Stafford-to-Johnson shut down in Week 1
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Calvin Johnson was cloaked all game by the San Diego Chargers, whose game plan included trying to shut down the superstar with multiple defenders.
It worked and the Lions paid the price.
Johnson had a career-low two receptions in a season-opening game, catching half of the four footballs thrown his way, and finished with just 39 yards receiving in a loss at San Diego.
"It felt like a light day for the lack of plays that we had more so than anything," he said Wednesday.
Detroit had just 47 snaps — much fewer than San Diego’s 74 — as it blew a 21-3 lead in the second quarter in a 33-28 setback.
If there is a bit of good news for Johnson and the Lions (0-1) going into Sunday’s game at Minnesota (0-1), perhaps it is that Johnson feels fresh physically.
"I didn’t take hardly any punishment," he said.
Matthew Stafford, meanwhile, shouldered some blame for failing to get Johnson the ball more.
"Everybody’s got answers for everything," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said.
Stafford said he gets it.
"Anytime you lose a game, you’re going to get questions about why you lost and a guy like that only has two catches," he said. "Totally understand it."
Johnson and Stafford have shown what is possible, despite double-teaming coverage, in their six-plus seasons together that include two postseason appearances.
In 2012, Johnson set an NFL single-season record with 1,964 yards receiving and had a league-high 122 receptions. The three-time All-Pro also had an NFL-high 1,681 yards receiving in 2011.
"You have a great player like that you want to give him the ball as much as you can, there’s no question," Stafford said. "Have I been guilty in my career of throwing it to him when some other guys in this league may not of? Yeah. But, I trust in him and understand that. But, at the same time we have a lot of play makers."
Johnson’s surrounding cast includes receiver Golden Tate, who had career highs with 99 receptions and 1,331 yards receiving last year; second-year tight end Eric Ebron, who matched a personal best with four receptions at San Diego; and dual-threat running backs Ameer Abdullah and Joique Bell.
"It makes my job easier," Stafford said.
Stafford’s tasks were made more difficult against the Chargers because he appeared to hurt his throwing arm. He was able to participate in all of Wednesday’s practice with what the team labeled a right-upper arm injury, which Johnson noticed during the game.
"You could see little grimaces and stuff like that, but he’s fine," Johnson said. "He’s fought through worse things in his career, so I have no doubt that he’ll be ready to go."
Stafford’s arm was covered by a protective sleeve on Wednesday, but he didn’t sound concerned about the ailment.
"I feel good," Stafford said. "I’m ready to go."
If Johnson goes long stretches of a game without getting targeted, he plans to stay cool and collected while he communicates on the sideline with teammates and coaches.
"I’m not going to be over there to berating them on the sideline or anything like that," he said.
Notes: Lions LB DeAndre Levy (hip), DT Haloti Ngata (shoulder), TE Brandon Pettigrew (hamstring) and Slay (quadriceps) did not practice and CB Darius Slay (ankle) was limited, walking off the field after doing some drills while reporters had access Wednesday. As usual, Caldwell was not forthcoming about his banged-up players. "I’m trying not to sound like Marshawn Lynch," he joked as he left his news conference.