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Palmer exacts revenge on Steelers with four TD passes

Sep 24, 2006 - 8:18 PM PITTSBURGH (Ticker) -- Carson Palmer inflicted some pain on the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Eight-and-a-half months after suffering torn left knee ligaments in a playoff game against the Steelers, Palmer passed for four touchdowns to lead the unbeaten Cincinnati Bengals to a 28-20 victory over their bitter AFC North Division rivals.

The win was especially sweet for Palmer, who connected with T.J. Houshmandzadeh on a pair of scoring plays in a 54-second span of the fourth quarter following turnovers by Pittsburgh.

"This win belongs to the team," said Palmer, who was 18-of-26 for 193 yards with two interceptions. "I put the ball on the ground too many times, had two interceptions. It shows how good your team is when you are playing against a good team and the quarterback doesn't play very well and you still get a win. I'm just proud of how the guys stepped up around me."

The Steelers held a 17-14 lead when Ricardo Colclough muffed a punt and Tony Stewart recovered the ball at the Pittsburgh 9. Colclough tried to catch the punt that was aided by a strong wind with his hands over his head, but was unable to control it.

Palmer wasted no time capitalizing on the turnover, firing a nine-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Houshmandzadeh with 7:59 left in the fourth quarter.

On the Steelers' ensuing possession, running back Verron Haynes fumbled and linebacker Brian Simmons recovered for the Bengals at the Pittsburgh 30. Palmer again took immediate advantage of the turnover, lofting a touchdown pass down the left sideline to Houshmandzadeh, who made a leaping catch over Deshea Townsend with 7:05 remaining.

"Carson just threw the ball up and I made a play," Houshmandzadeh said. "Carson trusts us that if he throws the ball up we're going to make a play."

Houshmandzadeh, who missed the first two games of the season with a heel injury, finished with nine receptions for 94 yards. He had 78 catches for 956 yards last season.

"I thought T.J. made the big play," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "There were a lot of big plays, but T.J. gave us some real productive stats. It was good to have him back."

Pittsburgh pulled within 28-20 on a 38-yard field goal by Jeff Reed with 3:18 left and Ben Roethlisberger engineered a drive to the Cincinnati 16 in the final minute. But on a 3rd-and-10 play, Roethlisberger was intercepted in the end zone by safety Kevin Kaesviharn, preserving the win for Cincinnati (3-0).

The turnover was the fifth of the game for Pittsburgh (1-2), which lost its second straight and slipped two games behind the Bengals.

"Obviosly the two turnovers in the fourth quarter were the ballgame," Steelers coach Bill Cowher said. "We turned it over five times and you are not going to win many football games doing that."

Palmer hit Henry with touchdown passes of 16 and three yards, respectively, in the second quarter to help the Bengals build a 14-7 halftime lead.

Willie Parker rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries for the Steelers. But Roethlisberger was intercepted three times.

Recovering from an offseason motorcycle accident and an appendicitis attack, Roethlisberger appeared to lack strength on his downfield throws. He completed just 18-of-39 passes for 208 yards.

"The wind made it tough, but for the most part it was just mental mistakes where I didn't make the right play," Roethlisberger said. "Cincinnati was doing the same things through the game. It was just we didn't make the plays when we needed to."

Palmer's focus has probably been on this game since defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen rolled into his left knee in the Steelers' 31-17 playoff win at Cincinnati last January 8. The Pro Bowl quarterback had completed a 66-yard pass to Henry on the play before being carted off with a torn ACL and MCL.

Palmer was not expected to be ready for the start of the 2006 season, but made a remarkable recovery and directed the Bengals to wins in their first two games against Kansas City and Cleveland, throwing for 479 yards.

As if Palmer's injury wasn't enough incentive, Lewis also reminded his players how the Steelers celebrated after the playoff win. Lewis showed a tape of Cowher leading his players in a mock chant of "Who Dey, Who Dey think gonna beat them Bengals," to which the players gleefully responded "We Dey, We Dey beat them Bengals."

Not on Sunday.

The day started out well for the Steelers, who drove 80 yards in eight plays on their first possession. The highlight was a 36-yard pass from Roethlisberger to Cedrick Wilson. Wilson also rushed for 18 yards on a reverse before Parker scored on a three-yard run 5:56 into the game.

On Cincinnati's next possession, Palmer fumbled twice after being sacked with the Bengals recovering each time. Then Palmer was intercepted by Townsend at the Pittsburgh 46.

The Steelers drove to the Cincinnati 6 before Roethlisberger was intercepted in the end zone by safety Madieu Williams, who cut in front of tight end Heath Miller and was tackled at the 3.

The Bengals then went on a 14-play, 97-yard drive which lasted more than eight minutes. Palmer completed all eight of his passes for 87 yards on the drive and capped it with a 16-yard touchdown to Henry with 6:34 left in the second quarter.

After John Thornton tipped a 48-yard field goal attempt by Reed, Palmer directed a seven-play, 63-yard drive in the final minute of the half. Kenny Watson broke off an 18-yard run up the middle before Palmer hit Henry with a three-yard scoring pass with five seconds left.

Reed kicked a 37-yard field goal with 9:37 remaining in the third quarter to pull the Steelers within 14-10.

On Cincinnati's first possession of the second half, Henry attempted to make a one-handed catch over the middle when he was hit by safety Ryan Clark and the ball caromed to cornerback Ike Taylor, who returned the interception 34 yards to the Bengals 7.

On a 4th-and-goal play, Parker scored on a one-yard run to give Pittsburgh a 17-14 lead with 5:43 remaining in the third quarter.

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