Monday, September 15, 2003

Receiver his own worst critic

Wins only statistic on Johnson's mind

By Paul Daugherty
The Cincinnati Enquirer

OAKLAND, Calif. - Chad Johnson said he played "horrible." Eight catches, 131 yards, across the middle, down the deep sideline, anticipation, body control, strength. The whole Pro Bowl package.


The Bengals didn't win. This is what Johnson meant. If they'd been on the top side of the 23-20 final score Sunday, those same numbers, in Johnson's mind, would have been brilliant. Or at least good enough.

"I might have put up a lot of numbers, but that 'W' wasn't up there," Johnson said.

It is remarkable to see Johnson's progress. The third-year receiver wants to be great badly enough; he just might get there. On the way to the locker room at halftime, Johnson stopped Jerry Rice.

He wanted to know when they could talk.

"It was a pleasure to meet him. I watched him the whole game. His stance, the way he came out of the huddle. I want to ask him how he got that edge," Johnson said.

Johnson is getting there. He tormented his friend from Miami, Oakland cornerback Phillip Buchanon, until Buchanon stepped in front of him and made the play of the game.

The Bengals exploited the soft middle of the Raiders' defense with 8- and 10-yard slants. Johnson and Peter Warrick were the prime targets. Buchanon usually played 8 yards off the ball, leaving him vulnerable to the short slants.

Then, on second-and-9 from the Oakland 20 with the game tied at 13 and 3:46 left, QB Jon Kitna went to it again. Buchanon jumped in front of Johnson, intercepted the pass and took it 83 yards for the score.

Said Kitna: "That's not (Buchanon's) character in that coverage, to jump in front of the receiver like that."

"We ran it a couple times" before that play, Johnson said. "I caught every one. It wasn't Kitna's fault. (Buchanon) guessed and he guessed right."

On Cincinnati's next possession, Johnson ran the same route, only turned upfield after Kitna's pump fake. It went for 28 yards.

That led to Cincinnati's last TD and a short-lived 20-20 tie. And to Sebastian Janikowski's game-winning field goal. And Chad Johnson's dissatisfaction.

"If I'd played the way I can, it wouldn't have been close," he said.

We'll be waiting. Meantime, Rice said Johnson could call him in the offseason.

Raiders 23, Bengals 20
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Receiver his own worst critic
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