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In his biggest game, Calvin Johnson was huge

Lions Saints Football AP

There’s a tendency in the playoffs to praise great clutch performances only if they come from players on the winning team. But the reality is that sometimes great players turn in great games in defeat, and there are few better examples than the great game turned in by Calvin Johnson in New Orleans on Saturday night.

Appearing in the playoffs for the first time, Johnson caught 12 passes for 211 yards (the most ever for a player making his playoff debut) and two touchdowns. If all you saw were those numbers, you’d assume that Matthew Stafford was exploiting single coverage and finding Johnson open repeatedly, but anyone who watched the game knows that it was just the opposite: The Saints’ primary objective on defense was to keep Johnson from getting open in the secondary, and the Saints’ defensive backs actually did a pretty good job of sticking with Johnson.

It’s just that it didn’t matter: Stafford would throw to Johnson even when he was covered, and Johnson would catch the ball anyway. Johnson’s big day wasn’t an example of a poor game plan or poor execution from the Saints’ defense, it was just an example of a phenomenal player stepping up in a big game.

After the game, Johnson was sanguine about the Lions’ loss.

“We did make the playoffs this year and that’s a great accomplishment,” Johnson said. “We have some things to work on and we will. We know what we have to do to make the next step.”

The Lions finished the season 0-6 against NFC playoff teams, so it’s clear that Johnson is right: They do have things they need to work on if they want to take the next step. But for Detroit, it’s good to know they have one great player who’s capable of playing great playoff football.

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61 Responses to “In his biggest game, Calvin Johnson was huge”
  1. birdbrainsnj says: Jan 8, 2012 11:56 AM

    If they can stay healthy I believe we’ll be seeing a dominant Detroit team for a long time. They’re so young it can only get better.

  2. corytrevor says: Jan 8, 2012 11:57 AM

    Johnson is good Stafford isn’t.

  3. phillysports25 says: Jan 8, 2012 11:57 AM

    Megatron is a top receiver in the league. The Lions are a very young team and will keep improving, so long as they don’t make stupid penalties and get a better defense. I hope Calvin Johnson can get a ring before he retires, are very rare talent, and has help rebuild the Lions organization.

  4. firstand4ever says: Jan 8, 2012 11:59 AM

    The scary thing about Megatron is that he can actually get better. He expanded his route tree the past two seasons. You have him in the peak of his prime and pound for pound, there is not a more physically gifted player than Johnson.

  5. bick54 says: Jan 8, 2012 11:59 AM

    Maybe the most dominating guy at his position I’ve ever seen.

    The Lions could start with getting some guys on defense who can actually make a tackle if they want to go anywhere in the playoffs.

  6. tubad4ya says: Jan 8, 2012 12:00 PM

    This Saints fan gives Calvin Johnson all the credit he deserves for his big numbers last night. I don’t know of any receiver in the NFL which is so difficult to cover. The guy just plays like a men amongst boys, and there’s no escaping that fact. What a weapon.

  7. pats1995 says: Jan 8, 2012 12:01 PM

    Notice the one time Stafford tossed it up to Titus Young in single coverage down by 10 on the first play of the drive right when i saw titus there i said “He thought that was Megatron for sure”

  8. totallyuselessme says: Jan 8, 2012 12:02 PM

    I still want to know the name and the address of the guy who didn’t put him on their All-Pro ballot.

  9. localbandhero says: Jan 8, 2012 12:02 PM

    Johnson is a monster. Without him, Stafford is a mediocre QB at best.

  10. wayupsouth says: Jan 8, 2012 12:05 PM

    Yep, the Lions (or Saints, maybe?) had me concerned for a bit last night. Detroit’s got NOTHING to hang its head about. They’re gonna give Green Bay a run for their money the next few seasons. If I weren’t a Saints fan, I’d have been rooting for them.

  11. nflfollower says: Jan 8, 2012 12:05 PM

    Actually they’ve got two players capable of playing great playoff football. Stafford is another. His picks were in garbage time when he was essentially forcing the ball downfield. He was on point and made great decisions with the football.

