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SUNDAY'S LATE NFL GAME

Bengals win using Palmer method

CINCINNATI -- The great ones are measured by what they do in the final minutes. So far, Carson Palmer is so-so.

The second-year quarterback pulled off his first NFL game-winning drive Sunday night, completing an otherwise forgettable night by leading the Cincinnati Bengals to a 16-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins.

Palmer was nearly flawless in the final minutes, completing one short, safe throw after another. Shayne Graham's 39-yard field goal with 2 seconds left provided an exciting ending to a drab game.

"It was ugly," said Palmer, who was 7 of 8 on the final drive.

The ending was much better for Palmer than the last one.

In his first NFL start, Palmer had a chance to forge a tie in the closing seconds of the season opener against the Jets. Instead, he forced an interception that allowed New York to hold on for a 31-24 win.

The second-year quarterback was under last-minute pressure once again Sunday against a defense that had its way with him for most of the game.

"You can't think about that stuff," said Palmer, who was 21 of 38 overall for 147 yards with five sacks and an interception. "You've got to keep patient."

In Miami, patience is starting to wear thin already.

The Dolphins are 0-2 for the first time since 1988, the last time they had a losing record. Everybody knows the problem, but no one seems to know how to fix it.

Running back Ricky Williams left a big hole by retiring a week before the start of training camp. Jay Fiedler was benched at halftime of the opener, and A.J. Feeley got to make his sixth NFL start against Cincinnati.

He wasn't any better than Palmer, going 21 of 39 for 218 yards with two interceptions. Linebacker Brian Simmons returned one of them 50 yards for the Bengals' only touchdown.

"We were three-and-out, three-and-out," Feeley said. "Somebody's got to step up."

He finally got the Dolphins moving after the Bengals went ahead 13-3 and went soft on defense. He threw a tipped 4-yard touchdown pass to Chris Chambers that could easily have been intercepted, and Lamont Brightful's punt return set up Olindo Mare's tying 47-yard kick with 1:53 to go.

The crowd of 65,705 -- a Paul Brown Stadium record -- went silent, expecting another gut-wrenching finish to the first nationally televised game from Cincinnati in seven years.

Instead, Palmer pulled it out by completing mostly short throws to tight end Matt Schobel, along with a 13-yarder to T.J. Houshmandzadeh and a 20-yard completion to Chad Johnson that put Cincinnati in range for a field goal.

"At the end, we started calling different plays and started clicking, I guess," Houshmandzadeh said. "That's something about a quarterback: When the game's on the line, what does he do?"

Until Miami finds a dependable running game and quarterback, it knows what to expect.

Running back Lamar Gordon, acquired from the Rams three days before the opener, managed only 22 yards in 19 carries against a defense that got shredded by the Jets. And Feeley didn't do much until the Bengals backed off.

The Dolphins' defense is among the league's most respected, but is going to have a tough time trying to win games by itself.

"We're looking for that time when you can go out and have fun and not have your backs up against the wall all the time," cornerback Sam Madison said.

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