Carson Palmer

Carson Palmer of the Cincinnati Bengals passes against the Miami Dolphins at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati on Sept. 19. (Andy Lyons / Getty Images)

Carson Palmer, the Cincinnati Bengals' new quarterback from USC, can run his new winning streak to two in a row next Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium. But it won't be easy. The opponent is a Baltimore Ravens team with a famous defense originally constructed by Bengal Coach Marvin Lewis and still led by linebacker Ray Lewis.

To win his first pro game Sunday night, Palmer solved one of the NFL's other great defenses, Miami's, striking late in the fourth quarter. To beat Baltimore, he will have to strike earlier. The Ravens are particularly difficult in defense of a late lead.

So the question of this game is, does Marv Lewis have enough faith in Palmer to send his new quarterback out throwing against his old defense?

The question Sunday was whether Palmer could bring the Bengals back.

In the final moments he did, completing short pass after short pass to start Cincinnati's final 59-yard drive — hitting six of seven — and then throwing a 20-yard bullet to former oregon State wide receiver Chad Johnson, who completed an out pattern with two seconds left. That positioned kicker Shayne Graham for the deciding 39-yard field goal, 16-13.

The game was like a coming-out party for the NFL's next great quarterback. With a pass release that seemed even quicker than Tom Brady's in New England, Palmer repeatedly spiraled hard, sharp, straight ones. In only his second pro start, he looked as comfortable and composed as if he had been doing this for years.

The NFL's Most Lopsided Team?

The Dolphins are a candidate for the most lopsided team in the league. To go with their superb defense, they have hardly any offense now that running back Ricky Williams has deserted. Most of their runners and receivers are ordinary, and their offensive line is a disaster area.

In time, their new quarterback, A.J. Feeley of oregon, will probably help out. He has that look, and he has the personal tools. But on Sunday night his offensive line rarely gave him a chance to show what he's got. What's more, he's the most inexperienced starting quarterback the NFL has had. His next start will be his 13th since high school. That's high school.

Still, Miami's defense played impeccably, as usual. It held Cincinnati to 25 yards rushing in 20 carries and it gave Palmer no open targets and almost no time to throw, in spite of which he completed 21 of 38 passes for 147 yards. If he had a running back and an offensive line, Palmer might even beat Baltimore.

McNabb Was Monday Night's MVP

Donovan McNabb of the Philadelphia Eagles, one of football's great quarterbacks, won a tough battle of passing teams Monday night. He threw on first down every time, without exception in the second half until, in the final minutes, the Minnesota Vikings were 17 points down and out.

McNabb ran 20 yards for one touchdown and passed for two more to win by an eventual 27-14 on a night when Andy Reid, Philadelphia's coach and play caller, relied on the speed of his newest star, wide receiver Terrell owens, to set up every play in the game plan. For the Eagles' final touchdown Reid called a bomb, McNabb to owens, that landed in the receiver's hands on the sideline at 45 paces.

Minnesota quarterback Daunte Culpepper also threw the ball regularly and expertly on all five of his team's longest drives into the vicinity of Philadelphia's goal line. There, all five times, the Vikings — who might have had the better players if not the better team — self-destructed. In order:

• When penalties and an ill-timed running play lost ground at the Eagle 9 to kill a Minnesota passing drive, the Vikings settled for a field goal.

• After Culpepper's passes moved the Vikings to the Eagle 3, Minnesota Coach Mike Tice wanted three runs, which (a) killed another touchdown chance and (b) set up another field goal.

• After Culpepper's passes moved the Vikings to the Eagle 1, he fumbled the ball away at the 1-inch line on first down. With three more downs in sight, a fumble is always an inexcusable blunder.

• When two big Vikings penalties canceled a touchdown and another big play at the Eagle 20, they settled for another field goal.

• After Culpepper's passes and scrambles moved the Vikings to the Eagle 15, penalties moved them back out of good field-goal position and, this time, the kick missed.