Bengals clinch AFC North title
The head coach was dry as he ran off the field after clinching a title – no celebratory sideline dousing. Players’ eyes were dry, too – all the tears had been wrung out.
In their finest moment, the Cincinnati
Either way, they were in the playoffs.
They wore the receiver’s No. 15 on their helmets and their hearts.
"I’m not jumping for joy or glee, just thinking about 15 once that clock hits zero," Ochocinco said. "That was everybody’s mindset, to go out and win this one for him."
Given the mood, the
"It was a long week," Palmer said. "We didn’t have an off day. We fly back from the coast, and the time change got us. Then we fly to New Orleans and don’t get back until like 7:30 p.m. That was a long, emotional day. We were drained and tired."
One good drive at the end was enough.
Cincinnati took over at its 2-yard line with 9:21 to go and put together its longest drive of the season. On the 14th play, Palmer threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Ochocinco, who ran to the stands and touched a poster of Henry, pausing for a brief prayer.
Fans wearing No. 15 decals chanted "Who Dey!" after
"To win this game, no matter how ugly, makes you closer as a team," defensive lineman
"I know we’re making progress," said Cassel, who was 22 of 37 for 180 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. "We’re fighting and continuing to get better. We had a chance. It just didn’t go our way at the end."
Then, both teams played an opening half so dreadful that fans booed repeatedly. The
Cincinnati managed only 53 yards in the half, with its only points coming off a bizarre play. On a Kansas City punt attempt, the snap flew over
Even then, the
Palmer finished 17 of 25 for 139 yards with two touchdowns passing and an interception.
Even the intriguing subplot fizzled. The
NOTES: Playing on his 23rd birthday,