|WR Chad Johnson isn't talking or scoring touchdowns while Bengals struggle|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 22 November 2007 10:32|
Nobody expected this.
The chatty receiver has clammed up in the past four weeks, stung by suggestions that his fun-loving antics are part of the reason the Cincinnati Bengals are stuck in last place in the AFC North.
He's not doing interviews. He doesn't seem to interact with teammates as much. He's definitely not smiling.
It's such a pronounced change that concerned teammates are urging him to go back to being Chad.
``I told Chad, 'Man, if you've got to talk to go score two, three touchdowns, start talking,''' right tackle Willie Anderson told reporters. ``He was talking in '03. He was talking in '04, when you guys loved him and built him up on top of this city. Now the guy gets killed for doing the exact thing he's always been doing.''
Two things have changed: Johnson isn't scoring touchdowns, and his team isn't winning.
Since making the playoffs in 2005 with their high-tech passing attack, the Bengals (3-7) have steadily regressed. They've lost 10 of their last 13 games, their running game has evaporated, and Johnson has been penned in by opposing defenses stacked to stop him.
He had promised a lot more.
Heading into the season, Johnson proclaimed that he had his ``sexy'' back and started dropping hints about his latest touchdown celebrations. When he scored the Bengals' first touchdown of the season on a 39-yard catch against the Ravens, he went to the sideline and donned an oversized Hall of Fame jacket.
A week later, he scored twice in Cleveland and got a shower of beer when he dived into the Dawg Pound after the second touchdown.
He hasn't been back to the end zone since. Eight games, zero touchdowns.
``Teams have made the commitment not to let Chad beat them,'' offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski said. ``There's been some times when we've had the opportunity, and we haven't hooked up on it. It's kind of a freak thing of how the plays come out.''
Instead, slot receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh has been getting the catches. He leads the NFL with 76 catches and has 11 for touchdowns, ranking third in the NFL behind Randy Moss and Terrell Owens.
``T.J.'s been left in one-on-one situations and done a good job beating those one-on-one situations, when Chad's been double- and triple-teamed,'' quarterback Carson Palmer said.
The lack of touchdowns aside, Johnson is still having an impressive season. He's third in the AFC in yards with 938. He needs six catches on Sunday against Tennessee (6-4) to break Carl Pickens' franchise record of 530 receptions.
There have been some uncharacteristic moments as well. He dropped what likely would have been a touchdown pass during a 33-21 loss in Buffalo. He fumbled without being hit while running after a catch in a 35-27 loss to Arizona last Sunday.
And, he's not talking about any of it.
``He's gone through some things,'' Palmer said. ``I don't think he's ever had anybody bad-mouth him in the media before, probably, in his career. It's tough to go through. It's something that everybody's first time going through that, it takes an adjustment.''
The criticism started coming when the Bengals lost four of their first five games. Coach Marvin Lewis screamed at his underachieving players following a loss to New England on Oct. 1, calling them selfish.
Although Lewis didn't single anyone out, everyone assumed he was referring in part to Johnson, who got into a sideline squabble with Palmer during the game. Talk shows revved up over the question of whether the Bengals would be better off without Johnson.
He took it personally and clammed up.
Johnson also has been slowed by a sore ankle, a sore knee and a strained neck, suffered on a hard hit at the end of the Buffalo game. A lot of things are involved in his unhappiness and his bad moments.
``He's frustrated,'' Bratkowski said. ``Sometimes when you get frustrated, you press a little too hard. I told him the other day, he was flying with every ounce of energy to get that ball in the end zone (when he fumbled). He just carried the ball a little sloppy.''