Birds defense makes things tough for Lions' Johnson

With the Eagles' Cary Williams covering, Detroit's Calvin Johnson can't get to a pass in the fourth quarter.
With the Eagles' Cary Williams covering, Detroit's Calvin Johnson can't get to a pass in the fourth quarter. (RON CORTES / Staff)
Posted: December 10, 2013

The snow certainly helped to slow down the potent Detroit passing game on Sunday, but the Eagles defense also did its share of strong work, especially against football's best receiver, the Lions' Calvin Johnson.

Johnson had only three catches for 49 yards, which was a major reason the Eagles earned a 34-20 win over Detroit at Lincoln Financial Field.

Johnson set the Lions team record for career receiving yards on a 33-yard reception late in the first quarter, but he did little damage after that.

That reception gave him 9,175 receiving yards, surpassing Herman Moore's team record of 9,174.

What is interesting is that the weather conditions were better in the second half, when Johnson had just one reception for 9 yards. He was open on one fourth-quarter play that quarterback Matthew Stafford simply underthrew.

It wasn't just Johnson who was limited. The only other wide receiver to catch a pass for Detroit was veteran Nate Burleson, and he had two receptions for 18 yards.

The passing game never clicked, inclement weather or not.

Stafford completed 10 of 25 passes for 148 yards, but he saw several catchable passes dropped. Playing without the injured Reggie Bush, the Lions averaged only 2.4 yards per rushing attempt, so they weren't able to compensate with a strong running game, either.

Stafford admitted that the conditions were difficult, but he made no excuses, especially since the Lions squandered a 14-0 lead.

"Early on, it was tougher than it was in the second half," Stafford said. "But we just didn't play well enough in the second half to win the game."

Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin said the key was not allowing the 6-foot-5, 236-pound Johnson to run his patented slant pattern.

"I put myself out there, which kind of forced them not to run the slant," Barwin said.

Defensive coordinator Bill Davis said the Eagles didn't use many special coverages to defend Johnson.

"The corners did a great job, and the safeties when they were on him, but the corners did a great job of being on him," Davis said.

Cornerbacks Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams both had their share of time defending Johnson. Fletcher said regardless of the elements, Johnson is a handful.

"He is as good as it gets - big, tall, fast, strong, and goes to catch the ball everywhere," Fletcher said.

Williams says it takes an entire team to contain a player of Johnson's magnitude and a passing game as explosive as Detroit's.

"It was a great collective team effort and started with the guys up front, not allowing [Stafford] to step into his throw," Williams said. "Then it starts with the secondary doing our jobs and making sure no one gets over the top."

Stafford failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time this season. He has thrown 27 TD passes this year.

Snow can be a great equalizer, especially against a dome team with football's best receiver. But the Eagles defense did its part to make it a miserable day for the Detroit passing game.


mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard

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