After spotting the Steelers a 27-7 lead, the Bengals made a furious comeback to pull to within 27-21 before finally succumbing Monday Night to fall to 2-6 on the year. The game wasn’t over until Carson Palmer’s 4th and 5 pass to Jordan Shipley at the Steeler 10-yard line fell incomplete with just under 40 seconds to play.
The game couldn’t have started off worse for the Bengals, as Bernard Scott fumbled the opening kick-off, setting up the Steelers with a short field. A quick drive was culminated with Rashard Mendenhall’s one yard dive and a 7-0 Steeler lead.
The Bengals, finally on offense, showed early that their intention was to grind it out with Cedric Benson, showing a lot of six offensive lineman/double tight end formations. While the aggressive Steeler defense gashed them, they were able to find some early success before yielding to a punt.
Special teams failed them again as Kevin Huber’s punt was blocked by William Gay. The Steelers once again set up shop in Bengals territory, but this time the defense stiffened, forcing Jeff Reed’s 25-yard field goal.
The story as the first quarter moved to the second was injuries suffered by the Steeler offensive line. The black and gold lost both Max Starks and star rookie center Markice Pouncey. The result was the Bengals found the ability to apply more pressure on Ben Roethlisberger, and they were able to force their own turnover, getting a fumble from Guy Smiley, er, Hines Ward, giving the Bengals a drive on the plus side of the field.
Carson Palmer capitalized with a 19 yard touchdown strike to Terrell Owens, pulling the Bengals to 10-7.
The Steelers found more problems on their next offensive possession, and again they were forced to punt, and the Bengals had an opportunity to tie or take the lead as the first half drew to a close, but the old Bengal nemesis, penalties, reared its ugly head. A first down reception by T.O. was erased by a holding call on LT Andrew Whitworth. The resulting 3rd and 13 pass from Palmer was late over the middle and intercepted by Lamar Woodley. The turnover gave the Steelers the ball at mid-field. They quickly got inside the 10, but they moved backwards before facing a third and goal from the eight yard line with just over 2 minutes to go. Big Ben found Smiley again for the score and a 17-7 Steeler lead with 2:07 left.
The replay seemed to show that Ward’s knee was down before he crossed the goal line, but Marvin Lewis didn’t challenge, having already lost a challenge earlier in the drive.
Bernard Scott, attempting to atone for his fumble earlier in the game, found daylight on the ensuing kick-off, returning it 46 yards to the Steeler 43-yard line, giving the Bengals a chance to cut into the lead before halftime. After a short drive, Mike Nugent’s 51-yard field goal was no good.
The Steelers took over and Big Ben got them into field goal range with one pass to Mike Wallace to the Bengal 36. Jeff Reed’s 53-yard attempt was good, giving the Steelers a 20-7 lead at the half.
The story of the first half was self-inflicted wounds for the Bengals. Turnovers and special teams gaffes led to all Steeler points. Bernard Scott’s fumble and Carson Palmer’s interception each led to touchdowns for the Steelers, and the blocked punt and missed field goal each contributed directly to Steeler field goals.
The second half began with a good defensive stop by the Bengals, and a decent ensuing drive by the offense, but Mike Nugent missed his second field goal of the night, this time from 45 yards, keeping the score at 20-7.
The two rivals traded punts for the remainder of the 3rd quarter.
The fourth quarter started with the Steelers biting the Bengals with the trick play once again as they have so many times before. Ben Roethlisberger pitched to Antwan Randal-El who threw deep to Mike Wallace who beat Leon Hall for the 39-yard touchdown and a 27-7 Pittsburgh lead with 14:50 left in the game. At that point, the Bengals came to life with a rush.
On their next drive, Carson Palmer delivered a beautiful deep ball to T.O. for 27 yards and a score right before getting hit hard. The extra point made the score 27-14 and the Bengals were within two scores.
On Pittsburgh’s next possession, Big Ben got careless with the ball, and his luck ran out as his lackadaisical pass to Heath Miller was undercut and intercepted by Roy Williams. T.O. came through again for the Bengals, drawing a pass interference penalty setting up the Bengals at the one yard line. Cedric Benson powered into the end zone two plays later to pull the game to 27-21 with over nine minutes left.
The Steelers started to look nervous, and those two missed field goals by Nugent loomed large.
The Steelers took the ball and tried to end the game through the power game. They went to the run game with Rashard Mendenhall on 8 straight plays, getting all the way to the Cincinnati 28 yard line before stalling. Mike Tomlin sent out Jeff Reed to pull the Steelers back up by more than one possession, but his 46-yard kick was wide left, breathing new life in the Bengals.
The Bengals got the ball back with just under four minutes to go, and a chance to repeat history and last year’s come from behind win. The drive started poorly with Lamar Woodley sacking Palmer, who fumbled, setting the Bengals back. On third and 14, hanging by a thread, Carson Palmer came through again, tossing a soft floater to Cedric Benson, who bobbled the pass with a Steeler draped on him, caught it, and scurried 16 yards for the first down.
Ten plays later, with 40 seconds left in the game, the Bengals faced a fourth and five from the Steeler 12-yard line, in what looked very reminiscent of the fourth and 10 that Brian Leonard picked up last year. Unfortunately the results were not the same as the pass to Jordan Shipley was dislodged from the rookie’s grasp by James Harrison, preserving the Steeler victory.
Post Game Observations:
- For the first time all year, the Bengals showed some solid defense and fight.
- Chad Ochocinco is finally outwardly showing his frustration with his inability to get into the offense. He was shown arguing with Carson Palmer and Marvin Lewis. “Robin” did make a clutch fourth quarter catch, but spent the majority of the game as a non-factor. At one point, LT Andrew Whitworth had to separate Ocho from Palmer and send him to the sideline. Its about time some leaders on this team stood up and tried to stop the insanity.
- Mike Nugent’s two missed field goals were ultimately the difference in the game. Nugent had been solid all year, but his two misses loomed large. Even if he had made at least one, the team could have gone for the field goal on that final fourth and five to tie.
- I argued this week that the Bengals lacked heart. They did again for three quarters tonight, but for one quarter they showed championship mettle. It was just too little, too late.
- Terrell Owens has become Carson Palmer’s most reliable target, and has proven—again—that he is still a premiere receiver in this league.
- Cedric Benson looked nasty and aggressive running the ball. He was the only Bengal during the beginning of the game to match the intensity of the Steelers.
- The Bengals offensive line was overmatched by the Steeler rush, but held up when it counted. Andre Smith was abused a few times.
- Penalties again set the Bengals offense back, but this year they were largely able to overcome it.
- As a familiar theme, however, the final series started out with a holding penalty that set the team back and forced them into a long yardage situation which ultimately led to the defeat.
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