Offensive Struggles Puzzle Palmer

Bengals QB Carson Palmer has no answer for why a once-feared offense has grown stagnant in the first two games of the 2008 season, including Sunday's 24-7 loss at home to Tennessee. Plus other notes from the disappointing home opener played in a wind storm.

The Bengals fell to 0-2 with their 24-7 loss at home to Tennessee. The Super Bowl champion New York Giants loom next on the schedule. If there is one thing going for the Bengals it's that at least the game is at the Meadowlands. The Giants won their 11th straight road game on Sunday, dismantling St. Louis 41-13 at the Edward Jones Dome.

It's too obvious of a statement to say that quarterback Carson Palmer is not on his game. After producing a career-low 35.2 passer rating in the Week 1 loss at Baltimore, Palmer's rating against Tennessee was just 41.3, the second lowest figure of his career. He completed 16 of 27 passes for 134 yards and was intercepted twice in the fourth quarter.

Chad Ocho Cinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh combined to make seven catches for 63 yards. Through the first two games the Pro Bowl wide receivers have a total of 11 catches for 129 yards and no touchdowns.

None of the parties involved want to admit it but the fact that Palmer, Chad and Houshmandzadeh never practiced together during preseason is a factor. Chad missed the start of training camp as he recovered from ankle surgery and then was held out the last couple of weeks with a separated shoulder. Houshmandzadeh strained a hamstring muscle the first week of camp and didn't return until the final week of preseason.

"It's definitely better to have them in every single practice but sometimes it's not realistic," said Palmer. "I'm sure those guys would have loved to have practice – they both like to work – but it just wasn't in the cards for us. It didn't work out that way. We need to find a way to play better and find a way to help our team win.

"Us three guys, our two Pro Bowl receivers and myself, have to pick it up. That's not an excuse and we can't use it as an excuse."

It's not just the star trio that is struggling. The offense was flagged once for having too many men in the huddle and early in each half was forced to take a timeout because of miscommunication.

Other notes from Sunday's game:

REMEMBER ME – Defensive end Antwan Odom, playing against his former team, picked up the only sack of the game for the Bengals when he beat his man to Kerry Collins and swiped the ball out of Collins' right hand for a fumble. The Titans recovered but the play forced a Tennessee punt into the wind.

The Bengals signed Odom as a free agent this offseason to help bolster the pass rush. He finished with four tackles while rotating with Frostee Rucker, who had five stops. Odom's pressure on Collins on the first series forced another punt.

ROOKIE MISTAKE – Punter Kyle Larson took his share of blame for having his punt from the end zone blocked and recovered for a touchdown in the fourth quarter but it was rookie Keith Rivers who was responsible for blocking Keith Bulluck, who got the daily double on the play.

Bulluck lined up over Rivers, who gave him a slight push before sliding to his left to help out another blocker. Bulluck kept coming and blocked the punt with an outstretched hand. Bulluck came up with the ball in the ensuing scramble.

Larson was punting on a short field. Instead of a normal 15-yard clearance for his kicks, Larson had just 11 yards to work with as the line of scrimmage was the 1-yard line.

"I needed to one-step the ball and I two-stepped it," said Larson.

UTECHT HURT – Tight end Ben Utecht left the game after the first play with a chest injury. Carson Palmer threw a short pass to Utecht but he couldn't grab the pass, yet still paid the price when he was hit hard by a defender. Utecht's absence forced the Bengals to adjust their game plan.

"It was the first play of the game and we had a big game plan with him being in the game with that package," said Palmer. "It was something we planned on using a lot and we had to adjust."

The Bengals felt they would be able to create mismatches with Utecht, using him in two tight end sets with Reggie Kelly as well as being able to split him out wide. Kelly caught three passes for 14 yards. Palmer's second interception of the game happened when a ball intended for Kelly went off his hands into those of Titans safety Michael Griffin.

FIVE YEARS IN THE MAKING – Chris Perry scored the Bengals lone touchdown on a 13-yard run in the second quarter on a fourth-and-1 play. It was the first career rushing touchdown for Perry, who was the team's first-round draft choice in 2004.

"We had a good play called for the defense and the line blocked it right and (fullback) Daniel oats made a great block so it was easy. Anyone could have done it," said Perry. "It really doesn't matter that much because we lost."

Perry has run the ball 40 times in the first two games, gaining 106 yards for a 2.7-yard average. Eleven of his carries have gone for no gain or negative yardage, including seven against Tennessee. Part of that is poor blocking in front of him from the offensive line, tight ends and wide receivers but Perry has to share in the responsibility. He has not been able to consistently make the first tackler miss.

He was also pulled briefly in the first quarter in favor of Kenny Watson after twice fumbling.

"I was trying to do too much," said Perry of his fumbles. "I was excited to run against this defense because watching film I saw some holes. I was trying to do too much and I wasn't carrying the ball with enough security."

FAILURE TO CONVERT – The Bengals improved on their offensive third-down conversions. Sure it was only by one third down but that was better than last week against Baltimore. The Bengals were 3 of 13 against Tennessee after going 2 of 13 in the season opener.

That's a not-so-robust 19.2 percent conversion rate for those of you doing the math.

The Bengals defense held Tennessee to just 4 of 13 on third downs.


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