    A 23 year old QB throwing for 5000 yards and 41 TD’s? He’ll be dominating this league for years after both Mannings, Brady, Brees, and even Rodgers are retired. That’s real hope for Lions fans.

  12. ashutto20 says: Jan 8, 2012 12:05 PM

    Megatron is a beast!!!

  13. justaintrightisit says: Jan 8, 2012 12:06 PM

    This guy is just a BEAST

  14. commandercornpone says: Jan 8, 2012 12:06 PM

    after the mirage of a 5-0 start… the same old lions went 5-7.

  15. humptyfratz says: Jan 8, 2012 12:08 PM

    Megatron & Larry Fitzgerald are the best receivers in the league – no debate, just personal preference which one you prefer. We’ve already seen what Larry can do, and the rest of the NFL now hopes that neither one of them ever sees the playoffs again (but of course, all us fans can’t wait).

    Both those guys are scary good, and will probably be first ballot HoF.

  16. whodat2 says: Jan 8, 2012 12:09 PM

    Great article – nothing says great game like a 45-28 beat down!! Really!!!

  17. bangbangbilly says: Jan 8, 2012 12:11 PM

    Can’t wait till he’s a free agent he’s gunna get a huge payout randy moss 2.0

  18. Lev says: Jan 8, 2012 12:11 PM

    Detroit is a running game upgrade away from a deep playoff run. Hopefully Javid Best is able to contribute more next season. Either way, this has to be the best example in recent years of a team getting better through the draft.

    Good season Lions, good season!

  19. hyzers says: Jan 8, 2012 12:12 PM

    I still want to know the name and the address of the guy who didn’t put him on their All-Pro ballot.
    ———————————————-

    Cris “Calvin is not an elite receiver” Carter

    lol

  20. elwaysbrain says: Jan 8, 2012 12:15 PM

    Tim Tebow could throw for 500 yards and 6 touchdowns each game if he had Calvin Johnson matched up vs those weak NFC corners.

  21. jackntorres says: Jan 8, 2012 12:16 PM

    When the game was on the line Greer made a play on the ball and Johnson was nowhere to be found.

  22. mikeeg says: Jan 8, 2012 12:20 PM

    With the first pick of the 07 draft the Raidas select Jamarcus Russell….. Lions took CJ #2…. Good job AL!!

  23. everybodyhateschris1 says: Jan 8, 2012 12:23 PM

    @commandercornpone No matter how you slice the pie to get your point across, its still a 10 win season idiot. How are you going to discredit the 1st 5 wins only to try and make a point on 5-7?? You are pathetic.

  24. fittytuckin says: Jan 8, 2012 12:24 PM

    This guy is better than Jerry Rice.

  25. jebsta16 says: Jan 8, 2012 12:26 PM

    With a good coach they could be a very good team for years to come. I don’t think this coach demands to much respect from the players with his outlandish cry baby attitude. Swartz will last 2 more years tops.

  26. oriolesvsravens says: Jan 8, 2012 12:31 PM

    I agree that MegaTron is top tier at WR. Fitzgerald’s ball skills with more speed and height. Hes a force. But last night was the time for that D-Line to shine and keep them in the game but Detroit’s secondary was out manned and out matched.

  27. steelerhypocrite says: Jan 8, 2012 12:32 PM

    Calvin is a beast…Haha Oakland, you drafted JaMarcus Russel instead…how does that taste…

  28. orcheon says: Jan 8, 2012 12:34 PM

    The only thing stopping Calvin Johnson is that he can’t throw it to himself.

