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NOTEBOOK: Johnson, Lions looking to get the ground game going

The Detroit Lions didn’t have a running back record a 10-yard run last week vs. Arizona. In fact, quarterback Matthew Stafford had the longest run of the day for the Lions with a 12-yard scamper on a zone read play.

Detroit amassed 116 yards total in the game, which is a pretty good total, but it took them 32 carries to do so for an average of just 3.6 yards per carry.

“I missed two big runs. Ran smack dab into the defense,” Lions second-year running back Kerryon Johnson said. “I told (teammates) that was my fault. It was the first game. Everyone is not perfect.”

Johnson was held pretty much in check by the Cardinals last week. He carried 16 times for 49 yards (3.1) and was held out of the end zone. Johnson was second in the NFL as a rookie averaging 5.4 yards per carry.

He and the Lions will try to be more efficient on the ground this week and attempt to break a couple big ones.

The Los Angeles Chargers come to town fresh off an overtime win vs. Indianapolis, but the Colts rushed for 203 yards as a team in the loss, and running back Marlon Mack had 174 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown.

“Just like no offense is perfect. No defense is perfect,” Johnson said. “We have to go out and do our job. If (Mack) can do it, we can do it as well. If they (Colts) can do it, we can do it as well. That’s what we plan to do.”

Johnson knows better than anyone how those chunk runs can be demoralizing to a defense, and can even slow down the pass rush. It’s why he feels it’s important to get it going on the ground this week facing Los Angeles’ terrific edge rushing tandem of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.

“We want to be big play backs,” he said. “It opens up a lot of things for Stafford. It slows down the defensive linemen, it slows down the linebackers, everything is all tied together.”

View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019.

IRON MEN

Quarterback Matthew Stafford is making his 130th consecutive start Sunday when the Lions welcome the Los Angeles Chargers to Ford Field.

Not many players know what it takes to start that many consecutive football games in the NFL.

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers knows all too well. He passed 130 straight starts years ago. Sunday will be his 210th consecutive start.

Stafford and Rivers are two of the NFL's leading iron men, both ranking among the top five in active consecutive games played.

“Certainly we love Matthew Stafford and he’s one of the toughest guys I know, but you can easily sit there and say the same about Philip Rivers,” Lions head coach Matt Patricia said this week. “He’s proven game-after-game, year-after-year that he is going to go out there and play. Like I said, I’ve seen him play through some pretty serious injuries where he rolled himself out there and we had to go against him, and he played at a high level. I have tremendous respect for him from that regard.”

Stafford has tremendous respect for Rivers, too.

Stafford’s played in every game dating back to 2011. Rivers has played in every game since 2005, including playing through a torn ACL in the 2008 playoffs.

“I got a lot of respect for him as a player,” Stafford said. “He’s a great quarterback, does a great job, I think under-appreciated in a lot of aspects. Obviously like you said, the guy shows up for his team every week. Played in the AFC championship game with a torn ACL, which is incredible. I’m sure has played through a million other things that nobody knows about, too. Got to give him a lot of credit. Guy’s there, week in and week out and he’s playing at a high level. It’s impressive.”

MELVIN OFF TO GOOD START

One of the bigger question marks for the Lions entering the season was the play they’d get from the collection of players vying to be the starting outside cornerback opposite Darius Slay.

It became apparent early in training camp that veteran Rashaan Melvin was going to get the first crack at the job. And despite dealing with a knee injury that kept him limited in practice last week, Melvin had a good start to his season Sunday in Arizona.

He racked up eight tackles and led the team with three passes defended. Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray threw Melvin’s way 11 times and completed just four of those for 44 yards and a 49.1 passer rating.

Melvin was limited again this week on the practice report, but did take part in the portion of practice open to the media on Thursday.

With Slay on one side, and the Lions much improved inside at the slot cornerback spot with the signing of Justin Coleman this offseason, if Melvin can continue to play the way he did in Arizona last week, the Lions look to have a nice trio at cornerback.

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