Sunday's Cincinnati Bengals-Denver Broncos game was a cold, brutal example of the old saying, "It aint over, till the fat lady sings."
A brilliant drive by QB Carson Palmer put the Bengals up 7-6 with under 40 seconds left to play.
But then the football gods struck.
With 38 seconds to go, QB Kyle Orton threw a deep ball that was deflected into the air off of CB Leon Hall's hands and landed right into the gloves of WR Brandon Stokley. Then 87 yards later, the Broncos stole a victory in Cincinnati.
The final: 12-7...a rusty steak knife right through the middle of every Bengals fans' heart.
Cincinnati’s Air Attack
The first pass of the game was an 18-yard bullet to Chris Henry. That was his only catch of the game. In fact, he wasn’t even thrown to again for the entire game.
On Palmer's second pass, a 21-yard gain by Chad Ochocinco, he looked like he was in midseason form with the kind of zip and accuracy Bengals fans have come to expect.
However, Ochocinco then gets hit with a holding penalty that stalls the first drive and forces a punt. This would be the theme of the game, dumb mental errors.
The second drive is highlighted by another penalty and a huge third down drop by new Bengal Laveranues Coles. The pass simply bounced off of his hands.
After the drive stalls on the Broncos' 10 yard line, a terrible snap by long snapper Brad St. Louis resulted in a blown opportunity for three points.
Up to this point, the massive Bengals' O-Line has looked respectable against the smaller, quicker Broncos' D-Line. RB Cedric Benson has space, and Palmer hasn’t been pressured.
This changes on the third drive. After another terrific throw by Palmer to Ochocinco for 34 yards, the O-Line begins to fall apart. A blitz by Denver catches RT Anthony Collins off guard and this results in a 10-yard sack. Palmer didn’t have a chance on the play. They are unable to recover from a 2nd-and-20 and are forced to punt.
Cincinnati begins to move the ball down the field again on their next drive. FB Daniel Coats redeems himself with a 16-yard play after dropping an easy one earlier. After the O-Line gets pushed back twice in a row, Laveranues Coles catches an 11-yard tight spiral from Palmer, first down on Denver's 31.
On 3rd-and-six, Palmer forces a pass to OchoCinco. CB Champ Bailey tips the ball before Ochocinco can get to it, and Wesley Woodyard picks it off. It was a forced throw by Palmer that should have been incomplete, but on this day, it fell right into the arms of Woodyard.
After another drive of short Benson runs stall out, it’s halftime. Zero points for the Bengals. 3-0 Denver.
At this point Palmer is 9-of-15 for 132 yards with an INT, while Ochocinco had two receptions for 56 yards. They drove into Denver territory on their first five drives, but had nothing to show for it.
The second half wasn’t any better.
The Bengals had three drives in the quarter, but two of those went three-and-out. On the second drive, they got the ball on the Denver 45, but back-to-back sacks of Palmer killed the drive. He is getting no chance to read the defense before the Broncos are in his face now.
FB Jermi Johnson drops a short throw then Coles followed suit with his third on the day. Great start with your new team Coles. Twice on Sunday, he dropped first down passes on third down.
Cincinnati had seven dropped passes on the day.
Through three quarters, the Bengals have a 201-167 advantage in total yards. Palmer's line is 13-of-23 for 167 yards.
The fourth quarter starts with a 23-yard catch by Ochocinco erased by an offensive pass inference call on him. Palmer is facing more and more pressure as the game progresses. The lack of depth on the O-Line is starting to be evident (thanks A. Smith).
The running game has come to a halt. Benson is getting no push from the O-Line at the point of attack and Palmer is rushing throws because of the pressure.
Down 6-0 with 6:21 left in the game, the Bengals take over at their own nine yard line.
Ochocinco has a 12 and a 13-yard catch sandwiched between a three-yard loss on the ground by Benson. A Palmer bullet to WR Andre Caldwell for 13 yards puts the Bengals on the Broncos 32.
With decent protection, Palmer finds a wide-open Brian Leonard for an 18-yard pickup. Great decision by Palmer, he was looking for somebody else, but found the open man.
Inside the Broncos' 10, Caldwell catches another that puts him down to the one-inch line. His butt was in, but the ball wasn’t.
With plenty of push, Benson bullies his way into the end zone for the first and only Bengals TD of the game with only 20 seconds left for Denver.
Then the refs’ inexplicably say that the previous play (Caldwell catch); was considered a lost challenge by Marvin Lewis and the Bengals. They were docked a timeout.
And some how they tack on 18 additional seconds. Too bad that with under two minutes in the game, everything is a booth review.
You know the rest of the story…the final: Denver 12, Cincinnati 7.
"We have to find a way to score points on offense, and we will. It’s disheartening," said Palmer, who was 21-of-33 for 247 yards and two interceptions. "We moved the ball effectively, but just not into the end zone."
He shook off some rust early, but looked fine for the most part. The second INT was a last prayer Hail Mary to end the game.
Ochocinco had five catches for 89 yards and looked rejuvenated. He was getting yards after catch (YAC), on every reception. Caldwell had 54 yards, Benson 32, while Leonard 24, Henry 18, Coats 16, Coles 11, and Foschi just three.
The O-Line had its moments, but it's certainly a work in progress.
Coles is the goat of the game for his three drops.
The Bengals now go to Lambeau to play the Green Bay Packers, and then it's a date with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Can they just hit the reset button?
Green Bay's defense was extremely aggressive against Chicago. QB Jay Cutler threw four INT's and was roughed up physically by the Packers' front seven. Palmer is going to have to keep his eyes on Cullen Jenkins all game long next week.
If Palmer and company can’t establish the run against a stout Packers' frontline, it's going to be a long day.
Thanks again A. Smith.