Week 13 Game Recap: Cincinnati Bengals 38, Pittsburgh Steelers 31
What you need to know
The Bengals got help from all directions in giving them an average field position start on their own 43 yard line. Cincinnati created four turnovers and had 197 kick return yards to make Carson Palmer’s day that much easier. Palmer took full advantage completing 22 of 38 for 227 yards and three first half touchdown passes, two to T.J. Houshmandzadeh and one to TE Reggie Kelly. He threw for most of his yards in the first half (152) while going 13 for 21. Palmer worked in shifts between his receivers as he completed three passes to Chris Henry on the first drive, and two passes to Chad Johnson before throwing a 43 yard bomb to Houshmandzadeh. Palmer would have a lessened work load in the second half as Cincinnati held a seven point or for nearly 25 minutes of the second half, opting more to Rudi Johnson to keep the clock running.
In sharing the wealth, Palmer found Houshmandzadeh, Johnson and Henry five times each for 88, 54 and 52 yards respectively. Houshmandzadeh’s score was despite tight man coverage in which the ball went through the defenders hands. Johnson didn’t get a chance to unleash a new celebration, but his contribution over the middle was just as important in keeping drives alive. And Henry matched up well against a rookie cornerback, including catching three passes on the Bengals first drive.
Rudi Johnson reaped the benefits from the passing game getting many draws and delay handoffs while the Steelers were on their heels in the secondary. He ran for 98 yards on 21 carries including runs of 17, 14 and 12 and he scored twice in the second half, a one yarder (set up by a 94 kick return by Tab Perry) and a 14 yard off-tackle score which proved to be the game winner.
The Bengals didn’t do themselves any favors on defense in terms of yards, giving up 474, but they forced four turnovers to increase their league leading plus-minus turnover ratio to plus 24. Linebackers Brian Simmons and Odell Thurman each had an interception on nearly identical plays, and Deltha O’Neal picked one off deep in Bengals territory to preventing a touchdown. Justin Smith and David Pollack had the only two sacks, both coming on the final Pittsburgh drive to ice the game.
Two hours prior to kickoff, rumors circulated that Ben Roethlisberger’s sore thumb was actually fractured, and that he could miss the game. After throwing for a career high 386 yards and three touchdowns, he would not say whether or not his thumb was broken, but it would be his three interceptions that hurt the Steelers the most. The good/bad news is that his interceptions were not throws that appeared to be hindered by injury, but rather poor judgment. Nevertheless, it was only the second time in his career he has thrown for over 300 yards, and the first time he has tossed three touchdowns. Outside of his mistakes, he seemed sharp and made good throws despite wearing a splint and a glove to protect his injury. He went 14 of 20 in the first half and 15 of 21 in the second and threw touchdown passes to Hines Ward twice and Quincy Morgan. Other than his thumb, Roethlisberger also took a vicious hit to his previously injured left knee in the second quarter, but did not miss any time because of it.
Ward led the Steelers with nine receptions and 135 yards with two second half scores; a game tying 20 yard sliding touchdown catch, and a six yard grab with under three minutes left in the game. He also rushed for seven yards, but fumbled away to the Bengals. Antwaan Randle El added five receptions and 47 yards while Cedrick Wilson had four catches for 65 yards. Nine different Steelers caught a pass yesterday.
Willie Parker had 15 carries and 71 yards for 4.7 yds/carry, but his two fumbles in the second half (none lost) forced Bill Cowher’s hand and he did not have a carry until late in the game on a draw in the hurry up offense. He did see lots of time on third downs, however. Jerome Bettis was unimpressive (eight carries, 13 yards) but he did poach a touchdown in the first quarter. Duce Staley saw action on third downs in the first half, and carried three times for two yards in the fourth quarter.
The Steelers defense did better than the score might indicate. Two turnovers and a 94 yard kick return helped the Bengals score 21 points while gaining just 75 total yards in three of their scoring drives. But Pittsburgh was once again weak on third downs as the Bengals converted 43 percent of their chances. They gave up 102 yards rushing, 98 and two scores to Rudi Johnson, and allowed Carson Palmer to throw for 227 yards and three touchdowns.
