September 2, 2014 at 10:33 pm

Lions' Calvin Johnson says this is the year Lions finally reach Super Bowl


Allen Park — Calvin Johnson hasn’t had much team success since being drafted in 2007 — the Lions have made the playoffs once, in 2011.

The All-Pro receiver, however, believes this is the season the Lions reach their goal — a Super Bowl — thanks to the talent and the addition of coach Jim Caldwell.

“I believe this is our best chance, and I honestly believe that,” he said. “You’ve got to buy into the coach’s philosophy, and we have. I believe that everybody is doing exactly what the coaches want us to do, and if something’s not like he wants it, he’s going to tell us and we’re going to get better at it. And he only has to tell us one time.”

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford agreed with Johnson’s assessment.

“On paper, we’re as talented as anybody in the league,” he said.

Johnson, who has been a part of a winning team once in Detroit (10-6 in 2011), didn’t hesitate to say he believes this year’s team is better than the one that earned a wild card and lost to the Saints in the first round.

“We had a lot of talent that year,” he said. “But when it came down to the end, like it was in the last couple years, we just weren’t able to finish the last couple games off like we needed to.”

In 2011, the Lions started 5-0, but lost three of their next four games. They reached the postseason, only to lose to the Saints, 45-28, after leading 14-10 at halftime.

The Lions followed 2011 with a 4-12 record in 2012, and lost six of their last seven games last season to finish 7-9.

“So much more motivated because there’s a lot of games that came down to the end, to the fourth quarter,” Johnson said of last season. “I think that we filled a lot of holes that we might’ve had last year, whether it be on offense or defense.”

Other players have talked about using last season as motivation, but Stafford said he’s moved on.

“I’m just thinking about this year, trying to get us ready for Week 1,” he said. “Anytime you don’t win a Super Bowl, you’re disappointed as a team.”

The Lions recognize that the NFC North is a talented division, and even if the players and coaches believe they will contend for a Super Bowl, the first goal is still to win the division.

“If we can do that, we’ll be in good shape,” Johnson said.

And even though there is plenty of optimism in Allen Park as the Lions prepare for Week 1 on Monday against the Giants, Stafford is keeping things in perspective.

“I think we’re a talented football team, but there’s a long way to go,” he said. “We’re a confident bunch. We’re confident in our abilities and our schemes; we’re confident in each other.

“But at the same time, we’ve got to go out there and execute. We’ve got to get better week to week, we’ve got to get hot and go and see what happens.”

Based on what he’s seen during practice, though, Johnson is expecting the Lions to finally have the team success he’s yearned for throughout his career.

“It’s hard to go out there and settle for less when we come out here and work this hard,” Johnson said.

Giants at Lions

Kickoff: 7:10 Monday night, Ford Field, Detroit
Line: Lions by 5
Records: Season opener
Series: Lions 21-20-1 (Giants 23-20, OT, Dec. 22, 2013).

Wide receiver Calvin Johnson says, "I think that we filled a lot of holes that we might've had last year, whether it be on offense or defense." / Daniel Mears / Detroit News