|Thursday, November 14
Johnson: 'No teams can stop us right now'
By Len Pasquarelli
Demonstrating that bravado certainly must be a part of the NFL gene pool, Cincinnati wide receiver Chad Johnson is at it again. For the second time in three weeks, he has publicly guaranteed a Bengals victory.
The second-year veteran two weeks ago, even before coach Dick LeBeau got into the act, ensured a win over the expansion Houston Texans. And the Bengals responded with their first and only victory of the 2002 season in a 38-3 rout of the Texans.
Now the loquacious pass-catcher, a cousin of noted NFL orators Keyshawn Johnson of the Tampa Bay Bucs and the Tennessee Titans' Samari Rolle, is guaranteeing a Sunday victory over the division rival Cleveland Browns.
"I'm guaranteeing because we look good at what we're doing," Johnson said. "I don't think there are too many teams who can stop us. There are no teams who can stop us right now, when we're clicking and everything is going right and we look good."
This time, LeBeau is staying silent, perhaps cognizant that the Browns may offer a bit more resistance than did the Texans.
No matter, though, since Johnson is doing enough talking for both of them. And for the entire Cincinnati organization, normally a staid bunch, but also a team that has defeated the Browns in four of the last seven meetings.
A second-round choice in the 2001 draft, Johnson emphasized that he meant no disrespect to the Browns, but instead was stressing that the 1-8 Bengals are playing dramatically better offensively. No matter the intentions, his words already are plastered on a wall of the Cleveland locker room.
"(But) it has nothing to do with Cleveland," he said. "They just happen to be the team we're playing this week."
Since quarterback Jon Kitna took over the helm on offense five games ago, Cincinnati has averaged 23.4 points and 364 yards. In the first four games of the season, when Gus Frerotte and Akili Smith were the starters, the Bengals averaged an anemic 5.8 points and 230 yards.
Johnson is coming off a career-best seven catches for 110 yards in a loss at Baltimore last weekend and now leads the Bengals with 34 receptions for 458 yards and three touchdowns. He has as many touchdown catches now in 2002 as does his more famous cousin, Keyshawn, and might have surpassed the Tampa Bay star in trash-talking.
Given his improved production with Kitna as the starter, it's not surprising that Johnson strongly endorses keeping the veteran in the lineup. "If he had started the season, and had those four or five games under his belt, then we wouldn't be 1-8," he said.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.