All game long, they were pressuring New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees – 14 times in all Sunday they at least hurried the veteran quarterback with a penchant for avoiding sacks. But at some point, Johnson figured, Brees would have to hold on to the ball for a split second longer.
And with the Saints facing a third-and-9 with the ball and a 23-17 lead against the Lions, he did, resulting in a Glover Quin interception that changed the game.
"We knew eventually he was going to have to hold the ball eventually. When teams hold the ball against us, we’re able to get there," Johnson said. "We just said we’re going to keep fighting, keep being relentless and eventually we’re going to get there and get to the quarterback, and that’s what happened."
The play began with the Lions in their traditional nickel package, with Danny Gorrer lined up in the slot, one of four different back seven personnel packages the Lions used Sunday. The Lions blitzed on the play, sending five rushers -- the four defensive linemen and linebacker Josh Bynes -- but it was Johnson who got a move on New Orleans left tackle Terron Armstead.
He used his "pass-rush move" and got around the edge, forcing Brees to take a quick step up in the pocket. As Brees stepped up to throw to Marques Colston, he saw a breaking Glover Quin out of the corner of his eye.
"They played basically a man coverage and dropped a safety (James Ihedigbo) down in there," Brees said. "You call it a robber coverage or a thief, where he’s going to read eyes. When I stepped up, my eyes kind of got on Marcus.
"I felt like that robber, that safety, was going to go left, and then he hung on Marcus for an extra count, and then I turned it loose and that allowed him to come over and get underneath it."
When Brees let it go, Quin had already caught onto watching Brees' read. So when Brees tossed it right at the middle of the field -- and really to a spot where Gorrer was beat -- Quin jumped the route. It came after Quin and Ihedigbo switched their coverage on the play in an attempt to confuse Brees, which it did.
By the time the ball arrived, Quin was able to just clamp down on it in stride and go.
"We knew on third downs that Drew likes to go to the sticks, and he likes to throw it to the middle of the field with somebody that’s right in front of him, somebody that’s in his vision," Quin said. "So everything worked out perfectly. We had a great rush from our D-line, Drew was under duress and he stepped up and the D-line was closing in.
"He kind of tried to look me off a little bit, but he was trying to hit the tight end or someone coming right across the field."
That player was never there, allowing Quin to snag the pass, return the ball 23 yards and set up what ended up being Detroit’s game-winning touchdown.