Once again, the City of Cincinnati has been dealt a cruel hand. The Bengals were in the midst of a magical season of monumental proportions. They were hammering teams they were expected to beat and seemed to be moving towards destiny. Then, without warning, the looming hand of fate was thrust upon the Bengals. The visions of Carson Palmer were back again. Andy Dalton was injured in a game against the Steelers. But this time, there’s a reason to believe the results will be different.
When the Bengals witnessed Palmer go down that day, the entire stadium went silent. The franchise quarterback writhed on the turf in pain, while Kimo von Oelhoffen stood over him. He knew the injury was serious as soon as it happened. He was wrapped around Palmers leg when he heard the sound. Kimo remembered the moment, per SB Nation.
“Honestly, why I was shocked, and it was tough for me, was because I heard it pop. It sounded like a gunshot, man, because it was right by my ear. I knew right off it was gone, and you don’t want that, so that can be overwhelming. It’s tough.”
It may have been tough on him, but it was even tougher on the Bengals and Palmer. Most Bengals fans say the tackle was done maliciously. You’d be hard pressed to find a devoted fan of the Orange and Black that wouldn’t say it was done on purpose. Many thought Palmer would never play again. The injury effectively ended the Super Bowl hopes of the Cincinnati Bengals that day. It also scarred many fans for years after.
Unlike that season, the Bengals have been blessed with a capable backup. AJ McCarron is no stranger to the bright lights of success. It may be easy to say he doesn’t have the NFL experience necessary to helm a pro offense, but he’s already seen the battlefield and been tested. McCarron came into the Steelers game and did a more than adequate job of filling in for Dalton, because it wasn’t his first game.
The Alabama native has taken over for Dalton before. The Bengals hosted the Chicago Bears at Paul Brown Stadium, on August 29. After leading the Bengals on a long touchdown drive, Dalton left the game with a neck injury. Instead of risking the franchise quarterback, McCarron took over. His night was impressive. He completed 12-of-17 passes for 149 yards and a passer rating of 117.0.
When the Bengals lost Palmer in 2005, Jon Kitna was the go-to guy. He was only able to take the Bengals so far on emotion. Raw talent is the key to coming off the bench and winning under pressure. That’s what the Bengals have in AJ McCarron. He’s the anomaly that starts as a blip on the radar screen and then catches everyone by surprise. He’s been preparing for this moment longer than the average fan knows.
When the Bengals take the field at Levi’s Stadium, to face the San Francisco 49ers, it won’t be a do-or-die scenario. But it will be a game to remember. It’ll be the first game that shows there’s still a reason to believe the Bengals can take things farther.
[Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images]