CLEVELAND — The locker room was strangely subdued as Cincinnati players quietly peeled off adhesive tape, packed up equipment and dressed.
The Bengals acted like experienced winners on Sunday. 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 a 27-13 victory over Cleveland, spoiling Romeo Crennel's coaching debut with the Browns.
"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.
Bad starts have doomed Coach Marvin Lewis' first two seasons with the Bengals, who began the last two 1-4 before recovering to finish 8-8.
Lewis isn't quite ready to proclaim his team anything other than improved.
"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 focus."
Palmer picked apart Cleveland, completing 26 of 34 passes for 280 yards. He also threw one interception.
He came up with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Walter just before halftime and connected on an 18-yard touchdown pass play to fullback Jeremi Johnson on the Bengals' first drive in the third quarter as the Bengals opened a 24-10 lead.
"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.
Rudi Johnson had 126 yards in 26 carries and a one-yard touchdown run, and Shayne Graham kicked two field goals to help Cincinnati improve to 5-10 in season openers since 1991.
Making only his third start since 2003, Trent Dilfer was 26 for 43 for 278 yards and one touchdown for the Browns.