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Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Stafford to Johnson looks familiar

By Michael C. Wright

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler sees the connection between Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and receiver Calvin Johnson similar to what's transpiring this season between him and Brandon Marshall.

Sure, the Detroit duo put up gaudy numbers through the first 15 games.

But "I think in an ideal world, you'd like to get some other guys in the mix," Cutler said Wednesday. "If you have three guys at 70 (receptions), four guys at 50, 60, 70 and really spread it around, I think it makes defenses a lot more honest.

"You're not taking away anything that they've done. It's impressive."

Johnson surpassed Jerry Rice's single-season record for receiving yardage Saturday during a 31-18 thrashing by the Atlanta Falcons as the Lions (4-22) lost their seventh consecutive game. He now needs 102 yards Sunday against the Bears to reach 2,000 yards.

Johnson caught 11 passes for 225 yards in the loss to the Falcons. But with losses continuing to pile up for the Lions, ESPN Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden questioned whether Johnson's accomplishment might be somewhat tarnished. Johnson broke Rice's record in the fourth quarter against the Falcons with his team down two touchdowns.

"They don't keep a record of meaningless yards, and these are meaningless yards," Gruden said Saturday during the broadcast. "I hate to say it, but they are."

Cutler wouldn't go as far, and would only say "it's impressive what they're doing."

It's similar to what he and Marshall have done.

With 117 catches, Johnson owns 27.8 percent of all the receptions of the Detroit Lions and also accounts for 38.9 percent of the team's 4,867 receiving yards. But with Marshall, the discrepancy in his production compared to the rest of the team seems even more dramatic.

Marshall (1,446 receiving yards) is responsible for 48.2 percent of the team's total receiving yards and 48.2 percent of its receptions.

Cutler said, "(I) don't know" on Wednesday when asked what the Bears could do to get the club's other targets more involved in the offense.

Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz, meanwhile, lauded Johnson for his latest accomplishment, but acknowledged his team suffers an issue on offense very similar to the Bears.

"Any time Calvin has got the ball in his hands, it's good for our football team," he said. "It really doesn't matter what the yards are or any type of personal accolades. It's what can you do to help the team on Sunday? Our quarterback can still work hard to not only get Calvin the ball, and I think (offensive coordinator Scott Linehan) has been very creative in finding ways to get (Johnson) the ball. We need to do a better job of getting the ball to other people than Calvin."

Just like the Bears need to find a way to involve other people not named Brandon.