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Monday, October 21, 2013
Upon Further Review: Lions Week 7

By Michael Rothstein

A review of four hot issues from the Detroit Lions' 27-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Calvin Johnson
Calvin Johnson was back to his old self on Sunday.
First major injury issues of the year: And at a spot the Lions can ill afford to have them. Yes, Detroit has had some injury problems at wide receiver with both Nate Burleson and Calvin Johnson, but this could end up being a bigger issue. Depending on what happens with left tackle Riley Reiff and right tackle Corey Hilliard this week, the Lions might be down to one healthy tackle: undrafted rookie free agent LaAdrian Waddle. Waddle saw extensive action in place of both Reiff and Hilliard on Sunday, but this will be something to really watch as the week progresses. Reiff came back into Sunday’s game, but didn’t look nearly as healthy as he has for the majority of the season.

Martin’s confidence: He hit the worst punt of his short NFL career, but rookie punter Sam Martin answered every question with honesty afterward and took complete and total blame for the mistake. He had a bad game before, struggling in the opener against Minnesota -- but Detroit won that game. This punt wasn’t an overarching issue as Martin was able to diagnose the problem as soon as he kicked the ball, but he needs to be able to forget about it because he has been having a very good season prior to his last kick.

Calvin Johnson is healthy: Even if he isn’t actually fully healthy, Johnson looked like his old self Sunday against Cincinnati. He had two touchdown catches, and neither one of them easy. He caught one with a defender with him step for step -- a perfectly thrown ball from Matthew Stafford, and an impressive catch from Johnson. Then there was his second touchdown, a 50-yard grab in triple coverage that might have been the catch of the season. There may have been some design to the play, but it certainly didn’t come with three defenders right on him and a fourth somewhat nearby. Yet Johnson outleapt all of them for the grab. He had nine catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns.

Sunday looms large: The NFL is undoubtedly an up-and-down league, and almost every team has good weeks and bad weeks in a season. The Lions need a good week this week against Dallas. It may seem a little early for it, and even if the Lions were to lose to the Cowboys, they would still be at .500 entering the off week and still in the divisional race. But for momentum purposes, Detroit needs a big game against Dallas. It is much different heading into the off week at 5-3 with a win against a potential playoff team instead of 4-4 on a two-game home losing streak against potential playoff teams, with road games at Chicago and Pittsburgh coming up after the break.