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Detroit Lions’ Offense led by Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson Will be Explosive

Cris Carter already got me vexed with his awful commentary about Calvin Johnson Friday. Not only was I upset because his analysis was factually incorrect, but also because I think Calvin Johnson is one of the best receivers in the NFL. Along with Matt Stafford, I believe Megatron will help produce one of the more entertaining offenses in football this season.

My love for the Stafford-to-Calvin combination is nothing new. I wrote about the tandem last November and listed the stats that show how unstoppable they are. It looks like they’re prepared to take things to the next level this year if their first preseason game was any indication.

Stafford went 6-7 for 71 yards and two touchdowns against Cincinnati’s top defense (I know, oxymoron) Friday night. He threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson. The best part was a stat presented by Evan Silva of Rotoworld. Silva noted on twitter that the Lions “went shotgun on 21 of first 28 snaps tonight. That’s what the offense is. Shotgun-heavy, pass-first spread. Big-time stats coming.”

My mouth watered after reading that. I know people are skeptical of taking Stafford (and Calvin somewhat) in fantasy leagues because of injury histories. I’m not. Those guys are going to blow up this year and the Lions will be a force in the NFC. I’m not going as far as Peter King and putting Detroit in the Super Bowl, but they’re certainly a team on the rise.

Cris Carter Does Not Think Calvin Johnson Is Elite, Shows His Ignorance

Cris Carter is a former eight-time Pro Bowl receiver and two-time All-Pro. He led the league in touchdown catches three times. He was an excellent receiver and a player I’d vote for the Hall of Fame. But he’s showing his ignorance as an NFL analyst.

Appearing on ESPN Radio Friday morning, Carter was asked to name the elite receivers in the NFL. His list included (in order): Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Greg Jennings, Reggie Wayne, DeSean Jackson, and Roddy White. Omitted from that list was Lions receiver Calvin Johnson.

When the point was raised that Calvin was left off the list, Carter explained that was done on purpose. “Calvin Johnson, he’s very, very good at Madden and Tecmo Bowl or whatever they’re playing now. But on film, when I watch film, and I break down the film, he’s not to the point of these guys yet. That doesn’t mean he can’t play. He just not there yet.”

To this point, that’s just opinion. People’s opinions differ, so it’s hard to argue with what he’s saying. But then Carter provides analysis that just shows how clueless he is.

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There Will Be No ‘Calvin Johnson Rule’, Call to Remain the Same

When Calvin Johnson caught a game-winning touchdown against the Bears in Week 1 this past season, it looked as though the Lions were going to accomplish something extremely rare by Detroit standards: starting off a season on a high note.  Then the score was taken away, sending Lions fans into an uproar and filling the football world with talk of a “Calvin Johnson Rule.”

According to Newsday, via Pro Football Talk, there will be no such rule in 2011.  NFL competition committee member John Mara said that after examining the play it was determined that any change to the rule would be too tough to officiate.  He explained that having to maintain control of the ball all the way to the ground makes the rule “easier to officiate.”

(Click here to see the Johnson play from Week 1)

While Mara’s reasoning may be sound, the decision is wrong.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there’s a reason we have human beings officiating games and not robots.  Referees need to make judgments in order to throw flags for penalties like pass interference and holding, so why can’t we extend that same responsibility to them for catches like the one Johnson made?  When it’s that obvious that he was flipping the ball up in the air after completely controlling it, why can’t the league allow officials to use discretion?

Johnson made a tremendous catch that may have even impressed Al Davis.  When everyone can blatantly see that a player made a catch and a technicality in the way the rules are written prevents a team from winning a game, you have a problem.  One came to light early last season when the Lions were screwed, and the NFL should have made a rule adjustment.

Al Davis: Calvin Johnson is Nothing Special

Al Davis never gets old.  Actually, he has gotten old.  Very, very old — but you know what I mean.  It seems like every time he opens his mouth something ridiculous comes out.  Just when Crazy Al says something that might lead us to believe he has a shred of sanity left inside his dome, he goes and spoils it with more of the same.

Last week, reporters asked Davis about the way the Raiders have drafted the past two seasons.  Things started out smoothly before getting a little bit ugly.

“I think we’ve been very successful the last four,” he said. “I think we’re always pretty good. The thing that hurt, is the question someone asked, JaMarcus hurt a great deal. But the ones they wanted to take instead of JaMarcus, Brady Quinn, hasn’t played yet.”

Fair enough, right?  At least he’s admitting the team screwed up when they drafted Russell.  That may seem like a given, but we’ve seen Davis in denial many times before.  He seems to think Darius Heyward-Bey can be compared to some of the greatest receivers of all-time, but we’ll let that slide.  Anyway, here’s where he flew off the handle.

