Calvin Johnson's numbers against the Chargers may have looked sweet, but the reality was sour. Johnson had two balls glance off his hands on Sunday, including one that was picked off. More news and notes, plus game grades, inside.
If you just glance at the stat sheet, you might think Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson took a step forward Sunday. Johnson, the second overall pick in this year's draft, had his first 100-yard game. Five catches, 102 yards.
But the numbers make his performance look better than it was. Early in the game, when the Lions were still in it, Johnson let two balls glance off his hands. The second time, the ball was picked off. That started a snowball that led to a 51-14 blowout loss at San Diego.
"He's got to make those plays," coach Rod Marinelli said. "I mean, he's got to. And they were some good opportunities. He's got to go up and get them."
Johnson often has little to say to reporters, and Sunday was no different. He said he had a "lack of focus" and added: "I got pulled on the one that got picked off. The ref didn't say nothing. But hey, nothing I can do about it now."
Forty-nine of Johnson's yards came on a Hail Mary play at the end of the first half. Johnson caught the ball in a crowd at the San Diego 1-yard line, but he couldn't get into the end zone.
A concern is that Johnson often fails to make plays early, then pads his stats late when the game is out of reach. Asked if Johnson were having trouble learning the offense, Marinelli said no.
"It's not the grasp of the offense," Marinelli said. "It's just the details of a route, just being on it. We need him to step up. We need him to step up big-time for us right now."
PASSING OFFENSE: F -- QB Jon Kitna tied his career high with five interceptions. The Lions didn't allow a sack for the first time this season, but a blitzer came free, got in Kitna's face and helped force one of the picks.
RUSHING OFFENSE: F -- The Lions tried to establish the run early and failed. Then, once again, they fell behind and abandoned the run altogether. They had only nine rushing attempts for 26 yards. It was the third time this season the Lions have had rushing attempts in the single digits.
PASS DEFENSE: F -- When the Chargers threw, they threw with ease. QB Philip Rivers went 14-for-21 for 142 yards and a touchdown before taking a seat to rest his sore knee in the third quarter. The Lions did not sack him.
RUSH DEFENSE: F -- The Lions allowed 274 rushing yards, by far the most they have allowed this season. For the first time in Chargers history, two running backs surpassed 100 rushing yards. LaDainian Tomlinson had 116 yards and two touchdowns. Darren Sproles had 122 yards and two TDs. The Lions' tackling was atrocious.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Sproles' longest kickoff return was 29 yards. That represents about the only victory the Lions had all day. Their coverage units have been horrible, and at least they didn't give up another huge return.
COACHING: F -- The same thing happens over and over. The Lions go on the road, and things snowball away from them. This was their fourth road loss by more than 30 points, their fifth by a double-digit margin. In all of those games, the players did not respond to what the coaches have preached.
Individual Player Notes
LG Edwin Mulitalo suffered a concussion Sunday and will be evaluated this week.
OL Blaine Saipaia, who filled in at right tackle earlier this season, took over at left guard after Mulitalo left the game.
CB Travis Fisher suffered a hamstring injury. His status is uncertain.
DT Langston Moore suffered a quadriceps injury. His status is uncertain.
DE Kalimba Edwards was inactive for the second consecutive game. He might not play again this season. But if Moore is out, he might get another chance.