CINCINNATI (Sept. 18, 2005) -- Chad Johnson went directly from talking to trashing the Vikings.
Johnson caught a 70-yard touchdown pass on the game's second play, and the Cincinnati Bengals had their way during a 37-8 victory against Minnesota that made a statement and raised a question.
Yes, the 2-0 Bengals think they're for real.
"It's right there in front of us," said Johnson, who had seven catches for 139 yards. "This year we can do something special."
And the 0-2 Vikings? Are they really this bad? So far, yes.
"We have a veteran group with a lot of pride, and we're embarrassed with the way we're playing," said Daunte Culpepper, who suffered a career-high five interceptions. "I'm determined to fix it. One thing we've got to do is stay together."
And ignore the talk.
Johnson got his mouth going during pregame introductions, talking a little friendly trash to Vikings cornerback Fred Smoot. The receiver had challenged him during the week to show what he's got.
The Bengals had it all over the Vikings, rolling up 337 yards and a 27-0 lead in the first half. Johnson topped 100 yards receiving before halftime, setting the tone for Cincinnati's most lopsided victory in three years.
It was so convincing that coach Marvin Lewis warned his players not to get carried away.
"I've already warned our guys: Don't let them make you over-exuberant," Lewis said.
By contrast, Culpepper had a miserable time. The Vikings turned the ball over seven times in all and didn't get closer than the Bengals' 49-yard line in the first half. Deltha O'Neal had three of the interceptions.
By that point, Johnson didn't need to say anything else. The numbers said it all.
Carson Palmer completed his first nine passes against a dazed defense. Palmer went 27-for-40 for 337 yards overall with touchdown passes to three different receivers. The one to Johnson set the tone.
He was yapping before the coin toss, sauntering toward the Vikings bench to yell at Smoot. The cornerback yelled back and made a "bring-it-on" arm wave.
Fifty-two seconds into the game, Johnson was in the end zone.
The Vikings were slow getting defensive substitutions onto the field for the second play, and looked confused as the coverage was called. Smoot lined up in the slot against T.J. Houshmandzadeh, leaving Johnson covered along the sideline by Antoine Winfield.
"It was a breakdown," Smoot said. "You can't start a game off like that. There's no excuse. We've got to stop sugarcoating things. Everybody's got to get better."
Johnson flew past Winfield and took Palmer's long pass in stride over the shoulder for a 70-yard touchdown play that left the Vikings on their heels.
"It opens up the passing game," Palmer said. "When a guy gets open that early, it definitely puts fear into their hearts."
The Vikings sank a lot of money into their defense in the offseason, bringing in Smoot, safety Darren Sharper and lineman Pat Williams. They were helpless in the decisive first half -- the Bengals didn't even have to punt.
Sharper and Winfield were on the bench with injuries while the Bengals closed it out in the fourth quarter.
For the second successive game, the Vikings offense couldn't get out of its own way. Culpepper had three interceptions and two fumbles in a season-opening 24-13 loss to Tampa Bay, and repeatedly forced passes against the Bengals -- one of O'Neal's interceptions was in the end zone.
The Vikings offense set numerous franchise records last season with Randy Moss, and hasn't been the same without him, scoring only one touchdown in two games. Minnesota couldn't even take advantage of Cincinnati's franchise-record 17 penalties.
When it ended, Johnson sought out Smoot and gave him a warm embrace.
Talking in his ear the whole time, of course.
"It's love, man," Johnson said. "It's the love of playing the game with the same passion as you. We had fun out there."
Well, one of them did.
"Yeah, I'm embarrassed," Smoot said.
- The Vikings had no immediate assessment of several injured players. WR Nate Burleson (knee), Sharper (knee) and Winfield (foot) left the game. * It was Palmer's second-best passing day in two seasons and his third 300-yard passing game. * The last time Cincinnati had seven takeaways was Nov. 6, 1983, at Houston. * Lewis angrily shoved safety Reggie Myles aside after he got a penalty for a head-butt on a punt coverage. * First-round pick David Pollack lined up offside twice, negating two other Vikings fumbles.
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