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NFL Classic Rewind: Palmer Leads Cincy to 4th Quarter Comeback Versus Ravens

Posted on November 18, 2011 by A.J. Foss

When he was selected as the #1 overall pick of the 2003 NFL Draft, Carson Palmer was destined to be the savior for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Ever since a 9-7 season and an AFC Central title in 1990, the Bengals did not have a winning season for the next 12 years and had nine seasons with at least 10 losses.

However, the 2003 NFL season brought hope as first-year head coach Marvin Lewis led the Bengals to an 8-8 record with Palmer not starting a single game during the season as he watched Jon Kitna take the reins.

But for the 2004 season, Palmer was given the starting job and led the Bengals and had started all 11 games as Cincinnati was a respectable 5-6 when they traveled to Baltimore to take on their divisional rival, the Baltimore Ravens.

The Ravens entered the game with a 7-4 record and needing a win to increase their chances of obtaining an AFC Wild Card berth.

The Ravens were still led by their defense that had led them to a Super Bowl title in 2000, but were hoping that they had found their franchise quarterback in Kyle Boller, who was also selected in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft.

Unlike Palmer, Boller started several games in his rookie season until a thigh injury suffered in the ninth game of the season, knocked him out for the rest of the season.

However, the Ravens still made the playoffs with a 10-6 record and Boller was back as the Ravens’ starting quarterback for the 2004 season, where he started every game when going into the Ravens’ match-up with the Bengals.

The Ravens got the first points of the game off a Bengals fumble as Ed Reed recovered a Matt Schobel fumble to set up a 20-yard field goal by Matt Stover to put Baltimore ahead 3-0 with 9:16 left in the opening period.

Palmer led the Bengals into Ravens territory on their next two possessions, but a quarterback sack knocked the Bengals out of field goal range and forced a punt to end one drive, then Shayne Graham missed a 53-yard field goal on the other drive, which kept Baltimore in the lead.

With over four minutes left in the second quarter, the Bengals were in Ravens territory again after a 51-yard pass from Palmer to Chad Johnson to give Cincinnati a 1st down at the Baltimore 29-yard-line.

Once again, the Bengals offense stalled as it only gained seven more yards on three plays, but this time Cincinnati was able to get on the scoreboard as Graham drilled a 41-yard field goal to tie the game at 3-3 with 2:25 left in the first half.

The Ravens responded to the field goal with a drive from their own 18-yard-line to the Bengals’ two-yard-line where they had a 1st & goal, but were unable to get into the end zone and had to settle for another short field goal from Stover, this time from 22 yards out, to give Baltimore a 6-3 lead as the two teams went into the locker room for the halftime break.

Ravens safety Ed Reed forced a fumble and had one interception to help the Ravens build a 17-point lead agianst the Bengals.

The Ravens finally got into the end zone on their opening possession of the second half as Boller completed five passes for 46 yards on a 12-play, 72-yard drive that ended with Chester Taylor’s one-yard touchdown run to increase Baltimore’s lead to 13-3 with 8:13 to go in the third quarter.

The Bengals punted on their first possession of the second half, but their defense forced a turnover on the ensuing Ravens drive as Madieu Williams picked off Boller to give the Cincinnati offense at midfield.

But two plays later, Palmer was picked off by Reed, who returned it 21 yards until he fumbled the ball, only to have his teammate, cornerback Chris McAlister pick up the loose ball at the Baltimore 36, and race the remaining 64 yards for a bizarre touchdown that increased Baltimore’s lead to 20-3 with over two minutes to play in the third quarter.

McAlister’s touchdown seemed to be the back-breaker in this game as the Bengals were now behind by 17 points, and had only mustered a field goal through the first three quarters.

It certainly did not seem a comeback was imminent on the Bengals’ next drive as they were forced to punt the ball back to Baltimore.

But the Ravens’ B.J. Sams muffed the punt and Bengals linebacker Marcus Wilkins recovered the loose ball at the Baltimore 19-yard-line.

This led to a 13-yard touchdown pass from Palmer to Johnson on the first play of the fourth quarter to cut the Ravens lead to 20-10.

Then the Bengals defense forced a three-and-out to give Palmer the ball back at his own 25-yard-line, where it took him five plays to get back into the end zone as he connected with Johnson again, this time from 12 yards out to trim the deficit to three points at 20-17 with still over 10 minutes to play.

After allowing two touchdowns in just over a span of four minutes, the Ravens needed a big play and got it on the first play of their ensuing possession as Taylor burst through for a 47-yard run to the Cincinnati 26-yard-line.

However, the Ravens could not get another 1st down and had to settle for another Stover field goal, a 38-yarder that made it a six-point game at 23-17 with 8:34 left in the fourth quarter.

Palmer continued his hot streak on the next Bengals drive as he connected with T.J. Houshmandzadeh three times for 67 yards, including the nine-yard touchdown pass that went with the extra point, gave Cincinnati their first lead of the game at 24-23 with 5:38 remaining.

Now behind by one point, the Ravens had to put together a drive that not only led to a score, but use as much time off the clock so that Palmer would not get his hands on the ball again.

Carson Palmer threw for 382 yards and three touchdown passes to lead the Bengals to 24 points in the 4th quarter.

After Sams returned the ensuing kickoff 29 yards to the Baltimore 46, the Ravens drove to the Bengals’ 27-yard-line to set up Stover’s fourth field goal of the game, a 45-yarder that put Baltimore back in the lead at 26-24.

But with the way Palmer was playing, the Ravens fans had to be nervous as the Bengals had 1:42 left on the clock, one timeout in their pocket, and needing only a field goal for the win.

Taking over at his own 35-yard-line, Palmer was sacked for a ten-yard-loss on the first play, but rebounded on the very next play as he hit Houshmandzadeh for a 32-yard gain that put the Bengals in Ravens territory at the Baltimore 43-yard-line.

Following an incomplete pass, Palmer connected with Schobel for 11 yards, then with Johnson for 22 yards to put Cincinnati in field goal range at the Ravens’ 10-yard-line.

An Ravens penalty got the Bengals five yards closer, but Palmer would take a knee to put the ball in the center of the field and set up the game-winning field goal, which Graham made from 24 yards out as time expired to give the Bengals a 27-26 victory marking the first time Cincinnati had defeated a team with a winning record on the road since 1990.

The loss would come back to haunt the Ravens finished the season with a 9-7 record, one game back of the New York Jets and the Denver Broncos for a playoff spot.

As for the Bengals, they would finish the season with a second straight 8-8 season as Palmer injured his knee the week after the comeback against the Ravens and did not play for the rest of the season.

Palmer would come back the following season as he threw for 3,836 yards and 32 touchdowns to lead the Bengals to their first winning season since 1990 as Cincinnati went 11-5 and won the AFC Central Division title.

But disaster struck in the AFC Wild Card Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, when Palmer suffered torn knee ligaments on the Bengals’ first offensive play from scrimmage as the Bengals fell to the Steelers 31-17.

Palmer would return to throw for over 4,000 yards the next two seasons, but it was not until 2009 that he and the Bengals made it back to the Playoffs where they lost again in the Wild Card round.

Following the 2010 season, Palmer demanded to be traded or he would retire.

The Bengals ignored his threats and Palmer stayed at home until he was traded to the Oakland Raiders in October of 2011.


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