Carson Palmer is a couple of years older and is no longer throwing to Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh in their prime. But as the Ravens prepare for Sunday's game against Palmer and the Oakland Raiders, the bad memories have come rushing back for some Ravens.
"I remember vividly games that I thought we had won and Carson Palmer got into a groove and torched us," Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "But he's a really good quarterback and he knows us pretty well, too. So he's going to come planning on having a good game."
As the starting quarterback of the Cincinnati Bengals from 2004 to 2010, Palmer made a habit of tormenting the Ravens, facing them 13 times and going 9-4 in those games. In his career, he has more passing yards (3,202) against the Ravens than any other team.
On Sunday, he'll return to M&T; Bank Stadium with a young offense that could be without its top two running backs — Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson both have high ankle sprains — but does have a group of speedy young receivers, including former Maryland standout Darrius Heyward-Bey (McDonogh) and Denarius Moore.
"Obviously he's with a new cast of guys. I don't mean to be [dismissive], but who cares what he's done with Cincinnati? This guy is going to come in here ready," Ravens safety Bernard Pollard said. "He's putting up numbers. He has players around him that are itching to learn from him. You have a young cast of guys but like I said, they all are burners. They all are ready to make plays."
Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees has watched Palmer extensively on film this week and said that he didn't see a quarterback "that's maybe diminished a little bit. … I don't see a lot of difference now in Carson Palmer than when we used to play him."
Palmer, who was traded to the Raiders last season after he decided he'd rather sit out of football than play for the Bengals, is 10th in the NFL with 2,355 passing yards this season. He's thrown 13 touchdowns to go with eight interceptions. In a 42-32 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, Palmer threw for 414 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.
"Obviously, the [Raiders'] offensive coordinator believes in Carson Palmer's ability to throw the ball and be effective and be as accurate as possible," Ravens cornerback Cary Williams said. "When you throw 61 passes, you see a lot of mistakes, too. He's a great quarterback. We've got to catch the ball if it comes to us and just go out there and make plays the best we can and continue to get better every week."
Williams, who was in his first full season with the organization in 2010 when the Ravens last faced a Palmer-led offense, said that the quarterback's past against the team means nothing and he barely remembers facing Palmer.
It's not that Palmer's statistics against the Ravens are overwhelming. He's averaged 246.3 yards passing in 13 games. He's completed 61 percent of his passes, compiled an 84.5 quarterback rating and tossed 15 touchdowns compared to 11 interceptions.
However, he has shown a knack for delivering against the Ravens in big moments. In his first year as the Bengals' starter in 2004, Palmer threw three fourth-quarter touchdown passes — two to Johnson and one to Houshmandzadeh — and for 382 yards to help the Bengals overcome a 20-3 deficit and beat the Ravens in an early December game.
He also threw a game-winning touchdown pass to Andre Caldwell with 22 seconds left to beat the Ravens in October 2009.
"As you know, he's not going to be intimidated by the environment. He's been here many times," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He manages and operates the offense as well as anybody. Some of the same things he did in Cincinnati, he's doing now. He can make every throw. There's not a throw he can't make, and when he's on, he's on time. He can really stick it in tight windows. He's a fearless competitor. So we've got a lot of respect for Carson Palmer."