for this game

Johnson's game speaks volumes as Bengals roll past Saints

Nov 19, 2006 - 9:31 PM NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- Two weeks after complaining about not getting the ball, Chad Johnson is rewarding the Cincinnati Bengals for calling his number.

Johnson matched a career high with three touchdown catches to spark the Bengals to a 31-16 triumph over the New Orleans Saints in an interconference contest.

Drew Brees threw for a franchise-record 510 yards and two touchdowns for the Saints, but was also intercepted three times.

Following a 26-20 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on November 5, the brash Johnson voiced his frustration with the offense, referring to himself as little more than a "nice hood ornament."

But the controversial wide receiver has been the engine to the Bengals' offense over the last two weeks, hauling in 17 receptions for 450 yards and five TDs.

"It's good to see Chad back and that other 85 character went somewhere else," Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis said. "So that's good. Obviously, it feels good to win. What we've done over the last two to three weeks ultimately paid off today."

Battling an injured hamstring, Johnson once again carried the Bengals (5-5), who visit in-state rival Cleveland (3-7) next week before hosting AFC North Division leader Baltimore (8-2) on November 30.

"This was a necessary victory," he said. "We've got to get back to it next week. It ain't gonna get any easier. We're going to Cleveland, going to the Dawg Pound."

Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer agreed with his favorite target, emphasizing the importance of his team's second win in its last seven games.

"It's been tough losing five of the last six," Palmer said. "We stuck together and kept working. Our practices were the same as when we were 3-0. We understand that we were underachieving and hadn't put a good game together. But we came out today and did that."

With the score tied, 10-10, early in the fourth quarter Sunday, Johnson delivered the first of two knockout blows, catching a perfectly thrown pass from Palmer and racing down the left sideline for a 60-yard TD.

"They had a good defense called," said Palmer, who scrambled to his left before lofting a pass against his momentum. "We got lucky. With Chad running, I just had to put enough air under the ball to get it to him. It wasn't like he was covered and I had to make a perfect throw."

"It was a broken play," Johnson added. "Carson scrambled out of the pocket. Nobody was back there with me. I just put my hand up and he saw me."

It was the second score of the game for Johnson, who also hauled in a four-yard TD reception with 7:37 remaining to give Cincinnati a 24-10 lead.

The Bengals sealed the victory four plays later, when rookie safety Ethan Kilmer intercepted Brees and returned it 52 yards for his first career TD, pushing the advantage to 31-10.

"I have to give credit to our defensive line for putting pressure on the QB," Kilmer said. "I did my part and came up with the interception."

"(Kilmer) will keep growing up and getting better," Lewis added. "It's great when your hard work pays off and you make a big play like that in a big game. He'll never forget that, and neither will I."

Johnson finished with six receptions for 190 yards while Palmer went 14-of-22 for 275 yards and an interception. Rudi Johnson ran for 111 yards on 27 carries for Cincinnati, which forced four turnovers despite yielding 595 total yards.

"They threw us the ball and we caught the ball," Lewis said. "The yardage doesn't really matter when you have a lead like that. They're going to throw the ball; a lot of verticals and they checked the ball down."

Brees completed 37-of-52 passes and shattered his previous career best of 398 yards set in last week's 38-31 loss at Pittsburgh.

"We just need to evaluate where we're at and just look at the fact that we can move the ball at will," said Brees, who also shattered Aaron Brooks' franchise record of 441 passing yards. "Any time, any place we can move the ball through the air or on the ground, whatever it takes."

Devery Henderson had nine receptions for 169 yards for the Saints (6-4), who have lost three of their last four.

"I told the team that the only thing that we can do now is go back to work this week," New Orleans coach Sean Payton said. "It was a tough loss, our second in a row now. We have to get this seventh win."

"When it really comes down to it, you have to take care of the football," Brees added. "You have to convert on third down, which we've been very good at for the last three weeks and really the whole season."

The Saints may have to press on without leading receiver Marques Colston, who suffered a sprained ankle in the first quarter and missed the remainder of the contest. The 6-4 rookie entered the contest leading the NFL with 869 receiving yards and seven touchdown catches.

"You have to move on when a player is injured," said Payton, who would not disclose Colston's status for next week's contest at division rival Atlanta. "They had players on their team that were also hurt. That's just the way it is, and you have to deal with it."

Brees was not as optimistic about the loss of his favorite target.

"Of course it hurts because obviously Marques is a huge part of what we do," Brees said. "He's having a great season."

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