O'HARA'S BURNING QUESTIONS: What did Calvin Johnson's absence mean in Lions' 22-9 loss?

Posted Oct 6, 2013

Mike O'Hara on Calvin Johnson's absence, early penalties, missed chances and offensive play in 22-9 loss at Green Bay

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Burning questions – what Calvin Johnson’s absence meant to the Lions, early penalties on defense, missed chances in an offensive fizzle and big plays by the Packers in their 22-9 victory over the Lions at Lambeau Field on Sunday.

Q. The question of the game – how much did not having  Calvin Johnson hurt the Lions?

A. The answer was obvious for the offense. Not having Megatron made a mega-ton difference in how they played. It showed everywhere.

There was no running room for Reggie Bush. He ran for 139 yards and a 37-yard touchdown in last week’s victory over Chicago. Against the Packers, he had one decent run of 20 yards, and it came on an end around.

Time and again, Bush would hit into the line, searching for a crack, and come bouncing out like a kid throwing a rubber ball against the playground wall.

There was no real receiving threat downfield, and without the Packers shadowing him with two players – and sometimes three, as teams do at times – the receivers had to deal with tight coverage all day. They simply couldn’t make plays.

The end result: give the team MVP Award to Megatron. He means that much.

Q. Did his absence make all the difference?

A. No. It doesn’t excuse dropping passes, missed blocks and breakdowns on defense, and it should not overshadow the fact that the Packers made plays and deserved to win.

Wide receiver Randall Cobb had only two runs from scrimmage going into the game. He broke a 67-yard run in the third quarter that set up a field goal. James Jones got behind Chris Houston to make an 83-yard TD catch in the third quarter that extended the Packers’ lead to 16-3.

The Lions’ offensive line had protected Matthew Stafford well in the first four games, giving up only three sacks. The Packers rushed Stafford hard all game. They had four sacks in the first three quarters alone.

Q. Penalties, “Suh rules”? Ndamukong was called for tripping on the Packers’ first possession. He was chasing Aaron Rodgers on a third-down and seven, and the pass was incomplete. The Packers would have punted from their 34. Instead they kept the ball and drove to a field goal.

Some people thought Suh was being held on the play. Is that right, and was the tripping call legit?

A. The answer to both questions probably is yes. Suh gets held a lot, but so does almost every powerful defensive tackle in the league. It’s just a question of how the official who calls the play defines holding.

Suh got his foot out, and the ref called tripping. It turned out to be a three-point call.

Q. Suh fallout: Will there be more calls for a fine or suspension for  Suh?

A. Probably. The website Pro Football Talk has had Suh in its cross hairs for a while. It wouldn’t be a surprise if it demands that the NFL force Suh to play the next game without shoes.

It’s time for the NFL office to stop responding to every query about Suh, and whether any action should be taken. He plays rough, but the attention is getting out of hand.

Q. Packers statement, Lions’ penalty: In the second quarter, the Packers had fourth and four at the Lions’ 40. Instead of punting, or trying a 58-yard field goal, they went for the first down. The pass was incomplete, but the Packers got the first down when Bill Bentley was called for holding.

Was the fourth-down play a statement by the Packers?

A. It sure seemed that way. The Lions hadn’t done anything on offense after their first possession. The Packers seemed to be saying they had no fear that the Lions could move the ball. They weren’t worried about giving the ball back to them near midfield early in the second quarter.

David AkersK David Akers (Photo: G. Smith/Detroit Lions)

Q. Missed chance: The Lions finished the first half with a long possession that ended David Akers’ 53-yard field goal to make it 6-3 at halftime.

Did the Lions miss an opportunity to take the lead, or should they have been satisfied with the field goal?

A. Both – 25 percent satisfied, but 75 percent unsatisfied over not scoring a touchdown.

The fact that Akers connected from 53 yards was good. It was a long kick, and he made it.

But they missed a chance for more, and in a tight game, that had to hurt.

Kris Durham couldn’t come up with a ball at the five on second and five from the Packers’ 25. It was neck high, and he couldn’t handle it. It’s impossible not to think that Calvin Johnson would have made the catch easily and possibly broken any tackle to reach the end zone.

On the next play, Stafford scrambled left for what would have been a first down near the 15, but it was called back by a holding penalty on Riley Reiff.

Two chances to have first downs deep in Green Bay’s territory turned into fourth and 15 at the 35.

The Lions stopped themselves with a  dropped pass and a penalty and had to settle for a field goal.

Q. Jinx: It was the Packers’ 23rd road victory over the Lions. Is there a jinx on the Lions when they go on the road to play Green Bay?

A. There is no jinx. The Packers were the better team in the first 22 losses, and they were the better team Sunday in No. 23.