Niyo: Megatron makes Bears dizzy — and makes history
Detroit — Matthew Stafford knew it would be a good day. So did Calvin Johnson. They all knew, really, because they've seen this before.
And just in case they'd forgotten, they saw it again on film in an abbreviated week of game preparation for Thursday's holiday matinee at Ford Field.
The Bears were coming to town, and more than likely, that meant the Lions' offense — yes, even in its current state — was going to have a feast. More specifically, it meant Johnson, the Lions' All-Pro receiver, was going to have a field day.
"For the most part, the Bears are who they are," Johnson said, no disrespect intended. "They're going to play what they play."
The Bears are not who they used to be, though. Not with that defense playing whatever it is that it's playing these days, having allowed 140 points now in Chicago's last three road games. Not with a couple key starters inactive (Jay Ratliff, Lance Briggs) and another (Chris Conte) sidelined by injury in the first quarter. And not with Charles Tillman, Johnson's old nemesis, in street clothes, trading jerseys after the game instead of trading punches during it
Not surprisingly, then, Johnson managed to remind a nationally-televised audience he's still himself Thursday, scoring twice and finishing with a season-high 11 catches for 146 yards in the Lions' 34-17 runaway on Thanksgiving Day.
"Calvin obviously was on fire today," said Jim Caldwell, who handed Johnson one of the two game balls — center Dominic Raiola earned the other after his 200th career start — in the postgame locker room.
So why was this one different than the previous two, when Johnson managed just nine catches — on 22 targets — for 117 yards combined in the losses at Arizona and New England?
"Opportunities," Caldwell said. "He was singled up a lot. And when that happens, he's gonna match up pretty well."
Earning his nickname
Johnson may be battered, yes. He missed three games and played sparingly in two others due to a high-ankle sprain suffered in Week 3, among a variety of ailments.
But he's still more than capable of beating just about any cornerback one-on-one, which was the task Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker handed rookie Kyle Fuller a few too many times Thursday.
Fuller's career is off to a terrific start, but even his brother, Corey, one of the Lions' wideouts, will tell you that's asking a bit much from a 5-foot-11 corner with a cast on one hand, a gimpy knee and 11 NFL games under his belt. (By comparison, Thursday was Johnson's 42nd career 100-yard receiving game, and his 14th with two or more touchdown catches.)
"He's had a great year, and he did a pretty good job today," Corey Fuller said of his brother, Kyle, who was coming over for dinner later. "He's just covering Megatron. And Calvin didn't get the name Megatron for nothing."
No, he did it by becoming the fastest in NFL history to record 10,000 career receiving yards, a milestone he reached Thursday on the Lions' final drive of the first half. A 2-minute drill that ended with Stafford finding Johnson on a corner fade in the end zone behind Fuller.
Earlier, he'd ended the Lions' touchdown drought at 10 quarters, helping dig Detroit out of an early 14-3 hole. On third-and-7 from the 25-yard line, the Lions were desperate for a big play, and the Bears essentially gave them what they needed.
"Once I saw the coverage, I had a good idea where Matt might be going with the ball," Johnson said.
Stafford saw it, too, of course. And asked later how he feels when he sees a single-high safety look with No. 81 on the field, he laughed, "Pretty excited."
This time, Johnson lined up in the slot, shook cornerback Demontre Hurst with relative ease "and got to my landmark." He then high-pointed the ball between a pair of defenders — "heck of a catch" the Bears' Jared Allen said — as Stafford beat the Bears' blitz with a terrific seam pass.
"It's nothing new," said ex-Lions defensive end Willie Young, who's now with Chicago. "You know it's going to happen, you know where he's going with the ball."
And Thursday, you just knew how it would end, didn't you?
"It just breeds confidence," Johnson said of the Lions' big day offensively. "We know what we can do."
Sometimes, knowing is half the battle.