What you ought to know
|QB Carson Palmer, Pass: 22 - 38 - 227 - 3 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - -3 - 0|
Palmer took a page from Peyton Manning, not only in calling many audibles, but also in leading the hurry up offense to start the game, keeping the Steelers off balance. He also threw for three touchdowns and 227 yards. He was in control and made very few technical errors in leading six scoring drives, including five of the Bengals’ first seven. He got Cincinnati on the board with a 43 yard bomb to Houshmandzadeh to cap a four play, 79 yard drive in the first quarter. Palmer then engineered a 53 yard drive ending in a one yard play action pass to Reggie Kelly with ten minutes left in the first half. He found Houshmandzadeh again late in the second quarter on a drive that started on Pittsburgh’s 22 thanks to an interception. Palmer didn’t have to do as much work in the second half, as both Cincinnati scores came on shortened fields.
|RB Rudi Johnson, Rush: 21 - 98 - 2, Rec: 1 - 5 - 0 (1 targets)|
Like their first game, Johnson started strong, taking advantage of huge holes while the Steelers were on tilt playing against the pass. Several draws and delay hand offs afforded the offensive line to push downfield for Johnson to maximize his yards. He had 54 first half yards on ten carries, and had continued success in the second half. He gave the Bengals a 31-24 lead in the third quarter when he bounced outside for a one yard score, and a 38-24 lead when he did the exact same thing, bouncing off tackle right, this time for 14 yards with 6:09 left in the game. Johnson now has seven touchdowns in his last four games and is averaging 96.25 yards per contest over the same span. He is also averaging 23 carries per game over his last five. He also had one reception for five yards.
Perry did not register a carry but had two receptions for seven yards. It is the first time he has not had a rushing attempt this season.
Houshmandzadeh got the Bengals off to a flying start with a 43 yard touchdown catch in the first quarter, where he fought off tight man coverage and caught the pass through the defenders arms to tie the game at seven. With Chad Johnson double covered most of the game, and most every other game, he has become a very reliable number two man. For the most part he was able to roam free underneath for short receptions that also included a six yard score for his second touchdown of the game. He would have scored a few plays earlier, but he dropped a pass in the end zone with no defender in sight. Houshmandzadeh later had a 14 yard grab that helped set up a Shayne Graham field goal in the third quarter. He also added seven yards rushing.
Cincinnati started the game with three wide receivers, pitting Henry against rookie corner Bryant McFadden. Palmer targeted Henry four times on the opening drive, completing three of them for 29 yards. He finished with 52 yards on five receptions, both career highs.
No end zone celebrations, but he made all five of his receptions look impressive. He made consecutive receptions of 19 and 16 yards on Cincinnati’s first touchdown drive and finished with 54 yards. Johnson made most of his catches against zone coverage, which is why he was matched up in man-defense with an extra shadow most of the game. He also had a leaping grab called incomplete when officials ruled he did not have control of the ball that would have been good for 30 yards. Johnson limped off the field on the second play of the second half, and while he appeared a bit hampered by his undisclosed leg injury, he finished the game after missing just a few plays.
Kelly had three catches for 12 yards, including a one yard score in the second quarter, his first of the year, to tie the game at 14.
Graham converted all five extra point attempts and made a 30 yard field goal early in the third quarter.
By virtue of their high-powered offense, the Bengals forced the Steelers to keep up, and that meant more passing than running. They allowed Willie Parker 4.7 yards a carry and 71 yards on 15 carries, but they held Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley to 15 yards on 11 carries combined. Just as Parker was getting hot in the second half, they forced two fumbles and even though Pittsburgh recovered both of them, it sent Parker to the bench until late in the game. The Bengals did recover a Hines Ward fumble in the second quarter. Odell Thurman and Landon Johnson each had ten total tackles.
Cincinnati picked off three Ben Roethlisberger passes, one each by Brian Simmons, Deltha O’Neal and Thurman, which resulted in 14 points. The downside is that they gave up 386 yards in the air (8.8 yards per pass play), three touchdowns and rarely got pressure on the quarterback. David Pollack and Justin Smith finally got sacks on Pittsburgh final drive to put the game away.
Roethlisberger completed nine of his first 12 passes to help Pittsburgh build a 14-7 lead, including a 25 yard score to Quincy Morgan. Despite wearing a splint and glove to protect his injured thumb (rumored to be fractured), he had good command of the ball and didn’t appear to lose control of his grip. His accuracy remained intact as he completed 71 percent of his passes for a career high 386 yards and three touchdowns. He found Quincy Morgan on a post pattern over the middle for a 25 yard touchdown in the first quarter, and Hines Ward twice in the second half on plays of 20 and six yards. His decision making, however, was in question when he threw three interceptions, two to linebackers that had shown blitz but then dropped into coverage. The third was a deep ball to Ward, which had to try and catch up to it, while Deltha O’Neal positioned himself for the turnover. Roethlisberger maintained that his thumb is still sore after the game, but would not confirm the rumors of a fracture one way or another.
