Lions' Kerryon Johnson shoulders blame for sluggish stretch

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Lions running back Kerryon Johnson looks for an opening in the defense in the second quarter.

Minneapolis — Kerryon Johnson raised expectations last month when he racked up 158 yards in the Detroit Lions' victory in Miami.

How could he not? 

The Lions have been looking for a reliable ground game for years and the rookie was proving to be the answer, snapping off big gains to start three consecutive games and topping the 100-yard plateau twice in a month. This after the organization had gone through a record drought without a rusher hitting the century mark. 

Three weeks later, Johnson is coming off a second straight dud performance, with 37 yards on 12 carries in Sunday's 24-9 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. It's a stark reminder of the difficulty to be consistently effective at the professional level. 

"That's what this league is," Johnson said. "No one is going to let you (run well) willingly. People are showing up, people are trying to stop our run."

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Johnson tried to take the glass-half-full outlook. He said there's a noticeable difference in the resources opponents are committing to stopping Detroit's ground game, respect which should open things up for the rest of the offense. 

Unfortunately for the Lions, that's not how it has worked out the past two games. The offense has been stymied, scoring a combined 23 points. 

Johnson isn't using the extra attention as an excuse. His personal expectations remain sky high, regardless of how he's defended. 

"I don't really care," Johnson said. "When teams play the Los Angeles Rams, who do they want to stop? Todd Gurley. When teams play the Pittsburgh Steelers, who do they want to stop? Le'Veon Bell. Do those guys care? I do not think so, and neither do I.

"I have to go out there and run. When they call my number, I have to gain yards. I haven't been doing that lately and that is my fault."  

Johnson also took blame for the fumbled pitch that was tossed his way by quarterback Matthew Stafford during a fourth-quarter scramble. The Vikings recovered the loose ball and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown. 

"I dropped it," Johnson said. "It bounced right off my helmet. I am an NFL athlete and I'm supposed to catch that. He trusted me and I let him down." 

Through eight games, Johnson has rushed for 503 yards on 89 carries. He remains on pace to be Detroit's first 1,000-yard rusher since Reggie Bush in 2013.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers