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TDBH: Palmer, Peyton light up The Paul
November 20, 2017 05:00 AM | Geoff Hobson

Before a raucous and drained sell-out crowd of 65,995 for the second biggest Bengals crowd ever at Paul Brown Stadium, Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer and Colts quarterback Peyton Manning go yard for yard in one of the most memorable passing festivals ever on the riverfront that ends in Indianapolis' favor, 45-37, on a Sunday night the losers generate 492 yards and the winners 451. Palmer, getting immaculate protection all day from tackles Levi Jones and Willie Anderson against the NFL's sack leaders, rings up 335 yards, completing 25 of 38 passes and zipping a career-high 189 yards to wide receiver Chad Johnson on eight throws. Manning counters with 365 yards on 24 of 40 pitching and finds a pair of 100-yard receivers in tight end Dallas Clark (125) and wide receiver Reggie Wayne (117). Manning shows why he's the two-time reigning MVP, converting five third downs of at least 11 yards. The 7-3 Bengals, hanging in a first-place tie with the Steelers in the AFC North, can't convert in the second half on a fourth-and-one on a run to running back Chris Perry and on a fourth-and-four pass over the middle to wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

Palmer and Manning trade touchdown bombs in the first quarter and both have perfect passer ratings as late as seven minutes left in the first half as the clubs score on the game's first seven possessions. "We are going to see them again, believe me," Johnson says and after a rare sack of Manning, right end Justin Smith agrees. "It's good to see one of the best and get it into your system because I think we will see them again." The Bengals are in the red zone in the final two minutes, but they allow their only sack of the game when NFL sack leader Robert Mathis dumps Palmer to force Shayne Graham's 44-yard field goal with 1:23 left that accounts for the final and the Colts recover the on-side kick. After getting engulfed in the second highest scoring first half in NFL history when the Colts race to a 35-27 halftime lead (only a 35-35 tie with the Jets and Bucs in 1985 saw more) and tying the NFL record for allowing the most points in the first half, the Bengals get back in it. The Bengals barge out of the locker room with Tab Perry's 39-yard kickoff return, a diving 20-yard catch by Johnson and a 15-yard catch by rookie wide receiver Chris Henry over the middle for a touchdown that suddenly cuts the Colts lead to 35-34 just two minutes into the third quarter.

The game probably comes down to Clark at tight end. With the Bengals focused on taking away Colts running back Edgerrin James, Manning sifts them for 272 yards and three touchdowns on 16 of 23 passing in the first half alone while James has just 29 yards on nine carries. The Bengals back off James in the second half and he finishes with 89 yards. "We came out with the idea of playing two tight ends and keeping them in a base defense," says Colts head coach Tony Dungy. "We know that we will get Dallas matched up with either a linebacker or a safety if they bring guys into the box to stop the run. That's what they did in the first half. He made some plays. In the second half they played nickel." But Palmer ends the night raving about the priceless night from his men up front. "The thing I am most excited about and the thing that is unbelievable, really, is the way our offensive line played," Palmer says. "I didn't even see (Dwight) Freeney on the field, and he's always around the quarterback. I didn't see Mathis. I didn't see Corey Simon. Seldom do I get surprised by the things our offensive line does, but I was shocked. We shut them out. We shut them out with Willie banged up, Richie (Braham) banged up, and Bobbie (Williams) getting taped up in the locker room. It was unbelievable the way those guys played. They played their hearts out, and I feel I didn't make enough plays for us to win. I left those guys hanging because they played unbelievable."



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