Bengals 16, Dolphins 13
The great ones are measured by what they do in the final minutes. So far, Carson Palmer is so-so.
The second-year quarterback pulled off his first game-winning drive Sunday night, completing an otherwise forgettable night by leading the Cincinnati Bengals to a 16-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins.
Palmer was nearly flawless in the final minutes, completing one short, safe throw after another. Shayne Graham's 39-yard field goal with two seconds left provided an exciting ending to a drab game.
"It was ugly," said Palmer, who was 7 of 8 on the final drive.
The ending was much better for Palmer than the last one.
In his first NFL start, Palmer had a chance to forge a tie in the closing seconds of the season opener against the Jets. Instead, he forced an interception that allowed New York to hold on for a 31-24 win.
Palmer was under last-minute pressure once again Sunday against a defense that had its way with him for most of the game.
"You can't think about that stuff," said Palmer, who was 21 of 38 overall for 147 yards with five sacks and an interception. "You've got to keep patient."
In Miami, patience is starting to wear thin already.
The Dolphins are 0-2 for the first time since 1988, the last time they had a losing record. Everybody knows the problem, but no one seems to know how to fix it.
Running back Ricky Williams left a big hole by retiring a week before the start of training camp. Jay Fiedler was benched at halftime of the opener, and A.J. Feeley got to make his sixth NFL start against Cincinnati.
He wasn't any better than Palmer, going 21 of 39 for 218 yards with two interceptions. Linebacker Brian Simmons returned one of them 50 yards for the Bengals' only touchdown.
"We were three and out, three and out," Feeley said. "Somebody's got to step up."
He finally got the Dolphins moving after the Bengals went ahead 13-3 and went soft on defense. Feeley threw a tipped four-yard touchdown pass to Chris Chambers that could have easily been intercepted, and Lamont Brightful's punt return set up Olindo Mare's tying 47-yard kick with 1 minute 53 seconds remaining.
The crowd of 65,705 -- a Paul Brown Stadium record -- went silent, expecting another gut-wrenching finish to the first nationally televised game from Cincinnati in seven years.
Instead, Palmer pulled it out by completing mostly short throws to tight end Matt Schobel, along with a 13-yarder to T.J. Houshmandzadeh and a 20-yard completion to wide receiver Chad Johnson that put Cincinnati in range for a field goal.
"At the end, we started calling different plays and started clicking, I guess," Houshmandzadeh said. "That's something about a quarterback: When the game's on the line, what does he do?"
Until Miami finds a dependable running game and quarterback, it knows what to expect.
Running back Lamar Gordon, acquired from the St. Louis Rams three days before the opener, managed only 22 yards on 19 carries against a defense that got shredded by Curtis Martin and the Jets. And Feeley didn't do much until the Bengals backed off.