Johnson Scores Three TDs, Sets Bengals Reception Record in Rout of Tennessee

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Chad Johnson commandeered a television camera behind the end zone, swung it around and aimed it at the field as part of a touchdown production that was two months in the making.

What he saw through the viewfinder: A Tennessee team playing itself out of the picture.

Johnson had a career-high 12 catches, set the Cincinnati record for career receptions, scored three touchdowns and steadied the Bengals to a 35-6 victory Sunday over the fading Titans.

"He deserves the credit," quarterback Carson Palmer said of the Pro Bowl receiver. "He's that good. We did a good job around him, too."

After emerging as one of the NFL's first-half surprises, Tennessee (6-5) has lost three in a row and its hold on a wild-card playoff berth. The offense has been sloppy and the defense has lost its ability to stop anybody, giving up 28, 34 and 35 points during the slide.

This one really got to them.

Forlorn quarterback Vince Young sat on the bench by himself for seven minutes after the game ended, all kinds of things running through his bowed head.

"Thoughts, man, just thoughts, trying to see what's going on, what's the problem, what we need to do to get back to where we need to be at," said Young, who was limited by a bruised thigh and a strained ankle. "Why is this all of a sudden happening to us, going back to that bad feeling that we had last year with getting our butt whooped?"

One week after Palmer threw a career-high four interceptions, the Bengals (4-7) had a breakout game behind Johnson, who had gone into a shell and a funk.

Stewing over suggestions that his look-at-me antics were hurting the team, the chatty receiver had stopped talking to the media for the past month. Finally, he had something to talk about.

Instead, he chose silence, shaking his head when approached for interviews. Johnson wouldn't even talk about his team record.

"He doesn't care about that," receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said, sounding like a spokesman for the receiver dressing silently right next to him. "He'll probably reflect on it later on."

Johnson had 103 yards and his first touchdowns since a 51-45 loss in Cleveland on Sept. 16. In that one, he dived into the Dawg Pound and a got a sticky, eye-stinging shower of beer.

Johnson eclipsed Carl Pickens' club mark with his 531st career reception in the second quarter. His next catch was a 10-yard touchdown that broke the drought and left 65,489 fans wondering how he would celebrate.

He commandeered the television camera, drawing a flag for the excessive celebration. The 15-yard penalty was assessed on the kickoff, helping the Titans drive to Rob Bironas' 23-yard field goal.

"He deserved it," defensive captain John Thornton said, approving of Johnson's celebration. "He's been working hard. I told him to keep it up. I told him if he needs a penalty to get himself going, go ahead."

Johnson also had a 2-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter and a 3-yard score in the fourth, confining his celebrations to old-fashioned hugs and high-fives.

Palmer made up for one of the worst games of his career with one of his best, going 32-of-38 for 283 yards. The Bengals converted 14 of their 18 third-down chances, a rate that Titans cornerback Nick Harper called "ridiculous."

"You saw it," Harper said. "They had an answer for everything. It was almost like they were in our huddle."

For the Titans' offense, it was another all-Bironas performance. Tennessee had to settle for a pair of field goals in the first half, when it reached the 10-yard line three times. Young lost a fumble on a blind-side hit, scuttling one drive.

The dual-threat quarterback wasn't much of a threat when the Titans got close to the goal line. Twice, he failed to connect with open receivers in the end zone. A telltale moment came in the fourth quarter, when the Titans went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1. Young slipped on a rollout, got up and lobbed an incompletion into the end zone.

Young finished 19-of-31 for 246 yards with an interception. His solitude on the bench after the game was interrupted only by brief visits from Palmer and Houshmandzadeh.

"I told him it could be worse, they could be 4-7 like us," Houshmandzadeh said.

Given how far the Titans have fallen, it wasn't very comforting.


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