Out with the old, in with the new. The king is dead, long live the king. Etc, etc. In the end, short of a mid-game meteor strike or one of the teams trading for Tim Tebow, this was always going to be about the return of Carson Palmer to Paul Brown Stadium. A return that put the lie to his reported claim that he would never set foot in the place again, and that seemed somewhat at odds with his generous claims about the wonderfulness of Cincinnati fans and the “cool-looking” stadium.
Despite the Bengals pregame claims that there was nothing personal in the matchup, their front seven seemed as riled up as I get when people push in front of me at baggage claim. Which is pretty riled up, I can tell you. (Why do it? You realize it isn’t a first-come first-served basis for getting the bags, right?) Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap slammed Palmer into the turf again and again. Throw in Dave Lapham’s continued rips on Palmer’s moustache (“it’s really hideous”) and the Raiders QB really wasn’t having a good afternoon.
If it wasn’t being beaten into the ground the way he was during his time in Cincinnati, or the Bengals drafting wide receivers without personality disorders, it was the sight of safety Chris Crocker grabbing his third interception of the season. As Crocker dropped more passes than he intercepted during his first Bengals incarnation, you can see why Palmer thought it would be safe to throw it to him.
Despite the Raiders’ “intimidating” fans in pseudo-Goth Tin Man outfits, the Bengals played with the sort of fire, passion, and instinct that was missing from soft early season losses. Despite Oakland rallying a little in the third quarter, BenJarvis Green-Ellis ripped off the two biggest runs of his career, Mohamed Sanu concretized his case for the permanent number two receiver spot with couple of touchdowns, and the defense created turnovers when they were most needed.
For the third straight game the Bengals won in a blowout. Dalton hasn’t thrown an interception that was his fault since the bye week, even in double coverage A.J.Green caught over a hundred yards, and the Bengals defense actually looks like a Mike Zimmer defense again. The question was answered—there is no doubt that the Bengals got the best of the infamous trade and have given their fans a glimmer of hope. But with a trip to the West Coast followed by back-to-back ESPN love children Cowboys and Eagles, then rounding things off with you-know-whos, well, hope might not be what we need. Instead, we could do with a season-long dose of the fire that Carson Palmer seemed to light.
Final Score: Bengals 34 Raiders 10
Man Of The Match: Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu seems to be providing Andy Dalton with a third redzone threat to complement Green and Gresham, not to mention becoming the most searched player in fantasy football this week. Geno Atkins is playing so ridiculously well it seems redundant to say it, and Carlos Dunlap matched him perfectly on the outside. That said, there is no doubt that Andrew Whitworth stole this show. “I have two contracts in my life—one with my wife, the other to protect Andy Dalton,” should be enshrined on the locker-room wall, and his joyous exit, having been ejected but taking multiple Raiders with him, gave the Bengals the spark they needed in the fourth quarter. It’s the sort of attitude that might, might, make up for the fact that we can’t face off each week against a former star player who turned down $40m to throw a ball once a week rather than have to show up to work with these guys ever again.