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Palmer has some satisfaction in Pro Bowl honor

It won't do anything to erase Carson Palmer's disappointment over the Cincinnati Bengals' failure to reach the playoffs after a late-season collapse.

That will likely linger through the offseason and only disappear if the Bengals are able to bounce back with a postseason appearance in 2007.

Still, Palmer couldn't deny feeling at least a small bit of satisfaction from being named Player of the Game after throwing two long touchdown passes to help the AFC to a 31-28 victory over the NFC in the Pro Bowl.

"This is a huge honor and extremely exciting and I feel very blessed just to be here, let alone for the outcome to be this," Palmer said. "But my goal's to be in a Super Bowl. And to win a Super Bowl. That's where my mind's at, and after this week I'm going to start focusing on that again."

Palmer threw a 72-yard touchdown pass to the Colts' Reggie Wayne in the first quarter and connected with his favorite target, teammate Chad Johnson, for a 42-yard score to give the AFC a 28-14 lead with 12:47 left in the fourth.

But the NFC, behind Tony Romo of the Cowboys, scored two quick touchdowns and a two-point conversion in the final few minutes to tie the game at 28-28.

Palmer, who took the lion's share of snaps for the AFC, then secured his Player of the Game honors by leading the AFC on the winning drive, which ended with Nate Kaeding's 21-yard field goal as time expired.

"Both great routes, both long-developing plays," Palmer said of his touchdown passes. "You've got to have protection up front. In games like this, protection's always a scary thing just because defenses start to key on snap counts.

"But we did a great job of protecting and both of those guys ended up running great routes to get open."

Wayne knows a thing or two about catching touchdown passes from a top quarterback. After all, he has a teammate named Peyton Manning, who threw him a scoring pass on the way to becoming Most Valuable Player in Super Bowl XLI.

"He's good," Wayne, who caught a game-high six passes for 137 yards, said of Palmer. "He's Carson Palmer. He's always one of the top guys in the league. It was great to catch a pass from ... I guess you could say the second-best quarterback in the league."

For Johnson, who also drew a 39-yard pass interference penalty to set up the winning field goal, catching a touchdown pass from Palmer is as natural as breathing.

"We just had fun," said Johnson, who finished with three receptions for 70 yards. "It's what we do during the season, so it's just a lot of fun to come out here and do it out here at the Pro Bowl."

Johnson is optimistic about the Bengals' future.

"We're going to be fine," he said. "We've been thinking Super Bowl a long time, so it's going to stay like that."

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