CINCINNATI — The Joker buffaloed Batman and Robin.
Steve Johnson, the third-year receiver out of Kentucky, caught a career-high three touchdown passes Sunday to rally the Buffalo Bills over the Cincinnati Bengals, 49-31.
All three of his scores came in Buffalo's 35-0 second half.
As if to add "POW! BAM!" to his first touchdown, Johnson lifted his jersey to reveal a message scrawled on his shirt: "Why so serious?"
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"It was just something fun," Johnson said. "They play the Batman and Robin thing, so I wanted to come in and have the persona of Joker, and just have fun with it."
Cincinnati's Batman — Terrell Owens — caught three passes for 63 yards and a touchdown.
Robin — Chad Ochocinco — had three grabs for 28 yards and a score.
While Joker was having fun, Batman was so serious about a crazy game.
"Crazy? What's crazy is the fact that we're just terrible," Owens said. "That's just plain and simple. When I say we, that's me included. Let me look you in the eyes and emphasize — we are terrible."
Johnson finished with eight catches for 137 yards. That's more yardage than he totaled in his first two seasons (112). His three scores — 28, 11 and 32 yards — are one more than in his first two seasons. This year, he has 52 catches for 728 yards and nine TDs.
Johnson said that he "always expected to play big in big games," but was otherwise very un-Batman-or-Robin-like in assessing his game.
"It definitely wasn't all me," he said. "It was the coaches, first of all, for calling those plays. ... Then it comes down to (quarterback Ryan) Fitzpatrick once again. He's putting the ball wherever he wants to."
Later, he credited his fellow receivers.
"I wasn't even playing last year, so defenses don't know who I am," Johnson said. "But they know who 83 is (Lee Evans), so it's easy for them to roll coverage over there and then leave me wide open."
Johnson's biggest gainer, for 36 yards, was mostly yards-after-catch.
"I don't know how he does it," Fitzpatrick said. "There were a couple of times where I threw him a 5-yard route and all of a sudden he just takes off. It's an ability that he has that no one can really put their finger on, and that's what makes him such a special player."
Carson Palmer passes of 2 yards to Ochocinco and 4 yards to Owens helped the Bengals to an early 14-7 lead.
The drive to Buffalo's TD (Fred Jackson's 7-yard run) was aided by two first downs via penalties, one of which wiped out an interception.
Early in the second quarter, Johnathan Joseph's pick set up a 1-yard TD run by Cedric Benson, who finished with 124 yards on 25 runs.
Just 49 seconds after Benson's score, Joseph stole another and danced 21 yards to the end zone for a 28-7 lead.
After that, Cincinnati, 2-8 and a loser of seven in a row, got only a field goal on the final play of the half.
That, a 19-yarder, was by newly signed Aaron Pettrey, the former Ohio State kicker out of Raceland. He went 4-for-4 on PATs, but was wide on a 43-yard field-goal attempt with 5:28 left, a kick that could have cut Buffalo's lead to eight points.
Fitzpatrick, a former Bengal, passed for 316 yards. Included was a 28-yard TD to Donald Jones late in the half.
On the first play of the second half, it was Johnson's turn from 28 yards.
Two plays later, Drayton Florence returned a Benson fumble 27 yards for a TD.
Johnson's 11-yard score, on a fade, put Buffalo up 35-31 with 14:13 left. "It was basically all Fitzpatrick," Johnson said. "I did probably one slow move off the line and just ran to the back of the end zone, and Fitz put it there."
By then, the Bengals had lost three-fourths of their secondary — Joseph (ankle), Chris Crocker (knee) and Roy Williams (concussion).
After a Bengals three-and-out, Johnson scored on a 32-yarder. This time, both safeties went with Evans, and cornerback Leon Hall fell. Johnson was wide open.
Jackson, who ran 21 times for 116 yards, added a 30-yard score with 1:52 left.
The Bills, after losing their first eight games, have won two in a row. They have beaten the Bengals 10 in a row.
A Paul Brown Stadium attendance of 55,654 ended a string of 57 sellouts and kept the game off of local TV. Few fans stayed until the end.
"As I mentioned earlier, we are terrible," Owens said. "I don't blame the fans for booing us. "