It was the only time
After scoring a 40-yard touchdown on a beautiful double-move on Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam Jones, Johnson paused before leaping into the arms of fans behind the end zone at Reliant Stadium.
“I really wasn’t going to jump into the stands because I knew the people weren’t going to let me down,” Johnson said. “I have jumped into the stands a few times here and I have been grabbed by the facemask and everything.”
The moment was a big relief for Johnson, the longest-tenured member of the team who struggled through hamstring injuries the majority of the regular season. He was antsy to make a play all game, and the reception eased his mind.
It also helped lift his team to a 31-10 playoff win.
“It means everything,” defensive end
Texans owner Bob McNair applauded the play.
“It was wonderful,” he said. “I think he was so excited. I think he was on edge a little early on because he has been waiting for this day for a long time. It was a tremendous catch.”
In his Hall of Fame career, Johnson had only one glaring omission before Saturday: a playoff resume. He was the Houston Texans’ first-round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft, and he never thought it would take until 2012 to play in his first postseason game. He wanted to make the most of it.
He finished with a game-high 90 receiving yards on five catches (18.0 avg.) with the score.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said of the win. “This is something that not just me but the whole organization has been waiting for. Especially for me, because I said the day that I was drafted that this was something that I wanted to be a part of. It’s a very special feeling. It’s probably the most I have smiled in a long time.”
Johnson’s big play helped extend the Texans’ lead to 24-10 with 1:18 left in the third quarter. From there, the team never looked back.
Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko felt the impact of Johnson’s catch.
“He’s a hell of a player,” Peko said of Johnson. “He made some good catches today. He’s one of the best receivers in the league, so you’ve got to respect him. He did a great job today on that long touchdown pass, and they made more plays than us.”
After the Texans beat the Bengals Week 14 to clinch the AFC South title, coach Gary Kubiak gave a game ball to Johnson, who missed the game after injuring his hamstring a week earlier against Atlanta. The gesture was symbolic of Johnson’s stature on the team.
Kubiak was happy to have Johnson on the field this time around.
“Just having him back on the field, we do get played a little bit different, so we had an adjustment period there,” Kubiak said. “He makes the huge play on the double-move there in the third quarter. I know one thing, for me personally and I know anyone else in this organization, when he’s got that uniform on it sure feels good. It was great to have him back today.”
Johnson and the Texans venture further into uncharted waters next Sunday in a Divisional Playoff game at the Baltimore Ravens. In Week 6, the Texans lost 29-14 at M&T Bank Stadium, but that was without Johnson.
Now that he’s back, the circumstances are much different.
“I feel confident that we can play with anybody,” Johnson said.