CLEVELAND (AP) -- The locker room was strangely subdued as
Cincinnati players quietly peeled off adhesive tape, packed up
equipment and dressed. Even gabby wide receiver Chad Johnson had
little to say.
The Bengals acted like experienced winners. They played like them, too.
Carson Palmer threw two touchdown passes and the Bengals opened
a season they're confident will be a winning one with an easy 27-13
win over Cleveland, spoiling Romeo Crennel's coaching debut with
"It's a huge win for us," Palmer said. "Getting off to a fast
start is what we wanted to do."
The Bengals haven't had a winning record since 1990, and their
gross ineptitude has made them the NFL's lovable losers. They're
the Bungles, a team whose history is outlined by more chaos and
calamity than championships.
These Bengals, though, might be a little different. In capturing
their first opener since 2001 and their first opener on the road
since 1995, they're also 1-0 for the first time in three seasons
under coach Marvin Lewis.
Bad starts have doomed Lewis' first two seasons with the
Bengals, who began the past two at 1-4 before recovering to go 8-8.
Cincinnati's favorable schedule -- its first six opponents went a
combined 38-58 in 2004 -- have many believing the Bengals can
challenge for the AFC North title.
Lewis isn't quite ready to proclaim his team anything other than
"We are not off to a good start," Lewis said. "We just won
one football game. We have a chance to write the script on what a
good start is. We play Minnesota next week, and now that is our
Palmer picked apart Cleveland's secondary, finishing 26-of-34
for 280 yards and one interception. He threw a 20-yard TD pass to
Kevin Walter just before halftime and connected on an 18-yarder to
fullback Jeremi Johnson on the Bengals' opening drive in the third
period as the Bengals opened a 24-10 lead.
Before hitting Johnson on third-and-2, Palmer changed his play
at the line of scrimmage and then threw in the flat to Johnson.
Palmer went 7-for-7 on the drive.
"That was kind of a dagger in the heart for them," Palmer
said. "That was a fun drive."
Palmer's only poor decision came on a ball he put up for grabs
in Cleveland's end zone with 5:18 left. But by then, the Bengals
were in control.
Chad Johnson, who had one of his worst games last season in
Cleveland, had nine catches for 91 yards. A year ago, he sent
bottles of Pepto-Bismol and handwritten notes to Browns defensive
backs, warning he was going to make them feel ill. But the joke
backfired when he dropped several passes.
On Sunday, Johnson was sure-handed and close-mouthed. His only
problem were leg cramps, which sent him briefly to the locker room.
"This don't mean nothing," Johnson said when asked about the
importance of Cincinnati's Week 1 win. "It's Game 1, too soon.
Holler at me when we're 5-0 or 7-0, and then we're knocking on the
door of the playoffs."
The rebuilt Browns had some nice moments, but not nearly enough
to get a first victory for Crennel, New England's former defensive
coordinator who spent 24 years as an assistant and now has a giant
challenge in front of him.
Cleveland was hurt by costly mistakes, an injury-depleted
secondary and had two touchdowns called back by penalties. The
Browns dropped to 1-6 in openers since returning to the league in
"We've got a lot of work to do," Crennel said. "I'm
disappointed in the way everyone played. I'm not happy about
Making just his third start since 2003, Browns quarterback Trent
Dilfer finished 26-of-43 for 278 yards and one touchdown.
Cleveland's Frisman Jackson caught a 68-yard TD pass and had
eight catches for 128 yards. Rookie Braylon Edwards, the Browns'
first-round draft pick, had two catches for 16 yards in limited
Dilfer threw a pass in the first quarter that hit umpire
Jim Quirk in the head and was caught by Browns center Jeff Faine,
who was penalized for "illegal touching." ... Among the Browns
most significant injuries were linebacker Matt Stewart (knee), kick
returner Joshua Cribbs (knee), cornerback Leigh Bodden (leg) and
tight end Steve Heiden (neck stinger). The team had no postgame
update on the injuries. ... Bengals LB Marcus Wilkins (head) and
Kenny Watson (arm) were hurt.
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