Bengals look to reverse opening-day trend

Cincinnati cornerback Leon Hall remembers exactly how Bengals fans reacted one year ago next Tuesday when he and his teammates were blown out by Baltimore in their latest season opener.

"It wasn't a very good reaction," he said.

A 44-13 defeat to kick off what many thought would be a promising season will cause that.

But it wasn't just the way the Bengals lost that left many smarting. It was the fact that for the fourth time in five seasons, their team failed to place a "W" on the ledger to start off a year.

When they go to Chicago on Sunday, the Bengals will be out to reverse that horrid opening-day trend as they once again attempt to state their case for being the best team in the AFC North.

"The last opener wasn't quite how we wanted it to end. We didn't play too well," linebacker Rey Maualuga said. "This will wash it away if we go out there and execute the game plan and leave with a win."

ESPN's "NFL Live" crew certainly believes the Bengals will scratch out a Week 1 win. Unanimously, the television show's three-man crew predicted a victory.

When it comes to learning lessons from last year's opener, safety/linebacker Taylor Mays said the Bengals "just have to take it to them."

"We had a good offseason and preseason [last year] and didn't punch first," Mays said about the 2012 opener. "You have to start fast."

Against Chicago, a team that sports an offense that likes to methodically dink and dunk its way downfield in short chunks, the Bengals may have to exercise patience if they begin the game on defense. If they start on offense, though, the Andy Dalton Air Show may need to commence.

One critical piece to the Bengals' passing game this season will be tight end Jermaine Gresham. The team's No. 2-leading pass-catcher last year, Gresham has certainly had his share of successes in Cincinnati's offense. He's also had his share of failures, highlighted most specifically by his trio of drops in January's AFC wild-card game.

While Gresham contends his "short-term memory" has made him forget much of last year's finale, it bears mentioning that he still can describe what was supposed to happen on every play call when a drop occurred. Few Bengals are more eager to see Sunday come around.

"It couldn't get here fast enough," Gresham said.

As disappointing as the first and last games were for the Bengals a year ago, they let them know that one of sports' oldest adages remains true: It isn't necessarily how you start; it's all about how you finish. After Cincinnati's Week 1 blowout, the team went 10-5 through the rest of the regular season before falling to the Texans in its only playoff game.

"You really can't look at the first game and say we are going to be great or we are going to be terrible," Hall said.