Commentary

Calvin Johnson lowers the boom

Lions' 'Megatron' lets his play mark place among WRs and quiets Cowboys' Rob Ryan

Updated: October 2, 2011, 11:15 PM ET
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Halftime adjustment by Rob Ryan: He added Laurent Robinson to the list of Dallas Cowboys' receivers who are better than Calvin Johnson.

OK, not really. But that wouldn't have been much more ridiculous than Ryan flapping his gums Friday about the Cowboys' roster featuring a pair of receivers who are better than the Detroit Lions' touchdown machine known as Megatron.

[+] EnlargeCalvin Johnson
Tim Heitman/US PresswireCalvin Johnson had a typical Sunday with two touchdown catches, but his efforts were magnified against the Cowboys.

All due respect to Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, but Johnson is bigger, faster, stronger, jumps higher and, in the case of the latter, comes with a lot less drama. Other than that, Ryan was right on with his rankings of the receivers for the two NFC playoff hopefuls.

As usual, Johnson made his points in the end zone, not with the microphone in front of his face. He took the high road when asked about Ryan's jabs after the Lions roared back from a 24-point deficit to hand the Cowboys a 34-30 loss Sunday.

Maybe there really isn't much need to rub it in after scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter of the biggest road comeback win in NFL history. Of course, it's just a regular ol' day at the office for Johnson to score twice. He's done it every game this season, matching Cris Carter's NFL record for consecutive multi-touchdown-reception performances.

Oh, but the other Lions seem to love when Johnson gets slighted. In fact, quarterback Matthew Stafford kidded Carter just this week for the current ESPN analyst's preseason opinion that Johnson wasn't a top-five receiver in the NFL, wondering on Twitter whether another two-TD day would change his mind. And head coach Jim Schwartz joined Stafford in jabbing Ryan after the undefeated Lions dropped Dallas to 2-2.

"Indulge me for a second," Schwartz said as he stepped to the podium for his postgame press conference. "I am just glad that the third-best receiver on their team is on our team."

Said Stafford with a similar deadpan delivery: "We will talk to him about not being the best receiver on their team."

Johnson was so dominant down the stretch Sunday that the mouth that roared a couple of days earlier didn't have much to say on the subject.

"Hell, he's a great player like we said he was," Ryan said. "The guy made some plays. That's what it is. ... He's a damn good player and that's the way it is."

Yeah, Ryan called Johnson "excellent" and "pretty damn good" earlier this week. But he's provided enough bulletin-board material to know how it works. The part of the quote that made it to Detroit was, "We work against better receivers with Miles Austin and Dez Bryant."

Maybe Johnson is telling the truth when he said he didn't pay any attention to the talk, but it's probably not a good idea to provide additional motivational fodder for a 6-foot-5, 236-pound physical freak.

For most of the game, the Cowboys actually did a pretty darn good job containing the man Dallas head coach Jason Garrett referred to this week as "arguably the best player in the National Football League." But Johnson made Ryan look silly by absolutely owning the clutch.

Five of Johnson's eight catches, 58 of his 96 yards and both of his touchdowns came in the fourth quarter. Tony Romo's three second-half interceptions made the Detroit's historic comeback possible, but the Lions head home with a blemished record unless Johnson continues to build his case as the league's most amazing athlete.

Three Cowboys surrounded Johnson on his first touchdown, a 23-yarder to cut the deficit to one score with 13:37 remaining. But cornerback Mike Jenkins, safety Barry Church and linebacker Sean Lee were helpless as Johnson showed off his 43-inch vertical leap by soaring over them to snatch the ball.

You know a guy is good when a quarterback makes a wise decision to throw the ball into triple coverage. All Stafford needed to see was a throw-it-up gesture from Johnson to pull the trigger.

Cornerback Terence Newman was left alone on Johnson for the game-winning touchdown, a 2-yard catch on a fade route with 1:39 remaining. Newman had good position, but disadvantages of seven inches and 35 pounds are kind of tough to overcome when the ball is up in the air.

"It's not every day you play a guy who could play power forward for the Pistons," Newman said.

The Lions declined a penalty on the play after the Cowboys had 12 men on the field. Ryan should have at least used the extra defender to help on the NFL's most dangerous receiver, right?

Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.

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