DETROIT – Tramon Williams all but admitted a month or two ago he wouldn’t have been able to defend Calvin Johnson the way he did on Thursday.
Back then, Williams’ shoulder injury from the season opener was still an issue, but with his health continuing to improve, Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers didn’t hesitate to match him against Detroit’s “Megatron” receiver and take his chances.
“I don’t think they would try to ask me to do that, at that point, but I’m feeling better now obviously,” Williams said. “They know that and they put me in the position.”
Williams was basically assigned to Johnson anytime the 6-5 Lion wasn’t lined up in the slot. Johnson didn’t have a single reception until four minutes remained in the second quarter, and he finished with just four catches for 49 yards, getting his league-leading 12th touchdown reception in garbage time late in the fourth quarter.
It was a yeoman’s effort by Williams. His best play came with just over a minute left in the second quarter, when quarterback Matthew Stafford threw a jump ball down the right sideline and into the end zone, intended for Johnson.
Williams stayed right with him and broke up the play, forcing the Lions to try a field goal, which was missed.
The pass wasn’t even that close to being completed, despite the fact that Johnson has made numerous catches just like that this year, leaping over the top of smaller defensive backs.
“They didn’t do it much,” Williams said of the jump-ball or fade-route approach, which surprised him a bit. “They tried to do some different things with him.”
Whatever they tried didn’t work too well. On the first play of that late second-quarter drive, Williams nearly had a pick-six, jumping a slant route by Johnson and getting his hands on the ball. He couldn’t haul it in, though.
Williams also nearly had an interception on the game’s opening drive, when Stafford threw behind receiver Titus Young and, behind the play, Williams had a chance to snag it.
“We don’t expect anything else out of Tramon,” fellow corner Charles Woodson said. “Tramon has just turned into a tremendous player for us, and he did a great job today. He should have had two interceptions.”
Truth be told, Williams sounded more like a player just glad to be healthy again, despite the missed opportunities.
“I always said it was more mental than physical,” Williams said of his shoulder injury. “Obviously, the physical aspect was (it) hurt, but mentally you knew it and you were just trying to get through the game without reinjuring that shoulder.
“I’m thankful I got through that period and I got the shoulder back to the way it needs to be and I’m able to play the way I want.”
Effective placement: The Packers offense wasn’t at its best on Thursday, particularly early in the game, but punter Tim Masthay helped make it tough on the Lions to take advantage.
Masthay’s four first-half punts were executed almost perfectly. The first was from the Detroit 43-yard line and was fair-caught by returner Stefan Logan at the 15. His second, with Green Bay on its own 29, was a booming 55-yarder angled toward the sideline that went out of bounds at the Detroit 16.
After a punt that bounced inside the 5 and went for a touchback, Masthay then closed the first half with another boomer toward the sideline that went 57 yards. Logan caught it barely in bounds but had nowhere to go and lost two yards on the return.
One final punt in the second half was fair-caught at the 16, giving Masthay four of five punts inside the 20 and a solid 39.8-yard net average.
First action: Rookie running back Brandon Saine, who had previously played only on special teams, got his first action on offense against the Lions.
With running back James Starks sidelined in the second half after he tweaked his tender ankle, Saine carried twice for 10 yards and caught one pass for nine yards.
He became the 14th different player to catch a pass from Aaron Rodgers this season.
Injury list: In addition to Starks, the players who left the game for the Packers due to injuries were right guard Josh Sitton (knee) and inside linebackers Desmond Bishop (calf) and A.J. Hawk (calf). Additional coverage - Nov. 24