Lions struggling to get ball to Johnson

The Detroit Lions are attempting to get Calvin Johnson more involved in the offense. Plus, more news and notes as the team prepares for the Green Bay Packers on Wednesday.

In the fourth quarter of Sunday's 16-10 loss to the New York Giants, wide receiver Calvin Johnson made the kind of play people envisioned when the Lions drafted him second overall in April. He used his 6-5 frame to win a battle with a 5-8 cornerback for a 35-yard touchdown.

But otherwise Johnson had only two catches for 10 yards, and the Lions didn't go back to him with the game on the line.

Quarterback Jon Kitna threw two passes to wide receiver Shaun McDonald that ended up being intercepted. The first time, McDonald, 5-10, lost a battle with a 6-3 safety. The second time, the ball went through McDonald's hands and into a Giant's.

Why wasn't Johnson on the field more often?

"Well, he was in 35 snaps, and he was in seven of the last eight plays," coach Rod Marinelli said. "So he was on the field, and coverage sometimes dictates certain things."

Marinelli said the Giants bracketed Johnson and Roy Williams, and that opened up things for McDonald and Mike Furrey.

"The matchups we're getting inside are really good," Marinelli said. "We had some great matchups. We had an opportunity right at the end of the game. We just have to do the simple things, do the ordinary things well. If we do that, we're moving right down the field with a timeout left. Catch the ball and do those things well."

But New England's Randy Moss and Dallas' Terrell Owens make plays despite double-teams, don't they?

"We've got four really good receivers, and the throws are all balanced," Marinelli said. "And it's a team concept, in terms of how we're doing it. Sometimes they'll throw it up with two guys on him and make a play. We run our system."

Johnson's health is still an issue, too. He has been bothered by a back problem, to varying degrees, since landing awkwardly while making a spectacular catch Sept. 23 at Philadelphia. Marinelli said Johnson still hadn't fully recovered.

Offensive coordinator Mike Martz has said he must be careful when putting Johnson in the game plan, because if Johnson were to go down, he would lose the whole package.

"If Calvin was 100 percent healthy," Kitna said, "he would be more involved."

  • The Lions' dilemma at right tackle continues. George Foster has been struggling. After he allowed a sack Sunday to Michael Strahan, the Lions replaced him with Blaine Saipaia, who is a versatile backup but is listed as a guard. Then Saipaia allowed two more sacks to Strahan.

    Jonathan Scott has missed two games because of a broken thumb. He appears ready to return, but because the Lions play Thursday against Green Bay, they have a short week and no padded practices.

    "It's not like we can get contact this week," Marinelli said. "It's going to be all walkthroughs this week. So it's hard to go out and see exactly where he's at with his hand. But he's a guy that's done well over there."

    If Scott is ready, will he start?

    "Well, we've just got to see ... how he handles that thing," Marinelli said.
  • QB Jon Kitna did not back down from the comments he made Sunday, when he said the Giants were not the better team. "I wasn't necessarily trying to be derogatory towards them," Kitna said. "They are a good team and they played a great game. But the reality is, opportunities were there, and it wasn't things they did that took them away, it was things we did."

    Player Personnel Notes:

  • S Idrees Bashir suffered a torn ACL when he went down on the opening kickoff Sunday and was placed on injured reserve Monday.
  • DE Dewayne White, who has missed two games with a triceps injury, said he said he would do some hitting on his own Tuesday to test the strength of his elbow and see if he could be productive Thursday against Green Bay.
  • RB Kevin Jones came out of Sunday's game OK. It appears he will be ready to play Thursday despite his sore foot.
  • RT Jonathan Scott is apparently ready to return after missing two games because of a broken thumb, but it is unclear whether he will start, despite the struggles of George Foster.
  • P Nick Harris had one touchback against the Giants, but he had four punts downed inside the 20.

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