As time elapsed, and as Russell Bodine was plowed into the ground to close out a second consecutive Bengals loss to begin the season, you could almost hear the entire country let out a collective sigh.
At long last, the national nightmare was over. The latest iteration of Thursday Night Football(!) had concluded. Houston had more points, but there were no winners. America - at least the part of America that either lacked other things to do or a remote control - lost.
So too, of course, did the Bengals.
On Thursday night, the United States - badly in need of a break - plopped down on its couch to watch the Bengals play host to the Texans. The game wasn't billed as a marquee matchup, and little about the game held much promise, but still...football is football, you know?
Except that the country's latest letdown came in Color Rush uniforms. A nation that - Good God - has suffered enough was further subjected to the the torture provided by two teams with rudderless offenses, no personality, and utterly forgettable teams. If the best that our nation's football league can do is give the people the Bengals and Texans, then maybe that says something about our country and who we are.
The game itself certainly said something about the Bengals. For all of the preseason hype surrounding their offense, it's accumulated nine points in eight quarters, with zero touchdowns through two games to show for its effort. The stench of Cincinnati's quarterback play is only masked by the utter stink of its offensive line, while the festering aroma of an unimaginative offense lingers to the point of being unbearable.
Often, this is merely a provincial worry, the kind the concern exclusive to a team's fans and a city's citizenry, but on Thursday night, we shared our problem with the nation as a whole, allowing the rest of our country a glimpse into what could be our problem long after all the outsiders have moved on to something else.
The Bengals are bad, but a least they're ours. On Thursday, we shared them with a people that's already had to endure enough.
Not that the Texans weren't complicit in what the country was served from Paul Brown Stadium - the only thing that's keeping me from feeling sorry from Houston fans is the fact that their team has both a win and a touchdown this season - but there's an added element of unfairness in making the country watch the Bengals lose to a team that had nearly half its roster on the injury report, was seemingly pulling guys off the street to play, is a mess up front offensively, and on Thursday, gave a rookie quarterback his first NFL start.
Thursday night was not the first time the Bengals played poorly, of course. But as bad as the Ravens game was, it was almost solely ours to commiserate over and ultimately, we were left clinging to hope that the rest of the country wouldn't be subjected to what our eyes and ears were treated to last Sunday.
This was different. This time, the Bengals were almost as bad as they were on Sunday, but now the entire country was being force-fed a shit sandwich of football ineptitude and stodginess that America is overdue an apology, or at least a stiff drink.
Houston improved to 1-1 on Thursday night. The Bengals fell to a devastating and debilitating 0-2. But the real loser is a country that couldn't help but to watch.