Parker had a lousy first half in gaining just 22 yards on eight carries. But as the passing game loosened up the Bengals, much like Cincinnati did to Pittsburgh, Parker was able to find a lot more room in the second half with 49 yards on seven carries. He could have had much closer to 100 yards had he not fumbled twice in consecutive second half series. While both were recovered by Pittsburgh, the team could not afford another turnover, and it replaced him with Jerome Bettis. Parker returned late in the fourth quarter as the receiving back in the hurry up offense. He had one reception for 11 yards, on the next to last offensive play for the Steelers.
Bettis had a very difficult time in running over the Bengals as he has been accustomed to doing in the past, and while he did hit pay dirt in the first quarter, he could only manage 13 yards on eight carries. More telling, he was stuffed on second down and one for minus two yards in the fourth quarter and the Steelers would end up punting. He added an unusual three receptions for 24 yards, two on check downs and one designed screen pass.
|RB Duce Staley, Rush: 3 - 2 - 0, Rec: 2 - 9 - 0 (3 targets)|
Staley made little use of his few opportunities, specifically on a third and three, after Bettis had lost two yards, when he fumbled a pitch out and lost seven yards, forcing Pittsburgh to punt. He also had two receptions for nine yards.
|WR Hines Ward, Rush: 1 - 7 - 0, Rec: 9 - 135 - 2 (14 targets)|
Ward was the go to guy again with a game high 135 yards on nine receptions and two touchdowns. His first touchdown went for 20 yards as he made a sliding catch on a low pass in the end zone to tie the game at 24 in the third quarter. He caught a six yard pass late in the game, cutting the score to 38-31 with three minutes remaining. While he continues to put up solid numbers week in and week out, he uncharacteristically had three costly errors that could have given him and his team a huge boost. In the second quarter, Ward coughed up the ball in Bengals’ territory on a reverse as he was fighting for extra yards. On their next possession, he dropped a pass right in his lap on the goal line with 45 seconds left in the half, and the Steelers had to kick a field goal. And in the fourth quarter he didn’t look as if he was expecting a deep ball thrown by Roethlisberger, which resulted in an interception. Despite all of that, he still had a fine day on the stat sheet.
Randle El was nearly silent until late in the fourth quarter when he caught three passes for 32 yards on Pittsburgh last scoring drive. He had eight punt return yards, and took one snap under center that was a pitch right to Parker.
Wilson caught four balls for 65 yards with a long of 41 yards when he came back to an underthrown pass in double coverage and out leaped the defenders to make the catch. He also caught a 12 yarder in the hurry up offense on the Steelers’ final scoring drive.
Morgan got past Deltha O’Neal on a post pattern, caught a bullet from Roethlisberger and then broke a tackle en route to the end zone for a 25 yard touchdown in the first quarter. He would only see one more targeted pass the rest of the game. He also had three kick returns for 84 yards.
Miller caught an 18 yard play action pass to put the Steelers inside Cincinnati’s ten, which set up Bettis’ touchdown run in the first quarter. He was relatively quiet the remainder of the game.
The backup tight end caught a 26 yard rollout pass on the Steelers’ second drive of the game.
Reed made his 23 yard field goal attempt at the end of the first half and hit all four of his extra point attempts. His kickoffs, however, were either very short, or long, low line drives effectively out kicking the coverage, and they had a big hand in the Bengals’ strong field position.
After not allowing a running back to over 100 yards for 23 consecutive weeks, the Steelers nearly let Rudi Johnson become the second player in a row to crack 100 after Edgerrin James had 129 yards last week. Johnson had 98 and 4.7 yards per carry, as the Steelers were playing cautious defense against the pass attack.
The Steelers were again vulnerable in the secondary even while slowing down Chad Johnson, letting T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Perry pick up the slack. They had little to none pass rush, and allowed Carson Palmer to throw for three touchdowns and 227 yards. Safety Chris Hope led Pittsburgh with ten tackles, and Clark Haggans had their only sack.