Palmer’s breakout sends Bengals into bye
The pass was perfect. Easy touchdown. And it was just getting started.
For the first time in years, Palmer had his way for an entire game, one that felt like a flashback. He threw five touchdown passes and only four incompletions in a 45-10 victory that sent the Cincinnati
Touchdown after touchdown? They used to do this all the time.
“He’s a top-level quarterback in this league,” offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski said. “You give him time and the (receivers) on the outside are spot-on where they need to be, it looks pretty good.”
Palmer hasn’t looked this good for some time.
The 2002 Heisman Trophy winner from Southern Cal and first overall pick in the 2003 draft was the next big thing when his NFL career got started. In 2005, he led the league in completion percentage, set a franchise record with 32 touchdown passes, and pulled off one of the most impressive feats of all – he got the
His left knee was torn up on a hit during a playoff loss to Pittsburgh. Palmer has never gotten back to those ’05 heights.
He became almost an afterthought in discussions of the game’s top quarterbacks, missing time because of the knee injury and a torn-up passing elbow that sidelined him for a dozen games last year. He spent far more time in the trainer’s room than in the huddle.
That part has finally changed.
Palmer is generally healthy; he has a sprained left thumb that’s more of a nuisance than anything. And he’s moving around much better than he has in years.
“When you’re not taking a bunch of sacks and getting hit every time you throw the ball like our opponents are, you feel a lot better in games and can move around a lot better,” Palmer said.
Palmer put up his big numbers in ’05 with a solid running game anchored by
Very quickly, everything changed.
The offensive line was overhauled; right guard
After seven games,
The line has made the biggest improvement. Palmer has been sacked only twice in the last three games.
“To be honest with you, they’re beyond my expectations right now,” offensive line coach Paul Alexander said. “And unfortunately, it’s made me greedy because now I’m shooting for the moon, and they can be even better.”
“We’ve put in some new stuff, some new protections, some new angles,” Palmer said. “It makes it more difficult. When the quarterback is always seven yards deep right behind the center, it makes it a little easier to pin your ears back and come after him.”
The game against Chicago was the first time it all came together. Palmer had been merely average over the first six games. Against the
His season statistics aren’t eye-catching: 1,608 yards and 13 touchdowns with seven interceptions. His passer rating of 89.2 ranks 15th; the average rating this week is 83.4.
“When he doesn’t get touched, when he doesn’t get sacked, he can do those type of things,” Williams said.