Vertical passing game back for the Lions with a healthy Megatron

Posted Oct 23, 2013

Calvin Johnson's ability to stretch the field and open things up for the rest of the offense was a welcomed re-addition for Scott Linehan last week

Scott Linehan had a feeling mid-week Calvin Johnson was going to be able to have a much bigger impact vs. Cincinnati than he did the previous week in Cleveland.

When it got to gameday and pre-game warm-ups, Linehan quickly knew he had the full playbook back at his disposal.

"Obviously, we've been having to put some of the stuff we do with Calvin down the field on the back burner," Linehan said. "We haven't been able to do everything. He's done everything he can do. He was a warrior playing in the Cleveland game."

Johnson played 38 snaps in Cleveland two weeks ago after missing the previous game in Green Bay with a sore right knee. Johnson was able to play 71 snaps (or 91 percent of the offensive plays) vs. Cincinnati and made nine receptions for 155 yards and two touchdowns on 15 targets.

"He came around pretty good last week," Linehan said. "He looked really good in pregame warm-up. There were a couple things that elevated to above-the-line plays once we saw him moving like he was getting closer."

Most of it was the down-the-field repertoire the Lions have with a healthy Megatron. Five of his nine catches were of 15-plus yards and both touchdowns were on 25-plus-yard plays.

For the season, the Lions have five touchdowns of 20-plus yards. That's tied for sixth in the NFL and Johnson has three of them.

"It stretches the field for us," Linehan said of Johnson's impact. "Loosens things up for us and opens up some other things. Just having that threat out there is always a plus for us."

Amazingly, the Lions have converted just 5-of-22 attempts on passes that have traveled at least 21-plus yards in the air, according to Stats, Inc. The two touchdowns from Johnson last week are the first touchdowns of the season on those deeper throws.

The offense has completed 23 pass plays that have resulted in 21-plus-yard gains, but 17 of those have been a result of run-after-the-catch yardage.

Those numbers are on the low side compared to years past, but Johnson has missed one game and was limited in another. Nate Burleson missing the last month with a broken forearm hasn't helped, either.

Getting Megatron back healthy is so vital to the Lions offense. He's one of the best deep threats in the league and he allows so much more space for other players to operate.

"You don't really know how a guy is going to feel on Sunday until you actually get there," Linehan said. "It looked positive as the week went on. He was making some progress and we got a typical Megatron-type game out of him."