KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ If Marvin Lewis is mad at the Kansas City Chiefs, he's not letting on. Leave that to Rudi Johnson.
Still fresh in the mind of Cincinnati's star running back are bitter memories of KC holding a 30-3 lead in the final three minutes but still chucking passes into the end zone, and hitting one.
``It left a bad taste in our mouth,'' said Johnson. ``Nobody's forgotten that game.''
Now eight months later and buoyed by Carson Palmer's remarkable recovery from reconstructive knee surgery, the Bengals will open the season Sunday in the very stadium and against the very team that mauled them 37-3 in last year's regular-season finale.
The Chiefs had already been shut out of the playoffs because of Pittsburgh's victory that day over Detroit. But in Dick Vermeil's final game as head coach, they wanted to see Trent Green get 4,000 yards passing and Larry Johnson erase the team rushing record.
So they kept pouring on the fire and, at the Bengals' expense, both did. Green's 4,014 yards made him the fourth quarterback in NFL history to post three consecutive 4,000-yard seasons. Johnson had 201 yards and three TDs and a team-record 1,750 yards.
``We've had this game marked on our calendar for a year,'' said Johnson. ``We're looking forward to going out there and putting on a great show.''
Nonsense, says Lewis.
``They're a different football team coached by a different person than last year,'' said the Bengals coach. ``We're a different team. They're a different team. This is a new season.''
In Kansas City's defense, the Bengals had already wrapped up their first playoff berth since 1990 and Palmer and many other starters played only a few series.
Nevertheless, it stung.
``They scarred us for 200 yards,'' said defensive end Bryan Robinson. ``We know what they did to us last year. We know what they're capable of doing. They punched us in the mouth.''
But as Chiefs defensive end Jared Allen points out, Vermeil has been replaced by Herm Edwards and Edwards that day was not within 1,000 miles of Kansas City.
``That has nothing to do with us,'' he said. ``That's the coach's decision. He's the one calling plays. We're out here to win. We're trying to score as many points as possible and hold their defense from scoring as few points as possible.
``Last time I checked, football's not a sport about compassion, it's a sport about knocking heads together and the best man's going to win. So that's between the coaches, if they felt that way. We're just out there playing what's called.''
Palmer, injured in the first few minutes of the Bengals' playoff loss to Pittsburgh, thrilled Cincinnati's fans the way he rebounded from an injury that some felt might end his career. A perfect 4-0 preseason record, Cincinnati's first, also has fans looking forward to a second straight division title.
The Bengals, for the third straight year, also return every offensive starter. Acquisitions of massive defensive tackle Sam Adams and safety Dexter Jackson could strengthen a defense that gave up almost 400 yards a game.
Under Edwards, the Chiefs have also made a big effort to shore up a leaky defense. The offense that led the league from 2001-05 with 30,470 yards and 262 touchdowns probably will not be the same, either. Gone are several key operatives, including left tackle Willie Roaf, running back Priest Holmes and fullback Tony Richardson.
But rookie defensive end Tamba Hali and free agent cornerback Ty Law looked impressive in brief preseason appearances and gave hope for an improved defense.
``I think they're better,'' said Allen. ``But we're better, too.''
One person who laments the way the Chiefs behaved last Jan. 1 is also one of Lewis' good friends.
``There are certain times in a football game where you know that the game is over. You know it and the other team knows it,'' Edwards said.
``There's a way you can play where you don't rub people's noses in it. I don't believe in that. I think it's bad ball. I think it's bad sportsmanship. It sets a bad precedent and it sets you up for eventually what goes around, comes around.''
Told that Lewis and Palmer both insisted they're not at all concerned with that embarrassing loss, Edwards merely smiled.
``I would hope they wouldn't tell you guys what they're going to try to do,'' he said. ``I would hope they're smarter than that.''