MIKE O'HARA

O'HARA'S FINAL THOUGHTS: The Lions will try to break losing streak without Calvin Johnson

Posted Oct 6, 2013

Johnson was announced as inactive 90 minutes before kickoff Sunday, leaving the Lions without the possibility of a similar replacement to compete against a Packers team with one of the league's worst defenses

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Final thoughts on the Lions trying to break a 22-game road losing streak to the Packers without Calvin Johnson while awaiting kickoff of Sunday’s at Lambeau Field:

In the space of two weeks, the Lions are now forced to play without the NFL’s best receiver because of a knee injury, and without their best No. 2 receiver because of a car accident that will cause him to miss about half the season with a broken left arm.

Johnson was announced as inactive 90 minutes before kickoff Sunday, leaving the Lions without the possibility of a similar replacement to compete against a Packers team with one of the league’s worst defenses.

Already missing from their receiving corps is Nate Burleson, who is out for a second straight game with a broken arm. Burleson was injured in a one-car accident two weeks ago – and the day after the Lions won at Washington for the first time.

Johnson missed all of practice on Wednesday and Thursday and was listed as "questionable" on the official injury report submitted to the NFL on Friday.

He did some light running before Sunday's pre-game warmups and was obviously limited physically.

The Lions were able to beat Chicago last week without Burleson, but playing without Johnson is an entirely different matter. Teams design their coverage to stop him in a way unlike any other receiver in the game.

The injury comes at an inopportune time. The Lions are on a two-game winning streak and felt good about their chances to beat the Packers.

Helping hands: Someone has to pick up the slack for Johnson’s absence, and tight end Brandon Pettigrew is a candidate.

Pettigrew could not pick a better time to match his performance in last week’s victory over Chicago.

Pettigrew had seven catches for 54 yards in the game. He was targeted seven times by quarterback Matthew Stafford and caught every pass to surpass his total of five catches for 38 yards in the first three games behind. Pettigrew was not targeted in the previous game against Washington.

It was an encouraging performance by Pettigrew for himself and the Lions’ offense. He had been plagued by inconsistency earlier.

"It was good for us," Pettigrew said late in the week. "It was good for the offense. I try to make the most of every time we get the ball."

In an era when receiving tight ends get most of the attention, and deservedly so, Pettigrew is a two-way tight end. He is a strong run blocker and pass protector. Against the Bears, it was obvious that Pettigrew made it a point to secure the ball after making the catch.

"They were very critical plays, where they were tough, contested plays," said Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. "He was getting hit pretty good, and he was taking care of that ball well. He was aware of it, and he knows how those guys try to defend the middle of the field when you throw the ball to tight ends in this league.

"His all-around game, I thought, was his best game of the year, and he’s played some good ones up until then."

Passing stats: If statistics mean anything, the edge goes to the Lions in the passing game. They’ve averaged 309 yards passing per game and allowed 268, with a cumulate passer rating allowed of 69.9.

The Packers have averaged 326.7 yards passing per game and allowed 311, with a cumulative passer rating of 113.7.

The Lions have given up four TD passes and a completion rate of 60.6 percent compared to eight TD passes – in three games, vs. four for the Lions – and a completion rate of 68.2 percent.

Packers platoon: Their return game hasn’t produced much, especially on kickoffs where they’ve averaged only 12.1 yards on seven returns.

Jeremy Ross, who averaged 12.5 yards on six returns, was released during the bye week. The Packers are expected to choose among receiver Randall Cobb, cornerback Micah Hyde and running back Jonathan Franklin to be the return man against the Lions.

The Packers had only three punt returns in the first three games. Cobb returned one punt, gaining 16 yards.

Lambeau salute: Packers fans are legendary for the way they greet the visiting team when their busses roll in. Some fans moon the bus. Others give a one-finger salute.

One Packers fan was looking to the future when he flashed two fingers on one hand and three on the other – signaling "23" -- on the arrival of the first convoy of busses carrying the Lions’ players and staff.

The fan’s message was clear. He was predicting a 23rd straight road loss to Green Bay for the Lions, who have lost 21 regular-season games and one in the playoffs since a 21-17 victory at Lambeau in 1991.