“There was some talk of Calvin Johnson,” Davis continued. “But you can take a look at Calvin up at Detroit. How many games did they win this year, Detroit, do you know? Six? Yeah. But up until now, Calvin hadn’t done anything for them. He had been eulogized, but he hadn’t made a lot of indelible impression on the won and lost.”

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Calvin Johnson is Sick of Losing

If Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford are going to be the future of the Detroit Lions, both will have to remain Detroit Lions.  Stafford is likely staying put.  The same may not be true for Johnson.  One thing is for sure — Megatron is fed up with losing.

According to the Detroit Free Press, via Pro Football Talk, Johnson seemed uncertain when asked whether or not he would remain in Detroit when his contract expires in 2012.  When a player talks about a contract situation, one of the main things they usually allude to is how much they love the city they play in and the fans in that city.  That wasn’t quite the case with Johnson.

Put it like this, if we turn this thing into a winner, I’m happy,” Johnson said via the Detroit Free Press. “I’ve won 11 games since I’ve been here in four years. Losing definitely sucks and you definitely don’t want to be around losing. You can’t get used to that.“I can’t get used to it because I haven’t come from that.  I’ve been used to winning. And if this thing can’t get turned around, man, like I said — I’m just going to leave it at I can’t get used to it. I want to win.”

Translation: build a winning team or I’m out of here.  While it may not be the traditional “this is a great city” response, we can’t blame Johnson.  He’s one of the best receivers in the NFL and has nothing to show for it at this point in his career.  The Lions have looked like an improved team at various points this season, yet they’ve only win two games.

To his credit, Megatron has been relatively quiet during his tenure with Detroit — especially for a wide receiver.  Usually when a star receiver doesn’t appreciate how things are going they let everyone know about it.  Johnson, on the other hand, has been relatively quiet.  If he chooses to leave Detroit in 2012, there will be plenty of people waiting with blank checks and even more who don’t blame him for skipping town.

Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson Is the Future for Detroit

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford returned from a shoulder injury sustained in week one to throw four touchdown passes in a week eight win over the Redskins. Three of his touchdown passes went to former first-round pick Calvin Johnson who has eight TDs on the season. Whether he was double-covered (like he was on his third touchdown catch of the game), or dragging defenders into the end zone (like he did on his second TD), Megatron found a way to make plays Sunday.

Calvin has now scored in four straight games though the previous three were with Shaun Hill as quarterback. Johnson has enjoyed a nice season, but his best game of the year came in Stafford’s only full game. He had a season-high nine catches for 101 yards and three touchdowns. It was his first career three TD game and the nine catches topped his previous season high of six. Though Calvin is a force regardless of his quarterback, we’ve seen that his game is elevated to a higher level when he’s paired with Stafford.

All three of Johnson’s 100-yard games last year came when Stafford was playing quarterback. Four of his five touchdown catches last year were thrown by Stafford who was only a rookie. The other quarterbacks were Daunte Culpepper and Drew Stanton who were both more experienced yet they still couldn’t utilize Calvin the same way Stafford could.

The Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson combination has totaled seven touchdowns in just 11 and a half games working together. Calvin has 22 touchdowns in the 40 and a half other games he’s played with different quarterbacks. Stafford’s only had one game back from the shoulder injury, but it sure looks like the two will form a Pro Bowl combination for many years to come. As a Lions fan, there’s no way not to be excited for the future.

Lions Robbed of Win in Controversial Call

Some people were predicting a breakout season for the Detroit Lions this year and maybe even a playoff appearance. I was expecting a turnaround for the Lions too, and getting a road win over the Bears in week one would have been an excellent start to the season. If only a bad rule did not get in the way.

With 31 seconds left and his team down 19-14, backup quarterback Shaun Hill threw into the end zone for receiver Calvin Johnson. Johnson skied for the grab, landed on the ground with his butt and knee hitting the turf in what appeared to be the game-winning catch. After having control of the ball, Johnson went to put the ball on the turf and lost control. It was this part of the catch that was controversial and the referees overturned the touchdown call, waving off the play. The Lions threw two more incompletions and lost 19-14.

So what was the official rule that got in the way? From DetroitLions.com, “The ruling is that in order for the catch to be completed he has got to maintain possession of the ball throughout the entire process of the catch.” If 9 out of 10 non-Bears fans would tell you that’s a catch, then it should be a catch. Sometimes we get too technical with our rules and that is a classic example. Sucks for Detroit because they should be 1-0.

Here’s the Calvin Johnson touchdown video that was overturned:

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