Bengals ruin Palmer's homecoming with 34-10 win
The purple bruises on his passing shoulder. The raw, red scrape down the middle of his back. Carson Palmer's upper body was a colorful reminder of how badly his homecoming turned out.
No fun at all for him or the Oakland Raiders, either.
The Bengals got back into the playoff race on Sunday by beating their former franchise quarterback and his new team 34-10. Cincinnati (6-5) moved into a tie with Pittsburgh for the second wild card spot, although the Steelers have the head-to-head tiebreaker.
For the first time since 1976, the Bengals have won three games in a row by at least 18 points.
''We had an OK November,'' coach Marvin Lewis said. ''So now let's have a better December. We need to have a better December that we had in November. That's our key right now. That'll give us a chance for a great January.''
Cincinnati did just about anything it wanted during a dominant first half against the Raiders (3-8), who have given up the most points in the NFL. They've dropped a season-high four in a row, allowing 169 points in those games.
''I'm just really tired of losing,'' safety Mike Mitchell said. ''It's going from anger to sadness to ... I don't know.''
Andy Dalton threw three touchdown passes against that dreadful defense, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for 129 yards and a touchdown. He had runs of 48 and 39 yards - the longest of his career - to set up scores.
''You need to be balanced when you're playing a game like this,'' said Dalton, who was 16 of 30 for 210 yards. ''When you get the lead early, you want to be able to run the ball. We've just got to keep it up.''
From the coin flip, the attention was on Palmer, who had decided he couldn't play for one of the NFL's most forlorn franchises of the past 20 years. He held out last year, and owner Mike Brown finally relented and traded him to Oakland at midseason.
Palmer hadn't been back to Cincinnati since the trade. He was booed by the 56,503 fans - the smallest crowd of the season at Paul Brown Stadium - when he went out for the coin toss. He got a hug from former teammate Rey Maualuga and finally met Dalton, who was drafted in the second round last year to replace him.
A sign in the upper deck read: ''Winners Never Quit,'' a reference to Palmer's holdout.
''You obviously hear it,'' Palmer said of the boos. ''You can't block things like that out. But I prepared myself for that.''
He went 19 of 34 for 146 yards with a touchdown, four sacks and an interception that went off the receiver's hands - hardly what he'd hoped.
''Not a lot went right, from start to finish,'' Palmer said.
Oakland's frustration boiled over in the fourth quarter.
A brawl broke out after a play was whistled dead because of a penalty, and Oakland's Tommy Kelly and Lamarr Houston ended up on top of Cincinnati's Andrew Whitworth in the middle of a big scrum of players. All three were ejected.
''They were probably looking for a fight because they weren't doing much on the field,'' Whitworth said.
The pain began the first time Palmer tried to pass. Tackle Geno Atkins shot through the line virtually untouched and sacked Palmer as he faked a handoff.
It never got much better. With running back Darren McFadden sidelined again by an ankle injury, the Raiders were missing one of their best options. And Palmer was under heavy pressure all game, taking a beating that showed on his back.
''Of course, we had a little grudge with the (holdout) situation, so we wanted to get back there and make him uncomfortable in the pocket,'' defensive end Carlos Dunlap said.
And then there was that Raiders defense ...
The Bengals had 156 yards after only two series. Dalton's second touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu made it 21-0 midway through the second quarter. At that point, the Raiders' offense hadn't yet crossed midfield.
The half ended with one more Raiders mistake. Marcel Reece had Palmer's pass go off his hands, and Chris Crocker intercepted with 8 seconds left. Mike Nugent's 55-yard field goal tied the club record and put the Bengals up 24-0.
Oakland allowed 289 yards in the half - the most this season - and had only 83 yards, its fewest on offense since it managed 52 yards in the first half at Pittsburgh on Nov. 21, 2010.
The Bengals got a break in the fourth quarter when an inadvertent whistle wiped out Sanu's fumble deep in Cincinnati territory with 7:22 to go. On the next play, the brawl broke out that resulted in the ejections.
NOTES: Bengals receiver A.J. Green failed to catch a TD pass, ending his streak of nine games with one. It's the second-longest streak in club history. ... Atkins' ninth sack moved him one ahead of Dan Wilkinson for the club record by an interior lineman. ... CB Leon Hall missed a play after he broke up a pass in the first quarter, hurting a finger on his left hand. He got two fingers taped together and returned. ... Chris Bahr also kicked a 55-yard field goal for the Bengals on Sept. 23, 1979 against Houston.
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