Posted: 7:15 p.m.
Barely had the smoke from history's lightning bolt lifted from Paul Brown Stadium last Sunday when the encouraging Bengals offseason had been sentenced instantly by the pundits to another regular season of futility in an instant.
They were immediately lumped with Buffalo, Oakland and Detroit as teams that simply don't know how to win in the wake of their own Kickoff Weekend misery. And that doesn't even take into account all the curse stuff.
"We kind of hold our own fate in our own hands," said running back Cedric Benson. "I try to stay away from all the crazy talk."
Victims of the longest game-winning play in the last minute of an NFL game via a Ripley's Believe It Or Not tipped ball, the Bengals looked and sounded business as usual this week at PBS. Realists like Benson insisted it was just the first game of a long season for a new team.
But it's never normal when the questions are more philosophical than logical.
Is it luck? Quarterback Carson Palmer was asked.
"I don't know," he said. "I'm not very philosophical, so I'm not sure about that one."
Wordly middle linebacker Dhani Jones gave it a shot.
"It's a little bit of everything in this universe that works for you and works against you," Jones said. "It's who's playing on your side a little bit more that day. We were in the right defense and they made the play. That's how the game works."
Is that how it works? Or do some franchises simply know how to win? Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth doesn't buy it.
"Maybe there are some instances where that's right. Maybe there are some situations where a team that wins all the time just finds a way to win. But I don't think it means a team always finds a way to lose," Whitworth said.
"Those kinds of plays happen all the time. You see teams that are underdogs come up with some crazy plays that beat a big team. Look at the Giants and the Patriots in the Super Bowl. It didn't mean the Patriots aren't a winning team. It just means that was a play. That's why you play the game."
Whitworth prefers to look at more earthly explanations, such as the ineffectiveness of the offense until the final six minutes.
"It was a fluke thing that had to be timed perfectly to happen. Whatever the percentages of that happens, who knows?" Whitworth said. "That's the key. The winning teams can say, 'That was a fluke play. Let's go out and play the way we did last week and play better and we'll win.' "
The numbers are against the Bengals. Under head coach Marvin Lewis, they are 2-11 on the road after losses at PBS and 0-6 since 2006. And, they've never won at Lambeau Field.
"The biggest thing for us to do is erase that fog because, honestly, we had a chance to win that game and let it slip through our fingers," Whitworth said. "Offensively if we had played better in the first half, that game probably would have been out of reach. I think we've come back really well. The thing this team cares about first and foremost is winning. This is our chance to go into Green Bay and prove what we're about."
Palmer was watching the other games. He saw the Patriots steal another one, literally from the brainlock of the Bills.
"I'm not sure what you do to get over the hump, but it does seem that some teams get luckier breaks than others," Palmer said. "Our break was definitely unlucky. You look at the Patriots' break with the fumble, it was lucky. But you just keep working, and that's the only thing I know is to keep working, keep trying to find ways to win."
Cornerback Johnathan Joseph thought he ended the game the play before with an interception, but the officials ruled he only had one foot in without looking at a replay. Indications from the league this week were that Joseph didn't get his other foot down, but he had moved on long before.
"Really, it's over that minute when they make the call," Joseph said. "I don't think about it. The thing now is we have to do what we did last week and compete and this time finish."
Don't know how to win?
"That's easy to say after the game," Joseph said.
The coaches appeared to let them just finish. The players said Lewis didn't have a whole lot to say in the 24 hours after. After all, he's the guy that came up with the 24-hour rule in which the previous game has to be erased for all thoughts and conversation.
"It hurts more knowing we had it in the bag," said safety Chris Crocker. "You can't say anything that is going to make the guys feel better. It hurts more that we lost it on defense. That's what really hurt."
Crocker is more mad than anything. Start talking about curses and perpetual losing, and he thinks about how the Bengals were just a shot of normalcy from winning a game the defense dominated so thoroughly that it took the Broncos an act of God to get into the red zone for the first time all day.
"It's the first time ever in history. Lucky play. Luck is in the equation," Crocker said. "I know what we're about. We'll come back and play hard. As a professional you don't worry about last week ... I'm a sore loser. I'll have this feeling until we win a game."
By all accounts it was a normal week despite the paranormal activity of last Sunday.
"Yeah, back to work," said defensive co-captain Domata Peko on Wednesday. "It's over. You can tell. No one is talking about it and they're studying."
The subject, they are making sure, isn't history.