Phoenix — New England held Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson to just four catches for 58 yards in a 34-9 Patriots win on Nov. 23, the second straight game the Lions failed to score a touchdown after a 14-6 loss to the Cardinals. It was also the second consecutive game in which an opposing defense held Johnson below 60 yards.
Even though Johnson had 71 catches for 1,077 yards in 2014 while missing three games and being hampered by a high-ankle sprain in two others, his performance against the Patriots and Cardinals led to speculation of whether or not the NFL's preeminent wideout has lost a step.
New England's top two cornerbacks said Tuesday that's not the case.
"He's the best in the league, and he will continue to be the best until he's done," Darrelle Revis said at Super Bowl media day at the U.S. Airways Center.
When the Lions played the Patriots, Revis primarily covered Golden Tate while Brandon Browner followed Johnson. The 6-foot-4 Browner admitted that smaller receivers typically give him more problems, but still mentioned Johnson and Denver's Demaryius Thomas when asked to name the toughest receivers he faced in 2014.
"I don't think he lost a step," Browner said of Johnson. "I match up well. He's not bigger than me. A lot of the guys he plays against, he's a lot bigger than."
And that's why the Patriots used Browner on Johnson instead of Revis, who had success against him in the past. As both Super Bowl teams have shown, there is value in finding bigger cornerbacks to match up with players like Johnson or Thomas, and the versatility of both secondaries is a big reason why the Seahawks and Patriots are in this position.
"I just think a couple teams just game-planned (Johnson) or double-teamed him a little more this year, and he had to deal with that a little bit more," Revis said. "Don't get me wrong, we all saw him catch balls over three defenders and two defenders or eight defenders, but I think this year teams really focused on what he does well and tried to take that away. But at the same time, that's why (teams) do it."