Lions’ Johnson isn’t sweating lack of targets

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford understands there are some times he just has to throw the ball to Calvin Johnson.

“There’s an old saying out there, ‘Think players not plays,’ ” he said Wednesday. “And, sometimes you’ve got to find 81, and there’s no question about it.”

In the Lions’ season-opening loss to the San Diego Chargers last Sunday, Stafford targeted Johnson just four times and didn’t throw to the star wide receiver at all in the second or third quarters. Johnson finished with two catches for 39 yards as the Lions gave up a 21-3 lead in a 33-28 defeat.

Johnson laughed off the idea that he should never have so few targets. In the end, his frustration came from the loss more so than his role, but his four targets Sunday were the fewest he’s had in a Week 1 game during his nine-year career.

“It was one of those days,” he said.

Despite the success he’s had at beating various versions of double coverage in his career, Johnson said he wasn’t arguing with anyone on the Lions sideline during the game.

“I will tell them what I see so that in certain situations,” he said. “(If) we come back to this situation, (Stafford) might have that in the back of his head whatever we talked about earlier. But I’m not going to be over there berating him on the sideline or anything like that.”

Perhaps a silver lining from Johnson’s lack of use is that, after a season in which he dealt with injury much of the year, he’s still plenty healthy.

“I didn’t take hardly any punishment, so the body is feeling good,” he said.

Based on the interviews both after the game Sunday and Wednesday, it’s clear that Johnson’s lack of targets and production wasn’t a point of contention. Both players also noted that the Lions had just 47 offensive plays, which limited his opportunities.

“If we get 60, 70 plays, maybe his targets go way up, and he has a big one in there and everybody’s OK,” Stafford said.

Like Johnson, Stafford was chipper while discussing the topic. He joked that he likes having his array of weapons — Johnson, Golden Tate, Ameer Abdullah and Eric Ebron among them — on Sundays, but not as much on Wednesdays when he has to discuss ball distribution.

“You have a great player like (Johnson), you want to give him the ball as much as you can — there’s no question,” Stafford said. “Have I been guilty in my career probably of throwing it to him when some other guys in this league may not have? Yeah. But, I trust in him and understand that.

“But, at the same time we have a lot of playmakers and we’re trying to get everybody involved in the game and have everybody have a great game.”