Johnson played like the big man on campus Sunday, only to have the Atlanta Falcons rain on his homecoming parade in the final seconds.
"It's hard when you put so much work in like we did but don't finish," Johnson said. "It was very disappointing. We did some good things out there."
Johnson set a single-game franchise record with 3.5 sacks, half of the team's record-tying seven sacks. But when Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan heaved a pass deep to Roddy White in the final minute to set up the game-winning field goal, Johnson was reduced to a spectator with a really poor seat.
"I got close to him, but I didn't get close enough. He got rid of the ball," Johnson said. "I didn't see anything. I just heard the crowd. When I got up, I was in disbelief. I couldn't believe it happened."
Johnson, who won a high school state championship in the Georgia Dome, was unbelievable all day. In addition to his sack total, he led the team with eight tackles and batted down a pass.
"Every time I play in the Dome, I feel at home," Johnson said. "I feel comfortable. It's like going back to my high school days."
Johnson, the Panthers' sack leader each of the previous two seasons, got plenty of help from fellow defensive linemen. Rookie end
"We just wanted to come out and make sure we got pressure on him," Johnson said. "He can stutter back there when you hit him. We did that today, but we didn't do it enough to get the win."
Seven sacks typically is more than enough when the offense produces 28 points, but the Panthers could have used one on the Falcons' final drive.
And after falling to 1-3, they'll certainly need more of the same from Johnson and Co. going forward.
"Those guys played hard and did the things we needed them to do," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. "You better believe we are going to build on that."