Bengals 16, Dolphins 13
Until the closing minutes, Carson Palmer and A.J. Feeley played like rookies, letting a ragged game come down to one play. Chad Johnson made it.
Johnson wriggled open for a 20-yard catch that put the Cincinnati Bengals in range for Shayne Graham's 39-yard field goal and a 16-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday night.
Graham's kick with two seconds left completed Palmer's first game-winning drive, a modest achievement on a night in which neither inexperienced quarterback did much.
Palmer led the Bengals 59 yards to the winning kick, completing 7 of 8 passes. All but the one to Johnson was a short, low-risk toss, the perfect conclusion for two rickety offenses.
"It was ugly," said Palmer. "Any win is great, whether you're Brett Favre or me. So many things have to go right for that to happen."
The Bengals failed to score a touchdown behind Palmer; linebacker Brian Simmons returned an interception 50 yards early in the second half for the only such score.
It looked like it would be enough. The Bengals led 13-3 with less than five minutes left, but their defense went soft and Feeley gave a less-than-compelling game an interesting conclusion.
Feeley threw a tipped four-yard touchdown pass to Chris Chambers with 3 minutes 39 seconds left.
Palmer then threw behind Johnson on third and three, setting up a punt that Lamont Brightful returned to the 31-yard line. Olindo Mare's 47-yard kick tied it with 1:53 to go.
Just like that, the crowd of 65,705 -- the largest in Paul Brown Stadium's five seasons -- got quiet and began expecting the worst. This time, the Bengals pulled one out.
The Bengals (1-1) were playing their first nationally televised home game in seven years, a measure of their long-standing ineptitude. They didn't want to blow it.
The Dolphins took care of that.
Looking more like the down-and-out team, the Dolphins fell to 0-2 for the first time since 1988, the franchise's last losing season. Aside from a solid defense, there wasn't much there.
Feeley, who replaced Jay Fiedler at halftime of the opener, didn't do anything until the end. In his sixth career start, Feeley was 21 of 39 for 218 yards with an interception in a conservative offense.
"It's very, very unfortunate that we lose two games where we have given up one touchdown," said Dolphins Coach Dave Wannstedt, whose team suffered a 17-7 loss to Tennessee in last weekend's regular season opener.
The Dolphins have scored two touchdowns with an offense sorely missing running back Ricky Williams.
Palmer had almost as many missteps, but avoided making a game-turning mistake.
Expecting big things after Palmer's solid debut last week, Johnson promised fans a first glimpse of his new touchdown celebration on Sunday. He was ready as the cameras followed him through pregame warmups -- decked in orange shoes, orange gloves and orange sunglasses.
The celebration remained a secret. He didn't come anywhere near the end zone.
Palmer was 21 of 38 for 147 yards, with a tipped interception and five sacks, but that was good enough on another dismal day for the Dolphins.