BENGALS GAMEDAY: Photos, analysis, video highlights, stats* * *
Posted: 6:30 a.m.
If Sunday's 31-16 win over New Orleans belonged to anybody, it was running back Rudi Johnson and an offensive line that had three starters missing and three starters making a single-digit start in the NFL with center Eric Ghiaciuc, left tackle Andrew Whitworth, and right guard Stacy Andrews making his first one.
"Our backs were against the wall and we came out swinging from the jump," said Johnson after he jabbed out 111 yards on 27 carries, and killed the clock with a brilliant first-down run late in the game on third-and-nine that quarterback Carson Palmer said, "I have to watch the film on that one again. He got (10) yards when it looked like a negative run."
Told that Chad Johnson had set an NFL record for most receiving yards in consecutive games, Pro Bowl right tackle Willie Anderson said, "It all started because we pounded No. 32. He's the centerpiece of this offense."
Johnson racked up his third 100-yard day of the season and 16th of his career, moving him to within one game of James Brooks' 17 that is second on the Bengals all-time list behind Corey Dillon's 28.
For the first time since they won the opener, the Bengals ran it (31) more than they passed it (22).
"That's how we got all the big plays today; off play-action," Johnson said. "We had a great game plan with the play-action and Carson did the fakes great."
Johnson is 174 yards from his third straight 1,000-yard season, although he's behind the pace for his goal of 1,500 yards with 1,320.
"Keep pounding. Keep pounding. Big guys took over and they got tired," Anderson said. "Thirty-two, he gets nasty. The great thing about having a back like Rudi is the defense always knows he's going to keep coming. Even with the weight loss, he keeps coming."
That 10-yard grinder put him over 100. Johnson said he didn't know.
"I knew I was close," he said. "The thing about that run, is finish strong. I wanted to finish strong."
The Bengals' bus back to the airport was parked on the other side of the field, so with Palmer and Johnson the last two Bengals to leave the locker room someone asked Palmer if he wanted a ride over.
"Let's wait for Rudi," Palmer said, but Johnson said take the ride.
He walked for another strong finish.
"It didn't bother me at all," Andrews said, making his first start in place of the appendix-less Bobbie Williams. "I didn't have any problem hearing at all. I just passed it down the line and to my man Willie."
Anderson said he tried not to smother him.
"I talked to him, but sometimes veterans can transfer their pressure to young guys," Anderson said. "I talked to him, but as much as I talked to Bobbie. I didn't want to do anything different. The guy did great. Pound-for-pound he's probably the best athlete on the team. He did exactly what they drafted him to do."
Not a bad debut. Working against Brian Young, second among NFL tackles with 4.5 sacks on a highly-regarded line, Andrews kept him away from the quarterback as Johnson averaged 4.1 yards per carry.
"He was amazing," Anderson said. "This is one of the toughest arenas in the NFL to play in. For a guy to come in and step in like that was impressive. Stacy came in and he did a great job in pass blocking. He gave the guy in the three technique trouble. Athletically, there is nobody in this team that has the abilities that Stacy has. He played a great game today."
"We were kind of settling for some games they were running and I looked for them to do something else," Whitworth said. "And they ended up just straight rushing ... he got a great jump off the ball. I just wanted to be able to recover after that. Once it's one-on-one and I had an idea what he's going to try to do, it was over with."
Whitworth said the noise surprised him a bit, saying it was right below the din of the national championship game the Tigers won in there a few years ago.
Then he was.
"They just got through saying it," Palmer said. "It's something you just can't let happen. I'm sure that's what (Manning) is saying."
Palmer, of course, knew the feeling Sunday. He had thrown eight red-zone TDs this season without getting picked until linebacker Mark Simoneau bolted in front of wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh in the end zone on a play from the Saints 15 in the middle of the third quarter.
"Never saw him," Palmer said of the backer.
But his numbers didn't take much of a hit. He's on pace for 29 touchdowns, only three off last season's Bengals record he set, and 11 interceptions, one fewer than last year. His 8.1 yards per attempt is longer by half a yard than last season, and he's on pace for the first 4,000-yard season in club history.
So much for rehab.