CINCINNATI (AP)—All that Carson Palmer cares to remember about this one is the final drive.
Palmer was nearly flawless in the final minutes Sunday night, setting up a 39-yard field goal by Shayne Graham that provided the Cincinnati Bengals with a breakthrough victory, 16-13 over the Miami Dolphins.
Graham’s kick with 2 seconds left completed Palmer’s first game-winning drive, a modest achievement on a night in which neither inexperienced quarterback did much that was memorable.
“It was ugly,” said Palmer, who was 7-of-8 on the final drive. “Any win is great, whether you’re Brett Favre or me. So many things have to go right for that to happen.”
They didn’t go right for either passer until the very end.
Palmer led the Bengals 59 yards to the winning kick. Most of his seven completions were short, low-risk throws to the sideline against a defense that had bedeviled him all day.
“At the end, we started calling different plays and started clicking, I guess,” said T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who had a 13-yard catch on the final drive. “That’s something about a quarterback: When the game’s on the line, what does he do?”
A.J. Feeley also struggled in his first start for the Dolphins, who fell to 0-2 for the first time since 1988, the last time they had a losing record. The problem is an offense that can’t move the ball.
“It’s tough to swallow,” said Feeley, who made only his sixth career start. “I’ve got confidence that eventually we’re going to make something happen, but it’s on the offense right now.”
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 with the whole country watching.
The Dolphins took care of that. Aside from solid defense, Miami didn’t have much going for it.
Feeley, who replaced Jay Fiedler at halftime of the opener, didn’t do anything until the Bengals’ defense went soft with a 10-point lead. He was 21-of-39 for 218 yards with an interception in a conservative offense.
The Dolphins have scored two touchdowns with an offense sorely missing running back Ricky Williams.
“It’s very unfortunate that we lose two games and give up one touchdown (on defense),” coach Dave Wannstedt said. “That’s hard to comprehend. We didn’t play good enough anywhere on offense to win.”
The Bengals failed to score a touchdown behind Palmer; linebacker Brian Simmons returned an interception 50 yards early in the second half for their only touchdown.
It looked as if it would be enough. The Bengals led 13-3 with less than five minutes left, but Feeley gave a less-than-compelling game an interesting conclusion.
Feeley threw a tipped 4-yard touchdown pass to Chris Chambers with 3:39 left after the Bengals’ defense dropped back and eased up, allowing Miami’s only sustained drive.
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.
Palmer was 21-of-38 for 147 yards, with a tipped interception and five sacks, but that was good enough on a regrettable day for Feeley and the Dolphins.
U.S. soccer player Heather Mitts, who dates Feeley, went onto the field before the game wearing her gold medal from Athens, promoting her team’s upcoming exhibition in Cincinnati. She stuck around for the player introductions and got stuck behind the Bengals’ honorary captain—a guy in a black-and-orange fright wig, rose-colored glasses and “Who Dey” shirt.
The loss is likely to turn up the heat on Wannstedt, who has seen his team disintegrate since Williams unexpectedly retired before training camp.
Perhaps distracted by weeks of coping with hurricanes, the Dolphins tied their franchise record with 14 penalties in an opening 17-7 loss to Tennessee. They didn’t have their act together a week later.
On their first play, numerous Dolphins took off while center Seth McKinney still held the ball—or, as referee Walt Anderson described it after marking off the 5-yard penalty: “False start, offense. Everybody but the center.”
Miami had eight penalties overall for 69 yards. … The Dolphins are 13-4 against the Bengals all-time, and had won their last nine against Cincinnati. The Bengals hadn’t beaten them since 1977. … It was Simmons’ third career touchdown. He returned a fumble in 2001 and an interception in 2002.