It probably would be more appropriate to label Greatest Moment No. 5 as Greatesto Momento Numero Cinco, in honor of the player who caused it.Rewind to January 2006. The Bengals are making a rare appearance in the playoffs. They’re hosting the Steelers, whom the home team had beaten a month before in Pittsburgh.
On their first offensive play, quarterback Carson Palmer takes a low hit from defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen. Palmer’s ACL explodes like a battered pinata. (On the same play, Palmer connects on a long pass with receiver Chris Henry, who exits with a knee injury of his own.)
Led by backup quarterback Jon Kitna, the Bengals actually have the lead at halftime against their arch-rivals.
Enter Chad Johnson.
Not satisfied that the Bengals having scored more points than the Steelers through two quarters, Johnson is concerned about the lack of balls thrown his way.
So he comes unglued at halftime.
The details still aren’t completely clear, which isn’t all that uncommon for an incident that unfolded in chaos. Johnson was in the training room, getting an IV. A helmet abruptly smashed against the door, startling the players in the locker room.
As we heard it initially, Johnson at one point had receivers coach Hue Jackson in a headlock, and later took a swing at head coach Marvin Lewis. The accounts have differed. Earlier this year, former Bengals defensive tackle Shaun Smith said that Johnson had punched Lewis, and that Lewis had a mark near his eye after the game.
The incident left the team rattled, forcing some of the players to wonder what in the heck had just happened at a time when they should have been focused on holding their lead over the Steelers.
They couldn’t. And there’s a fifth Super Bowl trophy on display at Heinz Field to prove it.
On January 9, 2006, we reported on Johnson’s halftime escapades.  The denials were swift, and unequivocal.  The team said that it won’t comment on rumors.  Johnson even held a press conference to proclaim that nothing happened.  The Cincinnati media, which at the time was still under the impression that Ocho Cinco wasn’t a Grande Turdo, accepted his version as gospel.
“That sounds like drama,” Johnson said.  “At halftime, I was getting an IV.  Nothing happened.”
But then others began to corroborate our report, including guys like Dave Lapham and Jay Glazer and Boomer Esiason and Mark Curnutte.
Eventually, Johnson acknowledged that something happened, even though he still denied headlocks or swinging fists. (Most recently, Johnson admitted that Lewis at one point had to restrain Johnson.)
But the point is that Johnson created an unwanted distraction at the worst possible time, and his selfishness helped keep the Bengals from capitalizing on their only trip to the postseason tournament since Esiason led the franchise to a Super Bowl twenty years ago.
In hindsight, the moment marked the beginning of the unraveling of Johnson’s image in Cincinnati.  The media has figured out his game, and plenty of fans have turned on him.  He’s now regarded by many as more cartoon character than football player.  Sure, he still has skills.  But his me-first/me-only approach makes him undesirable and unreliable as a teammate.
Though plenty of Bengals players knew this before January 2006, the reality began to seep out to the rest of us only after Johnson decided to worry only about himself at a time when his team needed him the most.


  1. As much as people like to whine about Kimo’s hit on Palmer, is it possible their performance in that game was altered more by the dysfunction than by the injury to their starting QB?

  2. The Cincy media, and it seems like most of the city, were only willing to blame the playoff loss on one person: Kimo von Oelhoffen. By the time the Johnson story broke, they already had their man — and it’s much easier to blame Kimo than to have to accept any responsibility for other events that might have contributed to the Bengals second half meltdown in that game. It’s part of the mentality that has kept the team down over the years.
    It’s a shame, really. Granted, that team was different with Kitna at QB as opposed to Palmer, but the Cincy offense with Kitna at the helm still pretty much shredded the Steelers defense in the first half. The second half was a different story. We’ll never know how much of an affect Johnson’s shenanigans had, but it certainly seemed like a different team walked out on that field after halftime.

  3. kitna had them up 17-14 at half, without using chadley very much. then the halftime antics. then the steelers took over.
    chad lost them that game.

  4. No we knew we had no shot after Palmer was gone. Kitna is going to take us to the title? I dont think so… Chad definitely didnt help, but without him we would have never been there to begin with so there!

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