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Cincinnati clobbers Minnesota to go 2-0

Cincinnati's Deltha O'Neal celebrates after intercepting a pass by Minnesota's Daunte Culpepper.
Cincinnati's Deltha O'Neal celebrates after intercepting a pass by Minnesota's Daunte Culpepper.
Tom Uhlman, Associated Press

CINCINNATI — Chad Johnson went directly from talking to trashing the Vikings.

Johnson caught a 70-yard touchdown pass on the game's second play Sunday, and the Cincinnati Bengals had their way during a 37-8 victory over 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 threw 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 win 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, throwing those five interceptions — three to Deltha O'Neal. 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.

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-of-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.

Big mistake.

"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 consecutive game, the Vikings' offense couldn't get out of its own way. Culpepper had three interceptions and two fumbles in an 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. The Vikings couldn't even take advantage of franchise-record 17 penalties by the Bengals.

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.

STEELERS 27, TEXANS 7: At Houston, Ben Roethlisberger led Pittsburgh to scores on its first four drives — a pair of field goals sandwiched around touchdown passes of 16 and 14 yards to Hines Ward — and the Steelers cruised. Pittsburgh (2-0) won its 16th straight regular-season game, matching the Miami teams of 1971-73 and 1983-84 for the second-best streak in league history. The Steelers also won their eighth straight on the road, one shy of the team record set in 1974-75.

Willie Parker gained 111 yards on 25 carries with a touchdown for Pittsburgh.

In losing their home opener, the Texans (0-2) continued to look lost on offense, especially quarterback David Carr, who was 16-of-26 for 167 yards.

EAGLES 42, 49ERS 3: At Philadelphia, Donovan McNabb threw four of his five touchdown passes in the first 19 minutes, including a pair to Terrell Owens. McNabb played three quarters, finishing 23-of-29 for 342 yards and tying his career-best for TD passes. Owens had five catches for 143 yards — all in the opening 19 minutes — in his first game against his former team. L.J. Smith caught a career-best nine passes for 119 yards and one TD for Philadelphia (1-1). Former Ute Alex Smith, the top pick in the NFL draft, made his debut for San Francisco (1-1), playing the last series.

BUCCANEERS 19, BILLS 3: At Tampa, Fla., Carnell "Cadillac" Williams topped 100 yards rushing for the second straight week, returning from a foot sprain to finish a 128-yard performance that helped Tampa Bay (2-0) dominate Buffalo. J.P. Losman completed 12 of 29 passes for 113 yards in his first NFL road start for the Bills (1-1).

Willis McGahee was held to 34 yards rushing on 13 carries after gaining 117 in the Bills' 22-7 season-opening victory over Houston. Star receiver Eric Moulds had one catch for 8 yards as Tampa Bay's defense held the opposition without an offensive touchdown for the second game in a row.

TITANS 25, RAVENS 10: At Nashville, Tenn., Steve McNair threw a touchdown pass and Rob Bironas kicked field goals of 39, 29 and 47 yards as the NFL's youngest team beat Baltimore. The rebuilding Titans (1-1) had replaced five starters on defense this offseason, but they easily outplayed Baltimore's Pro Bowl-stocked unit with six sacks and two turnovers, including linebacker Brad Kassell's 21-yard interception return in the fourth quarter.

Kyle Vanden Bosch just missed a safety on his third sack of the game, but Rob Reynolds got it when he blocked Dave Zastudil's punt and tackled Will Demps in the end zone in the final minutes.

Anthony Wright started for Kyle Boller for Baltimore (0-2) and was 25-of-40 for 212 yards.

BEARS 38, LIONS 6: Chicago scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams to blow out Detroit at Soldier Field. After struggling to move the ball a week earlier, the Bears' Thomas Jones led Chicago with 139 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. Kyle Orton completed 14 of 21 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown, and did not throw an interception. Detroit's Joey Harrington threw a career-high five INTs, with Nate Vasher picking him off twice and Mike Brown returning one 41 yards for a touchdown. Brian Urlacher added two sacks. Bobby Wade returned a punt 73 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.

SEAHAWKS 21, FALCONS 18: At Seattle, the Seahawks (1-1) took a 21-0 halftime lead and barely held on. Shaun Alexander ran for 144 yards and a touchdown and Matt Hasselbeck threw for 281 yards and two more TDs. Still, it was the defense that won it for the Seahawks, shutting down the Falcons after Atlanta (1-1) got the ball back with 2:39 left at its 27 needing just a field goal to send the game to overtime.

JETS 17, DOLPHINS 7: At East Rutherford, N.J., Chad Pennington threw two touchdown passes, including a 1-yarder to Jerald Sowell in the fourth quarter, to help atone for six fumbles last week in an embarrassing loss to Kansas City. Gus Frerotte threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Randy McMichael at the start of the quarter, closing the Dolphins (1-1) to 10-7. On the ensuing drive, Pennington went 7-of-7 for 74 yards to give the Jets (1-1) the clinching TD.

RAMS 17, CARDINALS 12: At Tempe, Ariz., Kurt Warner fell a few yards shy of a memorable comeback against his former team. Warner, 29-for-42 for 327 yards in his first game against St. Louis (1-1), drove Arizona (0-2) to the 5-yard line in the final seconds. But a sack by Adam Archuleta and a false start by offensive tackle Leonard Davis preserved the Rams' victory.

Marc Bulger directed touchdown drives on St. Louis' first possession of each half.

BRONCOS 20, CHARGERS 17: At Denver, Jason Elam kicked a 41-yard field goal with 5 seconds left after Ron Dayne came off the bench and ran six times for 39 yards on the winning drive, including an 11-yard gain on fourth-and-1 from the Chargers 33. It saved the Broncos (1-1) from going 0-2 for the first time since 1999. Instead, it's San Diego (0-2) that remains winless despite leading 14-3 early and turning the sellout crowd at Invesco Field squarely against the home team.

BROWNS 26, PACKERS 24: At Green Bay, Wis., Trent Dilfer won for the first time in nine trips to Lambeau Field, giving new coach Romeo Crennel his first win for Cleveland (1-1). Dilfer threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to Braylon Edwards and a game-icing 62-yarder to Steve Heiden with 1:50 remaining. Brett Favre of Green Bay (0-2) broke John Elway's single-stadium NFL touchdown record of 180 on a 4-yard toss to Tony Fisher with 4 seconds left.