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Bengals thriving as cardiac kids

9/28/2009



Posted by ESPN.com’s James Walker

CINCINNATI -- It’s been three weeks and three consecutive heart-stopping games for the Cincinnati Bengals.

In Week 1, there was the "Immaculate Deflection" that went in favor of the Denver Broncos.

In Week 2, the Green Bay Packers recovered an onside kick and fell just a few seconds and yards short of tying the game at Lambeau Field.

Sunday, Cincinnati drove 71 yards to score the game-winning touchdown with 14 seconds remaining to beat the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

And it’s only September.

"I’m getting too old to have to put up with that every week," joked Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer in the locker room Monday. "You’re on the edge of your seat. You’re heart is pounding. You’re biting your nails."

Palmer says being the latest version of the cardiac kids is a blast when things go right, such as they did late in wins over Pittsburgh and Green Bay. But it also hurts tremendously when last-second breaks cause you to lose the game like it did against Denver.

Cincinnati’s next step in its maturity is not to put the team in those positions late in games. Despite a solid 2-1 record, the Bengals haven’t put together four complete, efficient quarters of football this year.

The Bengals have a golden opportunity to do that next weekend against the winless Cleveland Browns (0-3), who are in complete disarray after three straight blowout defeats. Cincinnati also can show maturity by not overlooking a divisional foe.

"We’re not focusing on their record; we’re focusing on their team," said Bengals receiver Andre Caldwell, who caught Sunday’s game-winning touchdown against Pittsburgh. "We know they’re an NFL team. So they got great players."

After one of the biggest wins in recent memory, Cincinnati’s locker room was very celebratory Sunday night and more business-like on Monday.

"We had a blast [Sunday] but it’s time to move on," Palmer said. "It’s early in the season, and there’s a lot of football left. A lot can happen until you get to the 16th week of the season."

If the first three games were any indication, it could be a wild and exciting ride in Cincinnati.