12-16-02, 6:15 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson came within nine yards Sunday of tying the Bengals' record of five 100-yard receiving games and four yards of becoming their first 1,000-yard receiver in three years, and he was fuming at himself.
He thought he played so badly, he wanted to apologize to Bengals President Mike Brown right after the game, but he didn't get the chance in the hub-bub of the locker room.
"I played a bleep-bleep game and make sure you put down I cussed," Johnson told the media after the 29-15 loss to the Jaguars. "(Jon) Kitna is saying he didn't play his best game. No, no. It's my fault. Those are the big plays I need to make. One in the end zone.
One on third down. Those are the situations where I keep us moving. I kind of put that weight on my shoulders, to be that go-to-guy you all talk about."
Johnson saw Kitna about a half-hour after the game and gave him an exasperated look. Again, he spent much of the day double covered. This time by a team that hadn't shown much of that all year.
"Why me?" Johnson asked Kitna. "I'm nothing spectacular."
Kitna shook his head.
"Getting 1,000 yards in ten games is spectacular," Kitna assured him.
Sunday was the 10th game since Kitna became the starter and Johnson began his go-to emergence. He has caught 918 yards since then and now has 59 catches for 996 yards, a 16.9-yard average. If he keeps at this pace, he'll be the first Bengal receiver since Tim McGee in 1989 to have more than 60 catches along with at least 16 yards per catch.
"Ever since the Indy game, I've been just trying to improve each game and this game was a setback for me," Johnson said. "Even though I did some positive things, I took a step back."
Johnson was talking about technical matters with Kitna, what he called the "formation of the routes." He thought he had a shot to catch a touchdown late in the game in the end zone, but said he didn't time up the route with fellow receiver Ron Dugans.
"It's the same thing, I'm double covered all game," Johnson said. "It's frustrating because I'm looking at the (Jacksonville) film, looking at them play everybody man-to-man, one on one. Then they play us and they use a double team."
The one obvious time Johnson did get singled up, he won a fight for the ball with cornerback Jason Craft down the middle of the field for their longest play of the day, a 44-yarder that came at a huge moment early in the second quarter. It was the first play after Jacksonville had taken a 14-3 lead.
Johnson won't be impressed next week against New Orleans when he gets his 1,000 yards. He remembers how he shuffled in and out of the lineup with the rest of the receivers for the first four games of the season.
"The average receiver coming out of college can get 1,000 yards," Johnson said. "1,500, 1,300, now you're talking. The merry-go-round with the receivers in and out at the beginning of the season really threw off my chances to get those type of numbers."