  29. lionsfanatic84 says: Jan 8, 2012 12:40 PM

    Anybody that says Stafford is mediocre hasn’t watched him play. He can make all the throws, off his back foot, across his body, side arm, and they are all on a String lasers. He can throw to anybody including Calvin triple covered (he did to Titus in the redzone last night) and put it in the one safe spot. Stafford is a top 5 qb right now with some better blocking and a better run game, he will be in MVP contention for years to come, he would be this year except brees and Rodgers had a crazy season. And he is only 23, younger than all of this years rookie qbs

  30. pacificnw7722 says: Jan 8, 2012 12:43 PM

    The Lions need a “grind it out” type RB like Marshawn Lynch, Bettis, Csonka, Alstott etc….

    If they had a back like that, it would really help their cause to wear down opposing defenses and protect the lead.

  31. randygnyc says: Jan 8, 2012 12:44 PM

    The lose-a-trons got a one way ticket back to the mega-ghetto.

  32. mwcarolina says: Jan 8, 2012 12:49 PM

    yep, BOTH Johnson AND Stafford were HUGE in this game, i know people will harp on about the picks or having Johnson, but look at where the lions were WITHOUT Stafford last year. Stafford and Johnson is a scary combo and the guys around them on offense make this lions offense scary. the problem was the lions defense decided to take the day off, they still cant tackle Pierre Thomas, i bet if they played Madden they would not be able to tackle him! add to that, Brees had open WRs and that made for a loss. the lions offense was on point and played really good football, but the saints offense played great football.

  33. papacrick says: Jan 8, 2012 12:58 PM

    When the Lions drafted Calvin the analyst thought they made a mistake passing up Brady Quinn..lol. The only thing Matt Millen got right

  34. ramal1dw says: Jan 8, 2012 12:59 PM

    Another thing people forget about this Lions team is that the last half of the season has basically been done with, at best, their third string RB. Obviously defense needs to be a priority, but I wonder how differently this season would have played out if we had Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure playing all year. Offense could have been even more dynamic.

    As it is, the Lions need to back up a dump truck full of money to Calvins house this off-season and make sure he stays with us for his career.

  35. lionsfanatic84 says: Jan 8, 2012 1:07 PM

    Pacific nw-
    That was supposed to be mikell Leshoure, he was a beast in training camp before going on IR. If we can make an upgrade or two on the o line, aside from our already strong air assault, the running game will be strong. Leshoure taking the load of carries, best as a change of pace 10-15 carries and k Smith on 3rd down, this running game will take the offense over the top

  36. cmdv8 says: Jan 8, 2012 1:19 PM

    Its funny how many people want to say cj is great and stafford is not stafford is 23 and he just got done w/a 5000 yard season ust look at this team with stafford an without its a huge difference just look at calvins numbers last year and prior not sayn cj isnt great b.c. he is but you people must not know football or you are those tebow lovin idiots check the stats it says it all w/o wathching a single down……morons its the secondary that sucks

  37. EJ says: Jan 8, 2012 1:27 PM

    Any QB can look good with Johnson as his receiver. The guy is a freaking monster. A 7ft wingspan with extreme ball skills and the strength of a bull.

    If it was possible to clone a human being, this guy would be the best option.

    Pair Johnson up with Stevie Johnson(who made Revis island a fun destination) Steve Smith and Hernandez from NE and they would make one unstoppable core of wideouts.

  38. cuda1234 says: Jan 8, 2012 1:29 PM

    Stafford and C.Johnson could be the next Shaub and A. Johnson – IF both guys ever stay healthy for a full season…..

  39. scorpio516 says: Jan 8, 2012 1:38 PM

    You know what other team’s secondary sucks?
    Packers, Patroits, Saints, and Giants. They finished 32, 31, 30, and 29th in the league for passing D.

    Detroit was 22nd, but the Saints were closer to Detroit than they were to the Patroits…

    They do need a better O-line, to keep Best from getting another concussion, and better CBs. Besides the fumble that should have been a TD, if they would have caught those 3 INTs, the Lions probably would have won.

  40. davikes says: Jan 8, 2012 1:42 PM

    At the next draft the NFC North teams will draft more CB’s and Safeties than all the rest of the divisions. If they have any sense. Between Rogers and the Packers receivers and MS/CJ and even Cutler throwing to scrubs, it’s more game changing than when Moss started for the Vikes.

