Stafford, Johnson on same page in Lions’ win

DETROIT (AP) For all the talk about Matthew Stafford and how quickly he would pick up a new system in Detroit, it was easy to forget one crucial factor.

He and Calvin Johnson are now in their sixth season together.

Talk about a comfort level.

”I think through the years and the number of reps those guys have had together, you do establish a pretty strong rapport,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. ”When you’re throwing the ball accurately and you have a guy that can run and get it and stretch and get it the way that Calvin can, it allows Matthew to put the ball in a position where it’s our ball and nobody else’s ball.

”Most of the time (Johnson) can get his hands on it in those situations. They do have great synergy.”

Stafford threw two early touchdown passes to Johnson on what looked like broken plays, and the Lions beat the New York Giants 35-14 on Monday night. Caldwell won his first game as Detroit’s coach, and Stafford threw for 346 yards.

Johnson had seven catches for 164 yards.

When the Lions collapsed down the stretch last year and missed the playoffs, Johnson wasn’t fully healthy. He looked fine against the Giants in Detroit’s first Monday night opener since 1971.

”There were some opportunities there where we had some single coverage, you know, but it wasn’t all the time,” Johnson said. ”But there were some opportunities. It’s the NFL, you get the best playing against the best, so you are going to get those opportunities.”

Here are a few things we learned from Detroit’s convincing win:

AVOIDING MISTAKES: The Lions committed too many penalties in the first half, but aside from that, it was a pretty clean performance. They didn’t have any turnovers after averaging more than two per game last season.

”I’m just trying to be as smart as I possibly can,” Stafford said. ”Our defense was playing outstanding. They were getting us the ball back and stopping New York.”

TROUBLE UP FRONT: New York’s injury-plagued offensive line was a concern coming into the game, and the Giants didn’t look confident. Even when they had first-and-goal from the 1 in the second quarter, they called three passes and only one run, finally scoring on Eli Manning’s 1-yard pass to Larry Donnell.

PASS DEFENSE: The Lions were supposed to be the team with the major concerns in the secondary, but the Giants let Johnson get behind them for the game’s first touchdown, a 67-yarder in the first quarter.

”I don’t know if it’s first-game jitters or guys trying to do too much,” safety Antrel Rolle said. ”It wasn’t enough fire out there. We didn’t lay down, but it wasn’t enough fire, so we need to pick up that aspect, also.”

Detroit’s secondary avoided any major problems even though safety James Ihedigbo was inactive and cornerback Bill Bentley went down with a knee injury.

RUNNING PROBLEMS: Neither team did anything noteworthy on the ground. The Giants averaged 2.4 yards per carry, and Detroit had 2.5. Reggie Bush of the Lions managed only 15 yards on nine carries.

PASS RUSH: Detroit had some success pressuring Manning – thanks in part to an unfamiliar name. Defensive end George Johnson, who hadn’t played in an NFL game since 2012 and had never had a sack, contributed 1 1/2 sacks against the Giants.

”They have a good front four. They brought some pressure with the linebackers a few times, but we knew we weren’t going to be able to sit back there all day and hold it and do a lot of seven-step drops,” Manning said. ”We were going to have to get the ball out quick. When we get the ball out quick, we have to find completions and hit the guys in stride and get them better down and distance.”

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL