For the first time since Ford Field opened in 2002, a Lions home game will be blacked out on local television.
So when the Lions host Washington on Sunday, viewers in the Detroit area will miss only three catches by wide receiver Calvin Johnson, if his average over the past four games holds up.
The Lions still had about 5,000 tickets left as of 1 p.m. Thursday, the deadline for teams to sell out and be televised locally. Fans are finally fed up, and this might be one of the reasons.
Johnson was the second overall pick of last year's draft. He has been paid millions upon millions. He is not supposed to be a decoy.
"Well, heck no," offensive coordinator Jim Colletto said. "I mean, you find a home to put me in."
So why aren't the Lions giving Johnson the ball more often?
Colletto tried to give Johnson the ball more often Sunday at Houston. He even called a reverse for him. But Johnson was stuffed for a 2-yard loss on that play, and some passes didn't go to Johnson because of the coverage.
"Sometimes they're smart, too," Colletto said. "They're going to take him away, but when they do that, there are some other guys available."
The Lions entered the season planning to run the ball more to open up the field for Johnson and wide receiver Roy Williams. Now Williams has been traded to Dallas, making it easier for opponents to key on Johnson and even more important for others to make plays.
"In basketball, when they double-down in the post, you've got to hit open jump shots," quarterback Dan Orlovsky said. "They're going to double-down until you do."
The problem is, the Lions aren't hitting their open jump shots.
Shaun McDonald was supposed to fill some of the void after the Williams trade, and he finished the Houston game with one of the strangest stat lines you'll ever see: no catches for minus-seven yards. On the last play of the game, he caught a lateral. He tried to pitch the ball to a teammate, and it went out of bounds.
"I never started and played a whole game without even getting a catch, so that was weird for me," McDonald said. "I had some chances, didn't make some plays. I'm disappointed in myself. I expect to go out there and play a good game."
Mike Furrey, another smaller wide receiver, picked up more of the slack. Furrey had six catches for 89 yards at Houston, after catching only eight passes for 52 yards in the first five games combined.
"We've kind of geared some of the things to them that fit their skills," Colletto said. "And if they want to double (Johnson), those little smurfs as you call them, they're tough to handle."
Colletto said it starts with the Lions' running game, though. The Lions rank third worst in the NFL in rushing. They need to draw a safety into the box.
"If they can stop your running game with seven guys," Colletto said, "you've got a problem."
- WR John Standeford is expected to play Sunday against Washington. He played well in the exhibition season but was released. He was re-signed after the Roy Williams trade.
- TE Michael Gaines (knee) did not practice Thursday. No update was available.
- DT Cory Redding (knee) was limited after sitting out Wednesday.
- S Dwight Smith (foot) did not practice and said he would be reexamined Monday.
- LB Jordon Dizon (hamstring) did not practice and his status is uncertain.
- DT Shaun Cody (elbow) was limited but is expected to be available.
- DT Chuck Darby (calf) was limited but is expected to be available.