The Lions were driving Monday night early in the fourth quarter facing a 3rd and 2 at the Green Bay 35-yard line and holding on to a 19-13 lead. Quarterback Matthew Stafford threw a short pass to the right flat to running back Kerryon Johnson, who had enough for the first down, but as Johnson caught the ball and attempted to switch it to his right hand so he could stiff-arm a defender with his left hand, he lost control of the football and fumbled it out of bounds.
Green Bay challenged the play, questioning whether Johnson had actually secured the catch at all, and ended up winning that challenge, albeit a questionable ruling. The play was called incomplete and the Lions were forced to kick a 54-yard Matt Prater field goal.
“I thought I (had it),” Johnson said of the play. “I was just switching it to get ready to stiff arm and ended up hitting it off my own self. But, you know, at that point in the game, we’re trying to get that drive going. We’re trying to continue that drive. Catch the ball and get tackled. It is what it is. Keep playing.”
Johnson said being more situationally aware is part of his maturation as a young running back.
“Obviously, I wasn’t thinking that way,” he said. “I wanted to make the big play, as usual, and just a lapse of focus and I left it up to the refs and they ruled against me.”
It’s another learning moment for Johnson early in his second season, similar to his fumble at the 1-yard line vs. Kansas City Week 4, where he tried to reach the ball over his head at the goal line and fumbled. Johnson said Monday was another a case of him trying to do too much.
“You have to know the situation,” he said. “Just get (the first down). Worry about the rest later. We’ll come back and do something else, waste some more time off the clock. Like I said, I wasn’t thinking that way, my fault.”
That’s easier said than done in the heat of the moment. Running backs like Johnson are always looking to make a big play, but he says being more situationally aware is part of him becoming a better overall running back.
“It’ll get you in trouble, as I’ve learned over and over,” he said.
Johnson is looking for a bounce-back performance Sunday at Ford Field, but that will be no easy task against a Minnesota Vikings defense ranked ninth in the NFL in rushing defense (91.5 yards per game).
The Lions have rushed for 100 yards in just two of their first five games, and are coming off a season-low 56 rushing yards in Green Bay.
For Johnson, he views this week as a measuring-stick game of sorts for Detroit’s rushing offense.
“If we can do it against them, we can do it against anybody,” he said. “That’s the type of mentality you go into games like this with. You know it’s going to be hard, but we never back down from the challenge and we’ll try and get it going.”
VIKINGS READY FOR LIONS EARLY AGGRESSIVENESS
When Vikings defenders turned on the game film of Detroit’s 23-22 loss in Green Bay Monday, it didn’t take long for Detroit’s offense to grab their attention. Detroit opened the game with a 66-yard flea flicker from Stafford to wide receiver Kenny Golladay. They started their second series with a 58-yard play-action pass completion to wide receiver Marvin Hall.
“It shows they’re trying to take their shots,” Vikings safety Anthony Harris told Vikings.com. “A lot of times early in the game, teams like to do stuff they haven’t done. Maybe come out, try some gadget plays and stuff that’s going to mess with your eyes.
“This year, you turn on the film and you see them being a lot more aggressive. Especially early on in the game, you see them come out and try to get those big plays and try to get momentum. It’s going to be important that everyone take care of their responsibility so we can put together a good game.”
Stafford ranks second in the NFL with 23 pass plays of 20-plus yards, despite playing in just five games so far.
Minnesota ranks seventh in passing yards allowed per game (218.8), and the Vikings haven’t yet allowed an opposing passer to throw for 300 yards.
50 AND COUNTING
Matt Prater has joined former Lions kicker Jason Hanson and former Raiders and Seahawks kicker Sebastian Janikowski as the only kickers in NFL history to kick at least 50 field goals from 50-plus yards. Prater joined the group in the fourth quarter Monday in Green Bay with a 54-yarder.
Janikowski holds the NFL record with 58 kicks from 50-plus yards. Hanson is second and holds the Lions record with 52.
“It’s awesome,” Prater said of joining the exclusive club. “Being in the same category as those two guys is awesome. Hopefully, get a few more this year and keep it going.”