft and tackle Gary Gibson.