CINCINNATI -- For the thousands of fans at Paul Brown Stadium who booed the Cincinnati Bengals' offense early in Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns, defensive end Michael Johnson has the following message: Leave.
While the fifth-year lineman was proud to discuss the way he and his Bengals teammates rallied from 13 points down to beat the Browns 41-20, he also was adamant in letting anyone who would listen know that he didn't approve of the way the boo birds sounded following a pair of first-quarter Bengals drives.
From the sidelines, Johnson and his defensive teammates heard well the complaints of fans who bemoaned Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton's two interceptions and the three drives he led that ended in punts. It was after the third punt of the quarter that the boos grew loudest.
"If you're not believing and being positive, leave," Johnson said. "We don't need you. Because that's what we're about around here -- staying focused, staying positive and keeping our energy going. Negativity breeds negativity, and we don't do that around here."
Along with the interceptions and stalled drives, the boos likely stemmed from the play of Dalton the last three weeks. After posting a 4-0 record through his first four games in October and earning AFC Offensive Player of the Month honors, Dalton has been a much different player since. He's gone 1-2 since, tossed eight interceptions and threw for more than 300 yards just once. Against the Browns, he passed for 93 yards.
On Sunday, a group of fans in the upper deck of the east stands unfurled a long banner during the game that read: "Will the real Andy please step up?"
"I don't appreciate that," Johnson said, referring specifically to the boos. "Stay with us and believe with us. That's what you're here for. You're here to support. If something bad happens, that's not our plan. Stay positive, stay encouraging. We'll fight. Just stick with us a while."
About one minute after the last wave of boos, Bengals linebacker James Harrison intercepted a pass that helped turn the game's momentum. Just after that play, a 25-yard touchdown pass from Dalton to tight end Jermaine Gresham began a 31-0 second-quarter Bengals' rally and the rout was on. The 31 points in the quarter went down as a franchise record for scores in a single quarter.