CINCINNATI (Jan. 8, 2006) -- Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee Sunday when he was tackled low on his first pass during Cincinnati's playoff game against Pittsburgh.
The injury ended a remarkable season for the second-year starter, who led the NFL with 32 touchdown passes and made his first Pro Bowl.
Backup Jon Kitna, who has played sparingly this season and will be a free agent afterward, got the chore of trying to lead the Bengals to a win in their first playoff game in 15 years.
Palmer was on the field for only two plays -- a handoff and then a deep pass down the right sideline to rookie Chris Henry. He stood in the pocket for an extra second, giving him time to complete a 66-yard pass - the longest completion in Bengals playoff history. Nose tackle Kimo von Oelhoffen hit Palmer's leg as he released the pass.
Palmer wears a protective brace on the knee, but it still bowed inward. Palmer hit the ground and stayed down for several minutes while the medical staff looked at his knee. His face was downcast as he was carted off the field and taken inside for evaluation.
Six plays after Palmer was hurt, Henry hurt his right knee during a pass play and had to be helped off the field. Henry went to the locker room for an exam, and the club didn't expect him to return. Backup Kelley Washington was inactive for the game, leaving the Bengals without a proven No. 3 receiver.
In losing Palmer, the Bengals were forced to go on without the player most responsible for their AFC North championship and their return to the playoffs.
Palmer set a club record with his 32 touchdown passes and completed 67.8 percent of his throws, also a league high, in only his second season as a starter. The club gave him a contract extension through 2014 a little more than a week ago.
He started all 16 games this season, but played sparingly in the final regular-season game at Kansas City because he was coming off a strained groin. Palmer hadn't taken many hard hits this season -- he was sacked no more than two times in any game.