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Friday, November 9, 2012
Megatron not targeted near end zone

By John McTigue, ESPN Stats & Info


Khampha Bouaphanh/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT Calvin Johnson has just one touchdown this season after having 11 through eight games last year.
During a Tuesday guest spot on "The Rich Eisen Podcast," Matthew Stafford explained why Calvin Johnson this season hasn't been able to match his scoring pace from last year when he led the league with 11 touchdown catches through Week 9.

"Whenever we get inside the 10-yard line, the teams' number one goal that we're playing, no matter who it is, 'Don't let Matthew throw it to Calvin and get a touchdown because that sparks them.'" Stafford said. "The guy's getting just viced and doubled like nobody else in the league.

"It's an interesting predicament, but he's still getting a bunch of yards and a bunch of catches for us, which is what we need."

How bad has it been for Johnson inside the opponent’s 10-yard line this season?

At this time last season, Johnson had 11 touchdown receptions, with four coming on plays inside the opponent’s 10-yard line.

However, after the Lions’ bye in Week 9, Johnson didn’t garner the same attention on those plays. He had only four targets and just two catches inside the 10-yard line.

Yet, this isn’t actually a new trend for Megatron this year. The first eight games of this season for Johnson have followed a similar pattern to the final eight games of last season.

Johnson has been the targeted receiver on 22.7 percent of the Lions’ passes inside the opponent’s 10 this season, nearly equal to the rate of 22.2 percent in the last eight games of 2011.

Even though Johnson was less of a factor in the second half of last season, the rest of his teammates did not suffer the same dropoff. The other Lions receivers caught nine touchdowns on 14 targets inside the 10-yard line after Week 9, similar to their production of eight touchdowns on 28 targets in the first half of the season.

To Stafford’s last point, Johnson’s reception and yardage totals this season are very similar to the first eight games of last season. In fact, Johnson has been targeted more through eight games this season.

But the lack of targets near the end zone has really hurt Johnson in the touchdown column. He has just one touchdown catch in eight games, and it didn’t even come from the arm of Stafford.

Will Johnson be able to find pay dirt when the Lions are close to the end zone against the Minnesota Vikings this weekend? He was not targeted inside the Vikings 10-yard line when they played earlier this season, but did catch a touchdown against them in that situation last year in Week 3.