Allen Park — Cornerback Brandon Browner played a key role on a Patriots defense that held the Lions without a touchdown in Week 12 last season.
On most plays, the 6-foot-4 Browner lined up across from Lions receiver Calvin Johnson. With regular help from a safety, Browner and New England limited Johnson to just four catches and 58 yards.
With Browner in New Orleans now, the Saints will have the option of using the big and physical cornerback on Johnson, but based on the season he’s had, that plan might not be as successful. As of last week, Browner led the NFL with 21 penalties, according to ESPN.
“Yeah, just a tug here, tug there, illegal contact, stuff like that,” Johnson said of what he’s seen from Browner this season. “And he’s real aggressive, so he’s getting called for them this year.”
The Lions admittedly aren’t sure how the Saints will cover Johnson, who had a season-low one catch last week in St. Louis. Delvin Breaux is New Orleans’ top cover man and, at 6-foot-1, he’s capable of contesting lofted balls to the 6-foot-5 Johnson. Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter called Breaux an “ascending” young player.
“I don’t know what their game plan is, but we’re kind of ready for all options we hope,” Cooter said.
Between the penalties and other lapses in coverage, Browner hasn’t had as much success with the Saints as he did during his three years in Seattle (2011-13). But, knowing how he limited Johnson last year, the Lions won’t take the matchup lightly if it comes.
Reflecting on last year’s game in New England, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said the Patriots used Browner at the line of scrimmage to “hammer” Johnson.
“If he gets his hands on guys, it’s over,” Stafford said. “They don’t even get off the line sometimes. … If you can get off the jam, that’s where probably your most success comes (against) him just because he is a longer guy, likes to get his hands on you.”