Ochocinco hauls in his 49-yard touchdown catch. (AP photo)
Posted: 5:30 a.m.
SAN DIEGO - When Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco wore Chris Henry's No. 15 jersey in practice the day Henry died last week, he also wore a shield on his helmet to hide the tears. After Sunday's game he wore sunglasses and fought the tears as he stood in a locker with No. 15 on the shelf, where he had hung Henry's jersey before the game.
If there's one guy who did all he could to bring "Slim" one last win to Tuesday's funeral in New Orleans, it was his long distance running mate in the passing game. After weeping during the moment of silence, Ochocinco scored the Bengals' first touchdown with his longest touchdown catch in two years (49 yards) and he set up the other touchdown with the longest run of his career (26).
The Ocho vowed to talk to Henry all game and he did after he scored the touchdown, an up-and-out that left cornerback Antonio Cromartie stranded in La Jolla while The Ocho sailed into downtown San Diego. He dropped the ball to the side, dropped to his knees talking to Henry and tapping his heart as his teammates let him be. By the time he was on the bench, where he had put the jersey, he was crying with a towel over his head.
"I was just saying what we would always say before practice or a game," The Ocho said. "Eighty-five plus 15 equals 100 ways to be great."
The Ocho was not only sad, but mad that people insinuated he was trying to hijack the Henry situation for himself when he wanted to the wear No. 15 in the game even though the NFL was going to fine him and the NFL Players Association said it was going to pick up the tab even though that would violate an NFL rule. In the end, he said he didn't want to be a distraction.
"It's an empty feeling. I don't think lot of people understand," he said. "It was bigger than football with me and him. That's the kind of relationship he and I had. I can't even explain it. You have somebody like that you take under your wing for five years and see him turn the right way, it's hard. Like a brother.
"There's some media types that have the nerve to say I'm making the situation about me.
"When I hear something like that and when I hear the NFL would still fine me for a situation like this, are you serious? ... I know if I was gone Slim would have on that 85 jersey. Regardless. Trust me. If I wore it today I'm sure it would be spun into a negative. That's why I had to backtrack. Slim wouldn't want that. He'd want me to go out there and play for him. So I played with an extra set of hands, extra set of legs and extra heart."
Ocho responded with his longest TD catch since he had a 70-yarder Dec. 30, 2007 in Miami in a first half he caught three balls for 79 yards. But he didn't catch another one, although he made a huge play out of the backfield that set up the other touchdown early in the fourth quarter when he caught a flip pass in the backfield on a fake reverse on the right perimeter and he broke it back until he ended up on the other sideline at the Chargers 7. In his way was Shawne Merriman, his Twitter rival.
"When I ran around Carson, I was hoping it would be (cornerback Quentin) Jammer. Jammer would be a little easier person to make a move on," he said. "Freaking Shawne Merriman was following me. I think he dropped into a zone. I pointed to Shawne as Carson threw the ball and Shawne's presence made me reverse the entire field."
Jammer had made a big play earlier when Palmer led The Ocho too far on a pass over the middle, but The Ocho said Jammer was lucky in a way because as Ochocinco fought him off, he actually led him into the ball at the Bengals 40 to set up the third Chargers touchdown.
"(Palmer) and I hit that play all the time," he said. "It was a big one against Detroit when I stiff-armed Marvin White."
The mystery was why after catching three balls for 79 yards in the first half and the Chargers loading up the box to stop the run and leaving one-on-one situations did Ochocinco have no catches in the second half.
The Ocho shrugged. And losing the playoff bye (No. 2 seed) didn't really bother him.
"I'm not worried about it. Just the fact we're able to get into the playoffs and being able to play home and away," he said. "I don't see it as an advantage being at home ... I like the hoopla (on the road). I'm different. There's something wrong with me."
Now the tough stuff is yet to come. At New Orleans.
"I don't do funerals well," he said.
But Henry would no doubt say he put on a pretty good memorial service Sunday.