"Yeah, maybe not," Johnson said.
|Andre Johnson turns it up after one of his 41 October catches. (Getty Images)|
He owned the month of October, catching 41 passes in four games, the second-highest total for the month since the AFL-NFL merger in NFL history. Buffalo's Eric Moulds has the record with 41 catches in 2000, but he did it in five games.
I would say that makes Johnson Mr. October.
Just don't try and get him to say it.
Johnson's play is loud on the field, but quiet off it. He went to University of Miami, but unlike the many brash, brazen players from that school, Johnson seems more Harvard than one of the "U" guys.
"I've been asked a lot of times how I went to the U when I'm a quiet guy," Johnson said. "I'm just not a loud guy."
His numbers do the screaming for him. And their message is this:
I'm the best receiver in the NFL right now.
Johnson leads the NFL with 56 catches and 772 yards. Not bad after a slow start that saw him catch 15 passes the first three games and drop two sure touchdown passes against the Tennessee Titans.
It was after that loss that Johnson had a talk with himself, one that keyed his October success.
"I told myself that if I wanted to be one of the elite receivers to play this game I would have to do a lot better than that," Johnson said. "It was a time for me to look at myself."
Now he can become an NFL record holder. He has three consecutive games of at least 10 catches and 130 yards. If he reaches those totals again, he will have the record for consecutive games with 130-plus yards and 10-plus receptions.
"To be honest, I don't pay much attention to that stuff," Johnson said. "The media brings it up. That's the way I find it out."
That's a big change from most receivers who seem like they'd rather have 10 catches and lose than two and win.
"The month that he's had has been extremely special," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said.
The talent has always been there. Since being the Texans' first-round pick, third overall, in 2003, Johnson has caught 60 passes or more in each season. At 6-3, 225, he's a big, strong receiver who also has good speed.
He can create problems for smaller defensive backs in man coverage. But over the years, the Texans have had problems getting him singled up, protecting the quarterback and finding viable weapons opposite him. This season, they've taken to moving him around, lining him up all over the field to take advantage of his size and speed and attempt to get single coverage.
"I'm not in the same spot much two plays in a row," Johnson said. "They move me around."
Said Kubiak: "People are trying to do some things to take him away but we're really moving him around. He's responded to that. He responds to the mental pressure we put on him to get him open."
Kubiak went so far as to mention Jerry Rice this week when asked about Johnson. He didn't say he was in that class -- who is? -- but he did mention the name. That's high praise in itself.
"It does feel good to hear it, but I can't get big-headed," Johnson said. "I want to be one of the best receivers who ever played."
Johnson's rapport with second-year Texans quarterback Matt Schaub is growing every week. In 2007, they got off to a good start in Schaub's first season with the team, but then they both had injuries. Johnson missed seven games with a knee injury last season, which is why he had a career-low 60 catches. He had offseason surgery, which slowed his work.
The two started slowly the first couple of games, but after Schaub missed a game Oct. 5 with a stomach virus, they've been on fire. In three of his past four games, Schaub has a passer rating of 119.5 or higher.
Last Sunday, in the Texans' 35-6 victory over the Bengals, Schaub was 24 of 28 for 280 yards and three scores for a 144.0 rating. Johnson had 11 catches for 143 yards, but no scores. Johnson has only two touchdown catches, which is the only blip on his 2008 resume.
"You know Andre and I, we demand perfection," Schaub said. "And every time we try to complete a pass, we expect it to be complete. You know he's a tremendous receiver and a tremendous player."
Just don't ask Johnson to say that. I tried several different angles to get him to talk up his skills, but he had none of it. The only sign of it came when I asked if he would take himself at receiver first if he were starting a team.
"Of course I would," Johnson said. But... "I respect a lot of other guys out there, too."
Guess what, Andre? They have to respect you, too.
Mr. October is about to show the NFL that his success isn't just limited to one month.