LIONS INSIDER

Notebook: Calvin Johnson doesn't blame Jerry Rice for wanting to hold on to his record

Posted Dec 20, 2012

Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice said yesterday on ESPN that he doesn't want to see Calvin Johnson break his single-season record for receiving yards at 1,848. Johnson needs 182 yards over the next two weeks to break the mark.

The Falcons' defense has produced 27 takeaways in 14 games, including 18 interceptions and nine fumble recoveries. More importantly, they've turned those turnovers into 79 points.

The Lions are coming off a 38-10 loss to the Cardinals in which Arizona converted four Lions turnovers into 28 points.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford was responsible for three of those on interceptions - two were returned for touchdowns.

"That's about as bad as I can play," Stafford said after last week's game. "For us to be successful, I'm going to have to play a whole lot better than that and I understand that."

He certainly will have to play better against a very opportunistic Falcons secondary that's had some of it's best performances of the season against some of the best quarterbacks in the league.

In the three victories over Peyton Manning, Eli Manning and Drew Brees, the three Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks were a combined 65-of-112 (52 percent) with one touchdown and 10 interceptions against the Falcons' defense.

The Broncos, Giants and Saints were a combined 15-of-36 on third down in those games.

"They have a very good secondary, very talented multiple-scheme," Stafford said of the Falcons. "It will be a challenge for us."

Especially when you consider Stafford won't have the benefit of his full compliment of weapons at receiver.

Despite being shorthanded, Stafford will have to be at his best Saturday at Ford Field if the Lions hope to snap their six-game losing streak against one of the best teams in football.

"Well they've got an excellent secondary with very good ball skills so when they get the ball thrown to them they catch it," Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan aid.

"That's the No. 1 thing. They've got as good a secondary as a group as we'll play. I mean, they've got 10 interceptions just from their safety position. That's big time production."

WATCH THE SCREEN
According to ESPN Stats & Information and ESPN.com NFC South writer Pat Yasinskas, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has completed 50-of-57 passing attempts on screen passes this season. His completion and attempt numbers are second in the league behind only Buffalo's Ryan Fitzpatrick (64-of-74).

Ryan has 374 yards on screens, which ranks No. 5 in the league. More importantly, Ryan leads the league in touchdown passes on screens with five.

"I know Dirk Koetter pretty well who coaches that offense," Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said. "I tried to hire him one time and he opted to stay in college.

"But he's got a good design and they are probably the best screen team in quite a while. They do throw a lot of them and they keep the pressure off the quarterback that way.

"It slows down the rush. The d-line looks for the screens and that's when bad things happen. My way of coaching that thing is if you see it, play it. If you don't, go after the guy that's got the ball in his hand, the quarterback. Got to hurry his clock up and hopefully throw an incompletion."

JOHNSON DOESN'T BLAME RICE
Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice said yesterday on ESPN that he doesn't want to see Calvin Johnson break his single-season record for receiving yards at 1,848. Johnson needs 182 yards over the next two weeks to break the mark.

"Who would? You have a NFL record," Johnson Thursday of Rice's comments. "Those are big. Those are big deals."

Rice has plenty to spare, though. He owns 40 NFL receiving records and joked that he might be able to spare maybe one.

"Hey man, I appreciate it," Johnson said. "I take what I can get."