    Congrats to the Lions on making the playoffs. They are definitely on the way up. Unlike Moss, CJ isn’t a diva who will get traded for a backup linebacker. The NFC North will be the most competitive division in the league next year for sure. Even my Vikes will be better, cause they can’t get worse.

  41. nflfollower says: Jan 8, 2012 1:48 PM

    Calvin got no love from the national media until he had stafford throwing to him. Heck, at the beginning of this season some thought he wasn’t even elite. Peyton manning had Harrison and reggie Wayne, I guess that means he’s no good too right? What a joke, stafford is going to keep getting better now that he has his FIRST full year of NFL experience under his belt. Sky is the limit for this combo. Extend CJ’s contract this offseason, so we don’t have to franchise him the next!

  42. trollaikman8 says: Jan 8, 2012 1:52 PM

    Cris Carter: meh.

  43. gosuhgo says: Jan 8, 2012 1:56 PM

    pats1995 says: Jan 8, 2012 12:01 PM

    Notice the one time Stafford tossed it up to Titus Young in single coverage down by 10 on the first play of the drive right when i saw titus there i said “He thought that was Megatron for sure”
    _______________
    I remember thinking on that play that Megatron was getting another TD until I saw Matt was heaving it to Titus. Basically any time I see Stafford under pressure and he throws the ball I expect Megatron TDs. Maybe that isn’t fair.

  44. therolandobottom says: Jan 8, 2012 2:00 PM

    steelerhypocrite says:
    Jan 8, 2012 12:32 PM
    Calvin is a beast…Haha Oakland, you drafted JaMarcus Russel instead…how does that taste…

    ———————————————–

    He had the game of his life and the Lions still lost right? Yea, doesn’t taste that bad.

  45. imaginesuperbowlwin says: Jan 8, 2012 2:16 PM

    So Matt Millen wasn’t a COMPLETE moron.

  46. weekendatberniemadoffs says: Jan 8, 2012 2:40 PM

    most dominating player at his position in nfl history? you’re a damn fool.

  47. cmdv8 says: Jan 8, 2012 2:41 PM

    @localbandhero

    haha your obviously an idiot 5000 yards is not good to you for a 23 year old kid some people just dont have common sense

  48. ray0414 says: Jan 8, 2012 2:42 PM

    johnson is awesome, but he needs an elite arm to throw him(stafford,check). yea CJ caught the ball in triple coverage as shown in the pic,BUT stafford threw a rocket that hit him right in the chest! if that throw is off its an INT. stafford made that play happen.

  49. cmdv8 says: Jan 8, 2012 2:42 PM

    cj didnt catch 5000 yards this season or 41 tds get a grip man

  50. dubblelznhell says: Jan 8, 2012 2:52 PM

    Without Johnson, Stafford would’ve probably still thrown for 4000 yards. Stafford is a good QB and a better option than Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Alex Smith, Etc. Johnson is a freak and will make any qb look better. All you gotta do is throw it high to him and he’ll attack the ball no matter what position he may be in on the field.

  51. bcar1023 says: Jan 8, 2012 2:53 PM

    I was just going to say, it Staffords success is all on CJ, what is the excuse for the other 26 or so TD’s? You can’t credit it all to Johnson seeing double coverage. It was Stafford reading the d and making the throw. Stop the hating and sit back and enjoy the growth of a future powerhouse. Calvin will retire a Lion. Would you leave the team with the youngest, yet third most powerful offense in the league? I didn’t think so. Lol

  52. easyeddie says: Jan 8, 2012 3:08 PM

    whodat2 says: Jan 8, 2012 12:09 PM

    Great article – nothing says great game like a 45-28 beat down!! Really!!!
    —————————————
    Hey Genius, it was a 15-minute beatdown. 24-21 at half.

    cuda1234 says: Jan 8, 2012 1:29 PM

    Stafford and C.Johnson could be the next Shaub and A. Johnson – IF both guys ever stay healthy for a full season…..
    ————————————-
    Stafford heads and tails above Schaub.

    randygnyc says: Jan 8, 2012 12:44 PM The lose-a-trons got a one way ticket back to the mega-ghetto.

