CINCINNATI — The boos grew louder and louder from the home fans as the first quarter went on. When Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton threw his first interception of the day to Joe Haden, they were strong. When Haden picked Dalton off a second time and returned it for a touchdown and a 13-0 Cleveland lead, they were harmonious in their displeasure at Paul Brown Stadium.
And that made Michael Johnson mad.
The Bengals defensive end wasn’t pleased at the reaction of the fans because it’s not the reaction the rest of the team had. It’s not the belief the team has in Dalton and itself.
“I don’t want our home crowd booing our offense no more,” said Johnson after the Bengals put aside the early deficit and beat the Browns 41-20. “Make sure they see that. Don’t do that. Stick with us. Or go home. Straight up. Because we haven’t quit believing so we don’t need anyone in the stadium to not believe. If you not believing in being positive, leave. We don’t need you because that’s what we’re about here: staying focused and staying positive and keeping that energy going.
“Negativity breeds negativity. We don’t do that around here.”
Sunday’s game was the third straight time the Bengals fell behind by double digits. They trailed at Miami 17-3 in the second half and at Baltimore 17-0 at halftime before coming back. While they eventually lost both games in overtime, there has been no denying the team’s ability and mental toughness to make comebacks.
Dalton rebounded from the two interceptions in the first quarter to throw three touchdown passes. He finished with just 93 yards passing — the first time in his career he’s been held to less than 100 yards in a full game — and the offense was held to a season-low 224 yards but it took enough advantage of the favorable field position it was provided all game by the defense and special teams to do its job.
“There was so much game left, you can’t get down at that point,” said Dalton. “It’s kind of how I’ve been and how I am. I try not to get too high or too low with whatever’s going on in the game. We didn’t let it affect us.”
Dalton was named AFC Player of the Month in October but in his last three games he’s completed less than 53 percent of his passes with eight interceptions and five touchdowns.
Hence, the fans voiced their displeasure and anxieties.
“It was just one quarter,” said Johnson. “If you play hard play in and play out, eventually something good will happen. That’s what we try to permeate among the sideline. We’re always trying to keep the energy up and keep everybody focused and positive and believing. That’s the main thing. If everybody keeps the same mindset, it’s amazing what we can do. Don’t let guys get down. Stay up. What are you going to do if something good happens? What are you going to do if something bad happens?
“That goes back to high school. That’s the type of approach we try to take and we’ll see how far it takes us.”