Brandon Carr, a cornerback, is from Flint and played collegiately at Grand Valley. (Elsa / Getty Images)
Allen Park — Homecomings, at least those played out at Ford Field, haven’t to this point been all that special for Brandon Carr.
Carr is from Flint and played at Grand Valley State. The last time he came home to play a game was in 2011. He was with the Chiefs then, and the Lions beat them up, 48-3.
He'll be back at Ford Field Sunday, this time as a cornerback with the Cowboys, and awaiting him will be the challenge of covering Calvin Johnson.
"This one is more special," Carr told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "He is the best receiver in the league. For my coaches to have confidence to allow me to go out there and challenge him for 60 minutes, it gives me confidence."
Carr, who has two interceptions and nine pass breakups this season, didn't have primary coverage on Johnson in 2011. Johnson caught three passes that day, two for touchdowns.
"He's a good corner," Johnson said. "He's a physical guy. It's going to be a long game and a challenge. Guys get ready to play when they come to Detroit. We have to be on our game."
Carr has been on quite a run. In the three previous weeks he's had to cover Denver's DeMaryius Thomas, Washington's Pierre Garcon and Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson.
Here's how Carr fared against those three productive receivers: Thomas had five catches for 57 yards, Garcon six for 69 and Jackson three for 21.
"Just really fortunate to have him," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett told Detroit reporters Wednesday. "He’s a guy we brought in last year as one of our free-agent signings and he’s been a heck of a good football player for us. He’s a productive guy. He goes out there week in and week out and plays at a high level.
"I think he’s continuing to improve in this new scheme that we’re playing on defense and getting better and better every week. He’s played really well the last couple weeks when he’s been on some very good receivers — stepped up to that challenge."
Johnson knows the challenge is reciprocal.
"Each week I'm going to face each team's best corner," he said. "You have to be on your game every week. If you're not, then somebody will come in here and make you look bad. That's what we can't have."
Johnson, who did not practice Wednesday, was back on the field Thursday. He was asked if his ailing right knee felt the same as it did last week at this point.
"Yes, I would say that," he said. "I can say that, definitely. I didn’t really practice a lot the week before that, but last week I practiced some on Thursday. I got a lot of practice in today, too, so it's definitely getting better.
"It’s just a never ending process of keeping that thing right."
Johnson played 71 snaps against the Bengals, and by all accounts, he didn’t incur any setbacks with the knee.
"I don't think so," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "He played quite a few plays, but we felt he was going to be able to handle it. He's working hard to get back to where he was at the start of the year. He's getting close."
Two characteristics of the Lions' three losses this season — no forced turnovers and no running game. Running back Reggie Bush said he would answer to the second one.
"I definitely felt like I could have run the ball better," he said, referring to the loss to the Bengals. "I felt like there were some areas where I missed some holes. I wasn’t running as aggressive. I have to correct that mistake. It starts with me first."
In the four wins, the Lions averaged more than 114 yards rushing; in the three losses, 63.3.
"We’ve had some tough matchups," coach Jim Schwartz said. "But I would say that’s been a common theme — that and we’ve failed to get takeaways on defense. And when you combine both of those, it’s going to make it difficult to win the game.
"There’s one thing of having runs and being able to sort of grind things out, but we need to get some first downs in there. We need to create some explosive plays and we’re at our best when we’re doing that."
It appears lately the Lions' run game has been more power-oriented with Bush running almost exclusively between the center and guard.
"We have our base package of runs that we like to use," Bush said. "Every team has that. Every offense has that. You have to have your bread-and-butter plays, so to speak. We like to run the ball in-between the tackles. Every now and then we’ll mix up a few here and there.
"I feel like our bread-and-butter run plays are the run plays that are good for us right now. We’re trying to stick with that."
… Left tackle Riley Reiff was back on the practice field Thursday, but he's still limited in what he can do. After going through warmups, he ran with the first offense during the skeleton drills then worked on the side with trainers while the rest of the team went through position drills. Reiff is working his way through a hamstring injury.
… Tight end Brandon Pettigrew was a late add to the injury report. He was limited Thursday by a hamstring injury.
… Defensive tackle Andre Fluellen (concussion), safety Louis Delmas (knee), cornerback Rashean Mathis (groin) and linebacker Ashlee Palmer (ankle) were also limited.
… Right tackle Corey Hilliard (knee) remains out.