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Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Matthew Stafford fires back at Cris Carter

By Kevin Seifert

Earlier Tuesday, we broke down the sizzling start of Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson from multiple angles. At around the same time, ESPN analyst Cris Carter was updating his assessment of Johnson's standing in a mythical and irrelevant ranking of the NFL's top receivers.

Speaking on ESPN's radio's "Mike & Mike Radio Show," Carter said Johnson is "playing at a top-5 level" and added: "He's a phenomenal player." But it sounds as if Carter didn't go far enough for many of you, most notably Johnson's quarterback.

Carter said there are "really four elite wide receivers" in the NFL: Greg Jennings of the Green Bay Packers, Roddy White of the Atlanta Falcons, Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals and Andre Johnson of the Houston Texans.

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was either listening or told about Carter's comment. Stafford's first tweet in about a month went like this:
Does anyone think 8 tds in 4 weeks will change chris carters mind about an "elite" receiver? #megatron

Johnson, of course, has six touchdowns in the Lions' first three games, giving Stafford's tweet an edgy projection about the two he would need to score Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. Stay tuned on that one.

I covered Carter at the end of his career with the Minnesota Vikings, and I can tell you he's not opposed to riling people up for the sake of riling people up. I don't doubt the sincerity of his viewpoint, but I'll say this: Y'all are letting old Cris get under your skin when the actual slight to Johnson is mild at best.

Carter paid plenty of homage to Johnson in his appearance Tuesday morning, saying: "Now, Calvin Johnson is playing the best football of his career. He's getting single coverage now and he's beating single coverage. They had double-coverage in the red zone. Him and Stafford have great chemistry together. He is playing at a top-5 level. But before this season, he wasn't better than the other four guys. He's starting to come into his own, which he should be. ... He should be coming into his prime and he's only going to get better. He's a phenomenal player."

You can listen to Carter yourself on this podcast . The Johnson segment begins at about the 17-minute mark.

And now back to our regular programming....