This was originally published in The Athletic.
When it was over, after Randy Bullock’s kick sailed through, and after a declined penalty against the Buccaneers had been announced, there weren’t many emphatic high-fives. No one was bellowing out loud cries of exuberance. Few of us did anything more than exhale while giving each other side-eyed glances of relief. The Bengals hadn’t won as much as they’d avoided disaster, and while the reaction from those of us in the Paul Brown Stadium stands wasn’t exactly apathetic, it wasn’t exactly ecstatic either.
It probably shouldn’t be this way, but the reality of the NFL is that more often than we care to admit, teams escape losing as much as they find ways to win. Such has been true to a large degree for the Bengals this season, with multiple wins in games that felt like they were slipping away, including a victory on Sunday over Tampa Bay in a game they seemed determined to avoid winning.
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