No Carson, you cannot go home again

November 26, 2012, 1:32 am
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CINCINNATI -- The questions from curious local reporters came in waves, much like a Cincinnati defensive lineman. There was little time to react, let alone think. And yet, Carson Palmer, the one-time Golden Boy with the keys to the Queen City knew they were coming.Did the boos affect you?What about the criticism?How about your emotions?Talk to any former teammates?How well understood are you in this town?Why?Anything you want Cincinnati fans to know?Then, mercifully, they stopped. And after the crowd dispersed, a weary Palmer looked at a pair of Bay Area writers."That," he sighed, "(stunk). Absolutely (stunk)."Palmer was referring to the game, obviously, and the statement was more accurate than many of his passes thrown in the Raiders' 34-10 loss to his former team in the Cincinnati Bengals.It was anything but the pseudo-homecoming Palmer hoped for, or even expected.Palmer was sacked four times, including twice on the Raiders' opening possession. He threw an interception. He lost a fumble. And, with just 146 yards passing, his franchise-record 16-game streak with at least 200 yards passing came to an inglorious end as he completed just 19 of 34 passes with a touchdown and a season-low passer rating of 64.1."I think it had a lot to do with the rush," said Raiders coach Dennis Allen. "He was under duress all game. We knew they had an exceptional four-man rush, and they were able to get after the quarterback using four men."Which allowed the defensive backs to take away the deep part of the field."Not a lot went right, from start to finish," Palmer said. "This wasn't the game we expected to play. Hats off to Cincinnati. They were the better team today. We have to get better."The Raiders were unbelievably bad in the first half, getting outgained, 289-83, and trailing on the scoreboard, 24-0.And with Oakland's third-quarter woes so evident -- they had been outscored in the third quarter by a combined 123-34 entering the day -- Palmer took it upon himself to gather the team in the halftime locker room."Carson brought us together," said cornerback Ron Bartell. "I wish we could have gotten a win for him and ourselves."Guys play hard, but you can play hard and still not play smart. Right now, we are not playing smart."But the Raiders played their best third quarter of the season after Palmer's moment, outscoring the Bengals 10-0 in the third and making things interestinguntil the first play of the fourth quarter, when he was strip-sacked at midfield and the Bengals went down and kicked a field goal."I think our guys had some emotions," said Marvin Lewis, who was a rookie NFL coach in Cincinnati in 2003, when the Bengals used the No. 1 overall pick on Palmer."I think it's over now. It's done. It's over. Everybody can move on. We are where we are; Carson's where he is. he's a fine, fine football player, but we're all in different spots now."The Raiders are 7-14 since acquiring Palmer last October (they were 12-9 in the 21 games previous); the Bengals are 15-13, including a playoff appearance, since Palmer "retired" from them."I love playing in this stadium," he said. "It's one of the coolest looking stadiums. It's a great atmosphere, the crowds are always intense and the fans are always into the game. It's a great place to play."Unless, of course, you're an unwelcome prodigal son, so to speak.