GREEN BAY—Listening to Calvin Johnson and Lions Coach Jim Caldwell, Jordy Nelson might be the Packers’ best weapon for stopping Johnson, largely considered to be the game’s No. 1 wide receiver.
“Jordy, you always see him making some big plays. He is definitely their big-play guy. He’s a guy we’ve got to be able to contain come Sunday; you know, not let him get the ball and run with it and find seams to make bigger plays after he catches it,” Johnson said during a conference call with Packers media on Wednesday.
Nelson was the star of the Packers’ come-from-behind, 31-24 win over the Jets this past Sunday. He turned in a Johnson-like performance that included nine receptions for 209 yards and an 80-yard touchdown.
Johnson’s numbers sagged in the Lions’ 24-7 loss at Carolina, but his explosive Week-1 performance against the Giants has Johnson at 13 receptions for 247 yards and two touchdowns through two games.
Stop Johnson? Is it possible to do that? Stopping Nelson might be just as difficult, and the Johnson vs. Nelson matchup might decide and define this Sunday’s NFC North showdown at Ford Field.
“I know one thing, that you have to be aware of him, concerned about him and where he lines up and knowing that if you give him a crack or a one-on-one opportunity, that ball’s going his way,” Caldwell said of Nelson.
Johnson, Nelson, the Lions and the Packers will square off this Sunday in the season’s most important game to date for both teams.
“It’s a big game. It’s a divisional game. It’s a home game for us, so we definitely want to take care of our home field. At the same time, we want to take care of our divisional games whenever they come,” Johnson said.
Is it too early in the season for a game of this magnitude?
“I don’t think so,” Caldwell said. “I don’t think it’s ever too early for a game of this magnitude.”
The last time these two teams faced each other was on Thanksgiving Day last season, in Detroit, and the Lions won going away, 40-10. Of course, Aaron Rodgers didn’t play in that game. He will in this Sunday’s game.
Caldwell wasn’t the Lions coach on Thanksgiving Day last season. He was hired following a late-season Lions meltdown that cost Jim Schwartz his job.
How are the Lions different under Caldwell?
“Coach Caldwell is great. He set his standards from the jump. We’re going to be definitely a better-disciplined team as far as not killing ourselves. We still have work to do. It’s the beginning of the season, but we definitely want to get a hold of those things that we do to hurt ourselves,” Johnson said.
Johnson and his quarterback, Matt Stafford, are being cast in a different offense. It was explosive in Week 1, but ineffective in Carolina this past Sunday.
“I think he’s one of those guys that he’s just going to continue to get better within the development of it,” Caldwell said of Stafford’s progress within Caldwell’s offense. “He’s smart, he’s tough, he’s heady and he’s a good leader. He’s done a good job within the system, and I think you’ll see him continue to get better,” Caldwell said.
ADDITIONAL COVERAGE - SEPT. 17