It was 2005 and the Bengals were hot heading into the playoffs. They won the AFC North and were set to face a Steelers team that was just a stepping stone to the next goal the Bengals had. The game, a January 8, 2006 affair, started perfectly when Cincinnati held the Steelers on their first drive and they punted the ball away. Then, Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer hit receiver Chris Henry in stride for a 65 yard completion. However, on the play, the unthinkable happened. Carson and Henry would be injured and the play would prove extremely costly. Henry hurt his right knee attempting to haul in the pass, and reaggravated it a few plays later.
Steelers nose tackle Kimo von Oelhoffen attempted to bring down Palmer on his first pass of the game, hitting him right at the knee and leaving him with two torn ligaments. The crowd went from cheers and excitement to dead silence as people began to see what happened on the play.
"I knew right away that it was bad," Palmer said at the time, via ESPN. "I felt my whole knee pop. I didn't feel a lot of pain. It was just a sickening feeling because I knew what it was and that my season was over."
Could the Bengals have won that day? It's tough to say definitively, but the current Arizona Cardinals head coach and former wide receivers coach for the Steelers at that time thinks so:
"There's a good chance they do (win) because the play he got hurt, I was standing about 50 yards away from him," Arians said this week via AZCardinals.com. "(The pass) dropped right over Chris Henry's shoulder and it was like, ‘Oh (expletive), we're in trouble."
Carson Palmer also thinks the result could have been different that day.
"It's so easy to sit back and say and have an expert opinion," Palmer said. "We beat them pretty good when we played them earlier in the year and I think we were playing pretty well at that point in the year. I mean, who knows. No crystal ball, so you don't know."
Years later, the NFL paths of Palmer and Arians would cross again. Now, Arians is leading the Cardinals as their coach and Palmer as their quarterback. Much praise has been lumped on Palmer as he has worked his way into the MVP discussion this season (like Andy Dalton has for the Bengals). And, like Dalton, Palmer is still seeking his first NFL playoff win. Both the Bengals and Cardinals would like to slay that demon in this year's postseason, though while the Bengals will get a chance this weekend against the same Steelers who defeated them in that 2006 game, the Cardinals will wait until next weekend for their first playoff action as they received the NFC's #2 seed and a playoff bye.