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Cowboys contain Lions' Calvin Johnson in wild-card victory

1/5/2015

The return meeting between the Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions in Sunday's NFC wild-card game had a different outcome and coverage employed on Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson.

In last year's meeting, the visiting Cowboys lost, 31-30, and Johnson destroyed the secondary catching 14 passes for 329 yards with one touchdown. Amazingly enough, Johnson was short of the NFL record for yards in a game (336).

In Sunday's playoff game at AT&T Stadium, things were different.

Unlike what happened in Motown, when the Cowboys had cornerback Brandon Carr cover Johnson by himself for the majority of the game, help was on the way.

Carr was still on Johnson, but if the 6-5, 235 pound receiver got by him, safety Barry Church was right there preventing deep passes.

Sometimes Johnson lined up with a linebacker, Bruce Carter or Kyle Wilber in front of him as Carr settled several yards back.

The Cowboys made sure Johnson stayed in front of them. Johnson did catch five passes for 85 yards where he was targeted eight times with his longest reception, 28 yards, coming against a soft zone where the Cowboys gave him space.

"It was tough," Church said. "We knew going into this game the game plan was to either take him out the game or contain him and we pretty much did that. The players knew, Orlando Scandrick, Sterling Moore, [Tyler] Patmon, those guys knew they would have one-on-ones and they were able to stand up pretty well in this game. My hat goes off to them because those guys were on an island."

With Carr and Church on Johnson, it forced Scandrick, the other starting corner, to face Golden Tate in single coverage. Quarterback Matthew Stafford took advantage as Tate beat Church for the Lions' first touchdown of the game, 51-yard catch where Church fell down.

And basically that was it for the Lions, who scored two touchdowns total, Tate's and Reggie's Bush's 18-yard scamper for a score.

Johnson remained a threat to the Cowboys, but he never became someone who took over the game.

"That was a big part of our plan, we knew going in we couldn't allow him to get off, he's too good," Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "And I thought our players did an excellent job of executing."