MIKE O'HARA

OPPONENT BREAKDOWN: Dez Bryant says Calvin Johnson set the standard for all receivers in the league

Posted Oct 24, 2013

The Cowboys play the Lions at Ford Field on Sunday, and how Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant perform for their respective teams is one of the most intriguing statistical matchups of the game

No disrespect to Calvin Johnson – or to himself – but Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant insists that any comments he made that compared himself to Megatron should be considered a compliment to the Lions’ superstar receiver.

Bryant credited Johnson with setting the standard that other receivers should attempt to reach in a conference call interview with the Detroit media on Wednesday. There was no bravado or self-promotion in Bryant’s comments.

Bryant touched off a mini-firestorm of controversy – one that burned hottest in the Lions’ locker room – in an interview on a Dallas radio station Monday with his comments about himself and Johnson.

"I believe I can do whatever he can do," Bryant said in the Monday interview, adding that it is  part of the mindset he has in games that, "There’s nothing I can’t do."

The Cowboys play the Lions at Ford Field on Sunday, and how Johnson and Bryant perform for their respective teams is one of the most intriguing statistical matchups of the game. Both teams have 4-3 records, and it’s an important game in their bid for division titles or making the playoffs as wild cards.

Lions receiver Nate Burleson, currently out with a broken left arm, was the first to react to what Bryant said.

"Listen, I like Dez," Burleson said, sounding more amused than upset. "I think he's one of the best receivers in the game right now. Very talented. Fast, big, strong.

"He possesses all the tools to possibly be as good as Calvin. But he's not Calvin Johnson. No way, no how.

"Sorry, Dez. Keep it real."

The real truth, Bryant said Wednesday, is that he was speaking only about his ability with no intention of slighting Johnson or making any comparison.

"I wasn’t comparing myself at all," Bryant said. "I think a lot of people took it the wrong way. Clearly, I said there is no comparison. That is something that I do not do. I do not compare myself with anybody. When you get to comparing yourself with others, that’s when you start to have a downfall.

"What I was saying was, I can make catches and all that, and things he can do, I can do. But I was intending it that it wasn’t just me who was able to do it. I’m pretty sure the next guy would say the same exact thing."

Bryant, in his fourth season, is one of the NFL’s best young receivers. He had 92 catches and scored 12 touchdowns last year, and he’s off to a good start this year with 42 catches and six TDs in the first seven games.

Johnson, who missed one game with a knee injury, has 33 catches and six TDs in six games. He was close to 100 percent in last week’s loss to the Bengals, and his performance reflected it. He had nine catches for 155 yards and two TDs. On one TD catch, Johnson leaped in the end zone to snatch the ball away from three Bengals defenders.

"Amazing play," Cowboys Coach Jason Garrett said Wednesday. "Just an amazing play."

Bryant referred to Johnson’s performance last season, when he caught 122 passes for 1,964 yards to break the one-season record for receiving yards previous held by the incomparable Jerry Rice.

"Calvin Johnson set the standard, set the hard high for every wide receiver in the league," Bryant said. "It’s really respect to him that he makes receivers like us go out there and try to be our best."

Bryant was asked if setting the standard means Johnson is the league’s  best receiver.

"He broke Jerry Rice’s record," Bryant said. "That’s setting the bar for every receiver in the league. That’s what I’m saying."

Rush job: The  Cowboys kept the heat on Eagles quarterbacks Nick Foles and Matt Barkley in last week’s 17-3 win despite defensive end DeMarcus Ware missing the first game of his career because of a thigh injury. Ware, in his ninth season, has 115 career sacks. Four have come this season.

The Cowboys had three sacks, five tackles for loss and five quarterback hits.

No mo’ hot Romo: Cowboys QB Tony Romo has cooled off after a fast start. He threw 13 TD passes against two interceptions in the first five games, highlighted by five TD passes and 506 yards passing in a 51-48 loss to the Broncos in Game 5. He also threw a late interception in that game that put the Broncos in position to win the game with a field goal.

Romo’s individual game passer ratings in the first five games were 90.8, 99.1, 137.2, 108.6 and 140.0.

In the last two games, Romo has two TD passes, three interceptions and passer ratings of 72.9 and 69.2.

How the Cowboys got to 4-3: The four teams they’ve beaten have a combined won-lost record of 9-18 – Giants (1-6); Rams and Eagles (3-4 each) and Washington (2-4).

The three teams they lost to are  17-4 – Chiefs (7-0), Broncos (6-1) and Chargers (4-3).

COWBOYS LEADERS

Offense:

Passing: Tony Romo, 181-265 (68.3 pct.), 2,010 yards, 15 TD, 5 int., 16 sacks, 101.6 rating.

Rushing: DeMarco Murray, 91-428, 4.7 avg., 3 TD; Joseph Randle, 30-82, 2.7 avg., 1 TD.

Receptions: Dez  Bryant, 42-569, 13.5 avg., 6 TD; Jason Witten, 35-388, 11.1 avg., 3 TD; Terrance Williams, 24-380, 15.8 avg., 3 TD; Murray, 24-164, 6.8 avg.; Cole Beasley, 18-167, 9.3 avg., 1 TD; Miles Austin, 15-125, 8.3 avg.

Defense:

Tackles: Sean Lee, 88, 4 for loss; Barry Church, 50, 1 for loss; Bruce Carter, 49, 1 for loss; Jason Hatcher, 31, 3 for loss; Orlando Scandrick, 30, 1 for loss; Brandon Carr, 29, 2 for loss.

Total team tackles-for-loss: 17.

Sacks (team total 20): Hatcher 6; George Selvie, 4.5; DeMarcus Ware, 4; Kyle Wilber, Bruce Carter, 2 each.

Pass breakups (team total 42): Carr, 9; Church, Scandrick, Morris Claiborne 6 each.

Kicking: Dan Bailey 11-13 FG and 5-6 from 40 yards or longer, 21-21 PAT.

Punting: Chris Jones 34 punts, 44.0 gross, 39.3 net, 13 inside 20, 2 touchbacks.

Kickoff returns: Dwayne Harris, 10-35.1 avg., 90 long.

Punt returns: Harris 13, 16.3 avg., 1 TD – 86 yds.