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Banged-Up Bengals Hold On

September 18, 2006|From the Associated Press

CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Bengals lost three starters to injury, and a bunch more were groggy and bleeding after a 34-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns, a tough turn for the defending AFC North champions.

"This is probably the most banged up we've been," said Carson Palmer, who was moving slowly after the second-best passing day of his career.

Even with their patchwork lineup, the Bengals (2-0) had their way with the Browns (0-2), who struggled to move the ball and repeatedly self-destructed for the second week in a row.

The Bengals weren't feeling too well, either, but overcame what ailed them.

Palmer threw for 352 yards and his first two touchdowns of the season. Chris Henry, who pleaded guilty to a gun charge five days earlier, led the way with five catches for 113 yards. Rudi Johnson ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns.

It was Palmer's sixth 300-yard game and the second-highest total of his career, the latest piece of proof that he has fully recovered from a knee injury.

Injuries forced one of the NFL's most balanced offenses to improvise. Receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh and left tackle Levi Jones were inactive because of lingering injuries. During the first half, the Bengals lost center Rich Braham to a knee injury, safety Dexter Jackson to an ankle injury, and linebacker David Pollack, who was taken to a hospital for evaluation of a neck injury. Pollack had full movement in his arms and legs.

Chad Johnson got his first touchdown of the season, stretching far out of the end zone to catch an eight-yard pass from Palmer. He got the tips of his black cleats down before landing hard on his right shoulder.

Johnson didn't sit out any plays but ended the game on another painful note. Brian Russell's high hit knocked off Johnson's helmet on the Bengals' final pass, leaving his white jersey spotted with blood. Johnson still had glassy eyes and several stitches below his chin when he emerged from the trainer's room.

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