10-27-03, 6:25 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Seattle running back Shaun Alexander probably would have got a flag if he went through with his end-zone celebration. Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson didn't go through with his and still got penalized.
After Johnson gave the Bengals a 27-24 lead with 8:03 left in the game on a 53-yard touchdown pass, he got assessed with a near costly 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct flag. Shayne Graham had to kick off from his own 15 and it was short enough that the Seahawks returned it to the 50 before the Bengals defense ended their last three drives in turnovers.
At some point in the past few weeks, Johnson said he would throw his helmet into the stands after a touchdown. But he had his backup helmet in the locker room, and when he signaled to the crowd that he wasn't going to do it, the official took that to mean the slash-the-throat gesture outlawed by the league.
"I pretended I was going to throw it," Johnson said. "That's not fair. They took it the wrong way. I was saying, 'I'm not going to do it.'"
Meanwhile, Alexander was on the other sideline having a great time playing a NFL game in his hometown for the first time. About 15 minutes down the road in Florence, Ky., and 15 years ago in sixth grade, Alexander followed the Ickey Woods Bengals to the Super Bowl.
"It was really exciting. I said to myself, 'OK, if I score a touchdown in the fourth quarter, I've got to do the Ickey Shuffle,'" said Alexander, who didn't do it when he scored on a two-yard pass in the second quarter. "The guys on the sidelines, some of them laughed because they got it, and some
of them were like 'Ickey Shuffle?' and I was like don't worry about it."
But head coach Marvin Lewis was worried about what Johnson did and crawled all over him when he came back to the sidelines. Then he kept going in his news conference.
"We have to play with poise as well. That obviously put us in jeopardy with the kickoff from the 10- or 15-yard line," Lewis said. "We can't do that. It's too big. Field position against a team that is clicking and moving like they were — it's big in the game. We take a step forward, and then we take two steps back when we do that. But we're learning. It just keeps coming.
"He knows he's not allowed to do the gesture he made," Lewis said. "It's not part of the game, it's not good for the game, and we know better. That's the thing that we have to keep getting better at."
But for all his histrionics, Johnson is probably going to be leading all AFC receivers with 18.1 yards per catch Monday morning. He only caught three balls, but one was a 22-yarder on third-and-11 that set up a field goal, and another won the game.
"Their big-play guy made big plays. Very exciting young players they have over there," said Seattle coach Mike Holmgren.
The big play came with 8:03 left in the game and Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna facing a third-and-two from his 47. It was third-and-seven, but nickel back Willie Williams tried to make Johnson jump and he was flagged for a five-yard delay of game.
"He was bump-and-run, but you can't flinch at the receiver at the line and he jumped at me. He made me jump a little bit," Johnson said. "It was the same play he made me jump on. I guess they told him to back off. When he backed off, I just went underneath him."
Johnson caught the five-yard slant in front of a falling Williams and no one touched him for the other 48 down the middle of the field. But for Kitna, it looked far from easy. He doesn't know how the play didn't end up in a sack and fumble.
"First of all, they had an unblocked guy," Kitna said. "Second of all, as I am going back to pass the ball to Chad, the ball, as I take the ball back, it hits Brandon (Bennett), and I am fumbling the ball. So they should have gotten a sack, and it could have been a fumble. I'm fumbling around and I don't end up getting the laces. I just see Chad and I end up shot-putting the ball out there, so when I talk about the hand of God, that was very evident to me today."
Johnson sensed Kitna was in trouble.
"When I came out of my break I saw him going down," Johnson said. "I came a little flatter so I could get to it no matter where the ball was. Kitna made a good play."
BENNETT BUSTS BLITZES: This is why you don't cut a guy like running back Brandon Bennett after he fumbled two kickoffs and lost one from scrimmage in Buffalo a few weeks back. With Seattle blitzing on virtually every passing down, Bennett was a big reason why Kitna got only sacked twice. He picked it up in time for Kitna to hit wide receiver Chad Johnson for a 22-yard play on third-and-11.
ALEXANDER WAS GREAT:** Everything went so smoothly for Seattle running back Shaun Alexander on his trip home to Greater Cincinnati. In his first game as a pro near where he grew up in Florence, Ky., as a Boone County High School star, he rushed for 86 yards on 20 carries and caught seven balls for 52 yards, one for a two-yard touchdown pass that tied the game at 14. On that scoring drive, he accounted for all 72 yards.
"Playing at home with your family, you've got your grandma cheering up in the stands and high school coaches, it's a great, great joy for me to play," Alexander said. "I wish we could have pulled (out) a victory, but I probably made them all happy because I played well and we lost, so I've got to go beat them all up whoever prayed that, because their prayers were answered."
SLANTS AND SCREENS:** Bengals rookie receiver Kelley Washington caught his first NFL touchdown pass Sunday, an eight-yarder in the corner of the end zone to give the Bengals a 14-7 lead five minutes into the second quarter. And, yes, he did do the "Squirrel Dance," which he made famous at Tennessee and on the Best Damn Sports Show," just after he was drafted.
"It's world renowned," Washington said. "I've always dreamed about dancing in the NFL in the corner of the end zone. It's good because the big thing I want to do is establish (chemistry) with Kitna so he's confident throwing it to me on third down or for a touchdown. On that one, I went three yards to the middle, and then re-directed myself to the corner."
Kitna did both on that play since it was a third-and-three from the Seattle 8. Five of Washington's nine catches have come on third down. . . .
Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham had high praise for the interior of the Bengals offensive line working against defensive tackle John Randle: "All three guys, the center (Rich Braham) and the guards (Eric Steinbach and Goff) did well keeping their pad level low and getting a nice push." . . .Lapham also said defensive end Justin Smith played his second superb game in as many weeks against Hawks Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones with four tackles and a sack. . .
Tight end Reggie Kelly left the locker room on crutches with an injured foot. He said it's not broken, but isn't sure he can play on it this week after getting hurt in the fourth quarter. . .Deactivations and injuries during the game were key for Seattle on defense and left them without four starters. Cornerback Ken Lucas was down and that allowed the Bengals to pick on nickel back Willie Williams. Defensive tackle Norman Hand (turf toe) didn't play next to John Randle and linebacker/sack ace Chad Brown, who had two sacks in his last two games, didn't play because of his nagging foot problem. But Seattle coach Mike Holmgren said middle linebacker Randall Godfrey, who didn't return in the second half, was the only one who couldn't play physically with a muscle problem in his neck. . .
Bengal inactives were QB Shane Matthews, CB Dennis Weathersby, RB Corey Dillon, RG Mat O'Dwyer, OT Scott Kooistra, WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, OLB LaDairis Jackson, DE Elton Patterson.