Bengals relish breakthrough win, unsure on Dalton

A quick-snap touchdown has the long-suffering Cincinnati Bengals

thinking that their karma has finally changed.

The Bengals caught the Browns in a brain-lock moment Sunday,

allowing A.J. Green’s 41-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter

of a 27-17 win. It’s the kind of breakdown that’s been more typical

of the Bengals during their 20 years of futility.

A change, perhaps?

”That’s something we didn’t do last year,” defensive tackle

Domata Peko said. ”Last year in the fourth quarter, we fell

apart.”

The Bengals (1-0) won only four games last season, repeatedly

blowing chances at the end with mind-boggling moments. One of the

worst came when the Saints induced them into an offside penalty by

pretending they were going to snap the ball – a gambit the Saints

call ”No-Brainer Freeze.”

This time, the Browns (0-1) had the brain freeze, failing to

leave the huddle while the Bengals lined up and snapped the ball

for a go-ahead touchdown. And the Bengals had a rare, happy

beginning.

Even coach Marvin Lewis, who usually is reluctant to read

anything into one win, recognized the importance of winning the

opener the way they did – with a backup quarterback throwing to a

rookie receiver while the Browns hesitated.

”It was a great lesson for them to learn and to see something

they can believe in and really hang their hat on,” Lewis said on

Monday.

The most positive sign was how rookie quarterback Andy Dalton

handled his debut on the road. The second-round draft pick

completed 10 of 15 passes for 81 yards with a touchdown and no

interceptions, leading Cincinnati to 13 points before getting

hurt.

Dalton took a helmet to his lower right forearm near the end of

the first half and didn’t return because he had trouble gripping

the ball. Bruce Gradkowski finished the game.

Dalton was scheduled to see a specialist on Monday. The Bengals

are hopeful that he can start next Sunday in Denver, where

Cincinnati hasn’t won since 1975, dropping eight in a row. Dalton

declined to talk to the media on Monday.

Left tackle Andrew Whitworth had a protective boot on his left

foot following the game in Cleveland, but walked without it a day

later. Lewis declined to provide updates on players’ conditions,

except to say everyone was better on Monday.

Heading into the season, there was speculation that the Bengals

could be one of the NFL’s worst teams because it’s starting a

rookie quarterback and a rookie receiver. The victory in Cleveland

showed they’re not even the worst team in their own state.

Second-year defensive end Carlos Dunlap understands why fans are

still reluctant to give them much credit.

”Maybe because we’re young and they don’t feel we have that

experience,” Dunlap said on Monday. ”I’d say we have experience

together.”

Asked about the low expectations for his team, Lewis strayed

from his normal practice of keeping answers short and went on for

more than 300 words to answer that one question alone.

”I don’t know why we have so many naysayers,” Lewis said.

He noted that Cleveland fans seemed upbeat about their five-win

team before the season opener on Sunday, in contrast to fans in

Cincinnati. The Bengals have only two winning records in the past

20 years.

”It’s like the opposite,” Lewis said. ”I thought we were

about to play the ’68 Packers. It’s an unbelievable difference, the

attitude and the thing – aura – the way it was there in Cleveland

prior to Sunday compared to, for whatever reason, ours is here.

”But we can’t worry about and dwell upon that.”