(Sept. 18, 2005)
Chad Johnson went right from talking to trashing.
Johnson caught a 70-yard touchdown pass on the game’s second play, and the Cincinnati Bengals overwhelmed Minnesota Vikings’ rebuilt defense 37-8, making a statement and raising a question.
At 2-0, the Bengals are for real. Can the 0-2 Vikings be this bad?
Johnson got his mouth going during pregame introductions, talking a little trash to Vikings cornerback Fred Smoot. The receiver had challenged him during the week to show what he’s got.
The Bengals had it all over the Vikings, rolling up 337 yards and a 27-0 lead in the first half. Johnson topped 100 yards receiving before halftime, setting the tone for Cincinnati’s most lopsided victory in three years.
By contrast, Daunte Culpepper had a miserable time, throwing a career-high five interceptions — three of them to Deltha O’Neal. The Vikings turned the ball over seven times in all and didn’t get closer than the Bengals’ 49-yard line in the first half.
By that point, Johnson didn’t have to say anything. The numbers said it all.
Carson Palmer completed his first nine passes against a dazed defense. Palmer went 27-for-40 for 337 yards overall with touchdown passes to three different receivers.
His least-bashful receiver got it rolling.
Johnson was yapping before the coin toss, sauntering toward the Vikings bench to yell at Smoot. The cornerback yelled back and made a "bring-it-on" arm wave.
Fifty-two seconds into the game, Johnson was in the end zone.
The Vikings were slow getting defensive substitutions onto the field for the second play. Smoot lined up in the slot against T.J. Houshmandzadeh, leaving Johnson covered along the sideline by Antoine Winfield.
Johnson flew past Winfield and took Palmer’s long pass in stride over the shoulder for a 70-yard touchdown play. During his radio show on Thursday night, Johnson had promised a caller he would emulate former Bengals receiver Isaac Curtis and simply drop the ball when he scored.
That’s precisely what he did. And the Bengals’ offense didn’t stop there.
The Vikings sank a lot of money into their defense in the offseason, bringing in Smoot, safety Darren Sharper and lineman Pat Williams. They were helpless in the decisive first half – the Bengals didn’t even have to punt.
Sharper and Winfield were on the bench with injuries while the Bengals closed it out in the fourth quarter.
For the second consecutive game, the Vikings’ offense couldn’t get out of its own way. Culpepper had three interceptions and two fumbles in an opening 24-13 loss to Tampa Bay, and repeatedly forced passes against the Bengals – one of O’Neal’s interceptions was in the end zone.
The Vikings’ offense set numerous franchise records last season with Randy Moss, and hasn’t been the same without him, scoring only one touchdown in two games. The Vikings couldn’t even take advantage of franchise-record 17 penalties by the Bengals.
When it ended, Johnson sought out Smoot and gave him a warm embrace.
Talking in his ear the whole time, of course.