Carson Palmer's coming out party takes exactly 15 minutes and 200 yards, the length of the fourth quarter in Baltimore and the number of passing yards he takes to generate 24 points to lead the Bengals to their second biggest road comeback ever, 27-26. It is just his 12th NFL start, but it already marks the third time he leads the Bengals to victory from either a deficit or tie in the fourth quarter.
And this one is especially significant since it comes in a building where the Bengals have never won and it comes at the hands of a Ravens defense that has ruled the AFC North for years, in large part because of the man now coaching the Bengals, Marvin Lewis.
But on Dec. 5, 2004, Carson Comeback, Lewis and Co. signal there is a shift coming in the balance of divisional power as they erase a 20-3 lead starting with the first snap of the fourth quarter when Palmer hits Chad Johnson with a 13-yard touchdown pass. Johnson (161 yards) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (171) each catch 10 balls in emerging as one of the most dangerous wide receiver tandems in the NFL.
Not including spikes, Palmer sifts 10 of his 11 fourth-quarter passes for 200 yards and three touchdowns and finishes the day with a passer rating of 127.1. He hits 29 of 36 pass attempts for 382 yards, but he still needs to take his team 60 yards in the final 1:13 to get Shayne Graham's winning field goal at the gun. In the Elwy-Marino gunslinger mode, Palmer shakes off a sack to start the drive and gets back up to complete a leaping 32-yarder to Houshmandzadeh and an 11-yarder to tight end Matt Schobel before ending his day with the 22-yard backbreaker to Johnson.
"After the game, you didn't see their defense," says center Rich Braham in the buzzing visitors locker room. "They just left the field. I think they were just stunned."