    Jets or Giants fan? Doesn’t matter, both teams blow.

  53. rmc1995 says: Jan 8, 2012 3:09 PM

    CJ only accounted for 31% of Stafford’s yards. Rice accounted for 38% of Montana’s best yardage season. Still I think people considered Montana was great.

  54. commandercornpone says: Jan 8, 2012 3:27 PM

    everybodyhateschris, i live up here north of daytwa and have for years.

    u are the blooming idiot. the lions still figure out ways to lose.

    they didnt beat anyone who wound up with a winning record. they showed they are still quite capable of disintegrating under a slew of self-inflicted penalties. they do not maintain focus.

    and u and them patting themselves on the back wont change that.

  55. stavreafavre says: Jan 8, 2012 3:45 PM

    Johnson basically should be illegal. The guy is just flat-out scary to anyone playing against him. Randy Moss could be slowed down by double coverage. Johnson doesn’t even seem to notice.
    At the same time – and this is coming from a fan of the Packers and their aerial circus – if this trend continues the NFL is going to have to start swinging the pendulum back toward defenses a little bit. I love big plays, but really am not a big fan of Arena Football, which is what some NFL games are turning becoming. When it’s big play after big play, they just don’t seem as great anymore.

  56. easyeddie says: Jan 8, 2012 3:49 PM

    commandercornpone says: Jan 8, 2012 3:27 PM

    u are the blooming idiot. the lions still figure out ways to lose.

    they didnt beat anyone who wound up with a winning record. they showed they are still quite capable of disintegrating under a slew of self-inflicted penalties. they do not maintain focus.

    and u and them patting themselves on the back wont change that.———————-

    Lions lost to a superior team, simple as that. They did npt disintegrate over penalties.
    They will be a force to be reckoned with in the coming seasons AND YOUR IGNORANCE AND JUVENILE TOLLING WON’T CHANGE THAT.

  57. franknunley57 says: Jan 8, 2012 3:53 PM

    @fittytuckin says:

    Yo, let’s slow down with the “better than jerry rice”. rice owns every receiving record, had 208 total td’s, has 3 super bowl rings and was voted the Nfl’s greatest player by NFL network.

  58. easyeddie says: Jan 8, 2012 3:55 PM

    commandercornpone says: Jan 8, 2012 3:27 PM

    u are the blooming idiot. the lions still figure out ways to lose.

    they didnt beat anyone who wound up with a winning record. they showed they are still quite capable of disintegrating under a slew of self-inflicted penalties. they do not maintain focus.

    and u and them patting themselves on the back wont change that.———————-

    Lions lost to a superior team, simple as that. They did not disintegrate over penalties.
    They will be playoff contenders for a while AND YOUR IGNORANCE AND JUVENILE TROLLING WON’T CHANGE THAT.

  59. bick54 says: Jan 8, 2012 4:17 PM

    @Lev

    The Lions are NOT a strong running game away from being a legit contender.

    They ARE a head coach and a back 7 on defense away though.

  60. harleypuppy says: Jan 8, 2012 4:25 PM

    Better the Lions lose their fans are use to it I give no credit to an organization that has 1 playoff win in 56 years sooner or later they had to do something right unless you are totally incompetent lets see what happens I say they peak and fade quickly by the way Johnson will be gone via free agency why when you are that good would you want to stay in Detroit.

  61. ray0414 says: Jan 8, 2012 11:16 PM

    CJ is going nowhere, franchise tag doofus. and believe or not, when a player comes to play in michigan, they all eventually like it, and enjoy their time here. trust me, calvin knows this team is gonna be good for years nad hes developing a great on-feild relationship with one of the best young QBs in the league, they both make each other look good at various times. he aint goin nowhere!!

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