Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Cincinnati Bengals [Print without images]

Friday, November 22, 2013
Morning Stripes: Johnson the deflector

By Coley Harvey

Michael Johnson's two long limbs are among the many reasons the Cincinnati Bengals have seven wins and hold a 2 1/2-game lead over the rest of the AFC North.

If it weren't for the 6-foot-7 defensive end's lengthy arms -- particularly his left one -- and his large hands, the Bengals may not have beat the Green Bay Packers. A comeback against the Cleveland Browns, likewise, may not have been possible.

In those games, Johnson got his hands up just when he saw Aaron Rodgers' and Jason Campbell's eyes drifting to the left as they looked to complete a pass. He got his hands on passes three times in those games.

"That's why it looks like that," Johnson said earlier this week, showing reporters his swollen and bruised left hand.

Against the Packers in Week 3, Johnson's pass breakup on fourth down fell to the turf, officially ending a Green Bay comeback bid in the closing minute. Cincinnati held on for a 34-30 win. Against the Browns last weekend, one first-quarter Johnson pass deflection near the goal line saved a would-be touchdown. Campbell was throwing to a receiver who had gotten completely open. Instead, the third-down breakup forced a field goal. Later in the quarter, another ball Johnson finger-tipped fluttered into linebacker James Harrison's hands, giving the Bengals an interception and turnover deep in Cleveland territory. After scoring on the ensuing drive, Cincinnati turned a 13-0 deficit into a 31-13 lead by halftime.

Johnson has six pass breakups in all this season, tied with Philadelphia's Connor Barwin for the league lead. As we kick off this Friday edition of the Morning Stripes, we look a little deeper at what makes Johnson so good at disrupting passing lanes with his long arms: