It's really hard not to blame Carson Palmer for the team's complete lack of effectiveness this season. With 15 interceptions this year, three of which have resulted in a pick-six, the Palmer-led offense summarizes the appearance of disappointing production that Bengals fans have seen all year. If Palmer averages one interception per game with five games remaining this season, he will tie his career-high 20 interceptions that he established in 2007. Yet, Palmer is also on pace to throw the football 677 times this year, or over 100 times than his highest pass attempted total (575) in 2007. That's awfully high for mediocre production from a once promising quarterback who is on pace to reach a career low completion percentage and yard/pass average -- not including his four-game season in 2008.
Against the New York Jets, Palmer's two interceptions marks the third straight game with two picks or more and fifth game this year in which he recorded multiple interceptions. During Palmer's 2007 season, our fearless quarterback threw multiple interceptions in seven games.
Yet, it wasn't Palmer's interceptions that sealed the team's loss against the Jets Thanksgiving night. The first interception, which was nothing more than a 44-yard punt, was like playing catch in the backyard. "Look son," as I hold onto the baseball. "Here's a fly ball. Make sure you get under it and catch it with both bands. None of that fancy stuff."
The protection, good:
The football hung in the air and Jordan Shipley, the intended receiver, tripped.
The pass was bad, mostly because there was entirely too much air underneath it. Yet, we have to ask: Was the decision to throw deep universal? In other words, was the called play everyone run vertical and Palmer throw up the football. We could call it a third down punt, putting the Jets inside their own 20-yard line. Go back to the first screen print and notice the first down marker (the yellow line) and count how many Bengals receivers that around the marker that wasn't already in the middle of their vertical route.
Blame Palmer? Or blame the play called? With everything cleared out underneath, the Bengals had no receivers crossing near the first down marker. Palmer wasn't rushed to throw the football and it seems like a decision was made to simply throw it up. The biggest problem with this is that Palmer doesn't have the long-pass mustard he used to have, mostly thanks to an injured shoulder he's dealt with this season, as well as suspicions that his elbow still isn't right. Yet, this is a typical play in a game not even their own mothers had expected them to win. The Jets would run a nine-play drive that resulted in a 27-yard Nick Folk field goal giving the Jets a 3-0 lead with over nine minutes left in the first half.
On the Bengals following drive, Bernard Scott returned a short kickoff from the Bengals 14-yard line out to midfield. Two completed passes for eight yards, and Cedric Benson's 17 yards on two runs later, the Bengals were driving. Dare I say that they would score? Maybe. But we won't find out. Carson Palmer would throw his second interception of the game. And this one, it's hard not to blame Palmer for.
Again, the protection is good.
It's second down and ten, with just over five minutes left in the game. So the obvious answer is to throw up the football to Terrell Owens, who has three people covering him.
Set aside the though that Terrell Owens jogs the end of his route, rather than cutting underneath to try and break up the pass, this is one of those things where you sigh and shake your head at Palmer's decision-making process, which is ultimately killing this football team.
No, the Jets didn't score off Palmer's second interception, mostly thanks to a defense that stepped up in the first half of Thursday Night's game. Yet, Palmer's second interception was on a drive that pushed Cincinnati near the Red Zone, essentially killing a points-producing drive. And that's what killed Cincinnati's offense.
Even though Palmer wouldn't threw another interception in the rest of the game, our "elite" quarterback would only complete five of 16 passes in the second half for 36 yards.
With a quarterback making over $10 million this season and another $50 million due in base salary alone in the next four seasons, it's rather hard to keep excusing the quarterback play in Cincinnati when the team simply can't produce, starting with the quarterback. Blame the lack of an offensive line, if you'd like. Why not? That would be justified. Blame the play-calling; actually, you kind of half too or else risking getting lynched. Maybe excuse the quarterback play against a great opposing defense. The fact is, if you have a player that's a significant proportion of your team's salary playing the way Palmer's playing right now, then you're watching the investment flush down the drain.
I won't simplify it, saying that Palmer just isn't good anymore. He's been struggling as far back as the 2008 season. The question is, are we seeing any improvement? Or has Palmer, like several other players on this team, become a liability?
(note: I realize special teams had a significant role in Thursday's loss, which we'll examine today also)