11-13-02, 1:40 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Wide receiver Chad Johnson is not only emerging as the Bengals' go-to-receiver, but also as the go-to-guy for the media. For the second time in three weeks Wednesday, Johnson guaranteed a win Sunday for the team with the wost record in the NFL.
"It has nothing to do with Cleveland at all," Johnson said before practice, clarifying that no disrespect is intended for the Browns. "They just happen to be the team we're playing. We're going to win.
"I'm guaranteeing because we look good at what we're doing," Johnson said. "I don't think there are too many teams that can stop us. There are no teams that can stop us right now when we're clicking and everything is going right, we look good."
The last time Johnson pulled a Joe Willie Namath came two weeks ago when he backed up head coach Dick LeBeau's guarantee against the Texans and it produced the team's
only win, 38-3 in Houston Nov. 3. Asked if guaranteeing victories is dangerous, Johnson said, "Whatever. Right now I'll do whatever to get our fans hyped up right behind us, get our players hyped up. Man, we're going to win."
The Bengals are 1-8, but have been emboldened by the play of quarterback Jon Kitna despite his three interceptions in last week's 38-27 loss in Baltimore.
In his five starts, the Bengals have gone from averaging 5.8 points per game to 23.4 and are now averaging 364 total yards with him as the starter, up from 230 in the first four games.
Kitna has taken Johnson along for the ride. Since Kitna became the starter, Johnson has caught at least six balls or scored a touchdown in becoming the Bengals leader with 34 catches and 458 yards.
In Baltimore, Johnson had a career-high seven catches for 110 yards for his first 100-yard game ever and the team's first of the season.
When the Browns beat the Bengals in the second game of this season, 20-7, Johnson caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from Gus Frerotte and finished with four catches for 58 yards. In last year's Bengals' victory over Cleveland at Paul Brown Stadium, he had his best day as a rookie with five catches for 68 yards before breaking his left clavicle on a diving third-down catch.
"We wouldn't be 1-8," said Johnson if the same offense had been intact at the start of the season. "We're not winning, but we're there. If (Kitna) started the season and he had those four or five other games under his belt already. . .we wouldn't be no 1-8."