Palmer's only playoff pass turned bad
Carson Palmer's playoff career consists of one perfectly thrown pass that turned out very badly.
Palmer connected with
Palmer left the game on a cart, had reconstructive surgery and expected to be back in the playoffs soon. It has taken four years.
The Bengals (10-6) will play the New York Jets (9-7) on Saturday at Paul Brown Stadium, giving Palmer his long-awaited chance.
``That has driven me,'' Palmer said. ``But really what drives you is watching the wild-card round at Home. Flying back to your hometown and watching it with your family or friends, that drives you.
``Any NFL player sitting at home watching games is putting on a show. Nobody enjoys watching the first round, second round, third round, the Super Bowl. It's tough to do. I think that is something that has really driven our team, and definitely me.''
The 30-year-old quarterback knows it's an important moment for his legacy as well as Bengals history. Cincinnati is making only its second playoff appearance in the last 19 years. Palmer knows that even though he's been a Pro Bowl MVP and one of the league's top passers over several seasons, he'll be judged on his playoff results.
``Absolutely,'' he said. ``It is how quarterbacks are remembered, created, judged.''
His latest season hasn't helped him much that way.
Palmer's role was de-emphasized in Cincinnati's revamped run-first offense. He has thrown only 466 passes - the fewest for a full season since his first year as a starter. His statistics are average and his 83.6 passer rating ranks 16th out of the 32 NFL starting quarterbacks.
Of the 12 quarterbacks in the playoffs, only Jets rookie Mark Sanchez has worse numbers. At least he's coming off a win; Palmer is coming off the worst passing performance of his career.
Playing in cold, windy conditions that bothered his receivers, Palmer went 1 for 11 for no yards and one interception last Sunday while playing into the third quarter of a 37-0 loss at the Jets. Three of his passes went through his receivers' hands.
The Bengals had little at stake, and acted like it. Palmer wasn't the problem.
``He had a lot of things go against him, like he had three dropped balls that I can remember right offhand,'' Jets coach Rex Ryan said. ``I will tell you one thing: He can spin it with the best of them. If they want to get rid of Carson Palmer, we will take him.''
Palmer's seven years in the NFL haven't played out the way he expected. The Heisman Trophy winner from Southern California was the first overall pick in 2003 and sat out his rookie season, watching Jon Kitna run the offense.
In only his second year as a starter, he threw for 32 touchdowns and led the Bengals to their first playoff appearance since 1990. The Bengals faced the rival Steelers in their wild-card game at Paul Brown Stadium, and forced Pittsburgh to punt on the opening series.
Cincinnati took over at its 11-yard line. Palmer handed off to Rudi Johnson for a 1-yard gain, then took a snap from Richie Braham and dropped back to pass. He held the ball a second longer than usual, allowing Henry to run past cornerback Deshea Townsend down the right sideline.
The throw was perfect, hitting Henry in stride for a 66-yard gain, the longest pass completion in Bengals playoff history. The crowd of 65,870 erupted, then went silent when it realized that Palmer was down. Oelhoffen had crashed into his lower leg just as he released the ball, shredding ligaments and dislocating his kneecap.
Henry also hurt his right knee while making the catch, aggravated it a few plays later and had to be helped off the field. The Bengals melted down to a 31-17 loss that left them feeling cheated.
``That 2005 game doesn't count,'' receiver Chad Ochocinco said. ``I've never played in the playoffs. It was very short. This is really my first playoff game.''
Palmer didn't miss a game the following season. He wasn't the same, either, struggling to regain his touch as the Bengals went 8-8. They started slowly and finished 7-9 in 2007, then came apart after Palmer tore a tendon and ligament in his passing elbow last season, limiting him to four games.
Palmer wondered when he might get another playoff chance.
``I always assumed and hoped and prayed that I would,'' he said. ``I just didn't know what year it would be.''
Even though the Bengals lost that 2005 game in the playoffs, they were convinced that Palmer would get them back there soon.
``Truthfully, everybody around here thought we were headed in the right direction as long as we got him back healthy,'' offensive guard Bobbie Williams said. ``It didn't turn out like that the next couple of seasons, but it seems with the foundation we've got now, we're headed in the right direction.
``It just took longer than all of us thought.''