LIONS INSIDER

NOTEBOOK: Megatron fires back; defense knows Ravens will take shots; drops and more

Posted Dec 12, 2013

It's not always wise to upset the best football player in the game just days before a nationally televised matchup

Baltimore safety Matt Elam, 22, sent a salvo over Calvin Johnson’s way on Wednesday when he called Megatron old and not as physical as he was when he was younger.

"He's pretty old, so I don't know how physical he'll be,'' Elam told Baltimore reporters.

"He's a big guy, but he's older. I guess when they get older they're not going to be as physical, you know what I'm saying? We're going to have to be physical, make him uncomfortable."

Matt ElamRavens' S Matt Elam (Photo: AP Images)

In a conference call with those same Baltimore reporters on Thursday, Johnson, 28, fired back.

"I am getting old. It's all good. I'll show him what old man strength is about," Johnson said via Comcast SportsNet in Baltimore.

"He can talk all he wants. He plays back. I don’t see him every play unless I run past him."

Johnson also said Elam and fellow safety James Ihedigbo are players "we can make plays on."

Monday Night Football should be fun.

PROTECT AGAINST THE DEEP BALL

The Detroit Lions have given up the second-most 40-plus-yard passing plays on defense this year (14). The only team that’s given up more is this Monday's opponent, the Baltimore Ravens (16).

It goes without saying this game could feature a few big plays.

The Ravens offense features speed at the receiver position and have a strong-armed quarterback in Joe Flacco, who can "throw it a country mile," according to Lions safety Glover Quin.

Baltimore has attempted 57 passes that have traveled at least 21 yards in the air through their first 13 games, second-most in the NFL to New Orleans (60).

"We’re going to have to play over the top," Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said. "Torrey Smith is a really good wide receiver when it comes to that and (Joe) Flacco has enough arm to be able to put it anywhere on the field. That’s certainly one of our objectives in this game."

Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham says the Raven are very good at sucking a defense in and then going over the top.

"They’ll run the ball," he said of the Ravens averaging 28 rushing attempts per game (just a 3.0 average). "They’re like Green Bay a little bit. Even if they’re not having much success, they keep you honest by running it, and then play-action throw it deep, so we have to be ready for both things. Like I said, they’ve got some receivers that can really run."

The average distance per 20-plus-yard pass completion this year for the Ravens is 34.9 yards, which leads the NFL. They like to push the ball down the field in their passing game.

On the flip side, opposing quarterbacks have a 103.3 passer rating against the Lions defense this season on attempts of 21-plus yards. They've also thrown six touchdowns on those throws.

"Since I’ve been in the league I’ve played against Baltimore I think five times," said Quin, who played four seasons in the AFC with Houston before signing with Detroit this offseason.

"I remember last year we played them and we knew going into the game that if we kept the deep shots off of us they wouldn’t beat us.

"It’s kind of the same thing now. Joe Flacco can throw it a country mile and has some guys that can go get it. We know we have to keep the shots off of us and make them drive 80 yards in 10 or 11 plays. If they do that they deserve to win."

DROPSIES

Drops continue to plague the Lions offense.

They dropped five more passes in last week’s loss in Philadelphia, increasing their league-leading total to 38 on the year, according to STATS, LLC.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford has a 58.3 completion percentage on the season, which is the lowest since his rookie year, but pass catchers have dropped 11 percent of his catchable passes this year, also according to STATS, LLC.

"I just keep throwing it and encouraging those guys," Stafford said this week. "They work on their craft every day. I see them out there catching balls off the jugs and all that kind of stuff. These guys are doing everything they can and I’m going to continue to do my best as well."

The Lions have attempted the fifth-most passes (525) in the NFL, which gives them more opportunities to drop passes, but 38 are way too many.

"You got to work on it during the week, whatever it is that you're making mistakes on," receiver Nate Burleson said. "If we go out one week and drop more balls than expected, you better guarantee us as receivers are going to catch up to 500 more, just to get that reputation, get your confidence back up, get your hands back in the rhythm of catching the ball."

EXTRA POINTS

After being cut in training camp, Cody Wilson is back with the Lions as the team signed the wide receiver to their practice squad Wednesday.

Wilson, who played his college ball at Central Michigan, caught one pass for six yards in the preseason.

The Lions had an open spot on their practice squad after signing cornerback Chris Greenwood to the active roster last week.