CJ Return of No Help to Lions, Stafford

Lions WR Calvin Johnson (getty)

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford struggled to handle Seattle's Cover Two defense, despite having Calvin Johnson on the field with him. Quotes and more inside ...

While wide receiver Calvin Johnson sat out two games with a right knee injury, the Lions said they needed him back not only for the plays he made, but for how he opened up the offense for others.

Well, Johnson returned Sunday at Seattle, and it didn't make much of a difference. Although he was targeted nine times, Johnson caught only two passes for 27 yards, and the Lions lost, 32-20.

"He's not 100 percent, but I thought he was able to go out and be effective," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "He was able to get open. He had a couple chances to be able to make plays down the field, one that he just had a hard time staying in bounds on."

Seattle coach Jim Mora said the Seahawks played Cover Two more than usual to defend Johnson, and rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford threw five interceptions. Schwartz said Stafford needed to be more conservative in that situation.

"They were playing a lot of Cover Two," Schwartz said. "In that regard, there's some times where you need to be able to check the ball down."

Schwartz said Stafford took a step back in that he was too aggressive down the field. Stafford had settled down and taken better care of the ball after throwing five interceptions over his first two NFL starts.

"It's frustrating," said Stafford, who went 22-for-42 for 203 yards and two touchdowns. "Didn't play well. Just made some poor throws, really.

"I was aggressive sometimes, but if I make a good throw in those situations, maybe we're coming out with a touchdown instead of picks. But obviously I can't turn the ball over like that."

Stafford's first two interceptions came in Seattle territory in the second quarter when the Lions had the lead. The second was a floater down the middle of the field. Schwartz suggested the ball might have been deflected, but Stafford said he didn't think it was.

The other interceptions came in the second half after the Lions had fallen behind. The fourth was underthrown for Johnson down the right sideline. The last was returned 61 yards for a touchdown by safety Josh Wilson with 22 seconds left, ending the Lions' last chance.

"Our game plan was to try to distract him," said Seattle linebacker David Hawthorne, who had two of the interceptions. "He's going to be a good quarterback in this league, and I feel like he is a good quarterback. But I think our game plan worked today."

Notebook:

  • Special teams continue to hurt the Lions. Jason Hanson missed a 34-yard field-goal attempt on the first drive, hitting the right upright, though he made 41- and 50-yarders later. The kickoff coverage team allowed three big returns: 29- and 41-yarders to Louis Rankin and a 46-yarder to Justin Forsett. "That's almost like a turnover when you give the ball at midfield that way," coach Jim Schwartz said.
  • Tight end Brandon Pettigrew had the best game of his rookie season so far. He caught his first NFL touchdown pass, and he caught more passes (seven) for more yards (70) than he has before, leading the Lions in receiving. Running back Kevin Smith had 67 yards in 13 carries, including a 31-yard run, his longest of the season. "I think he ran the ball well," Schwartz said "He made an explosive run, which we've been lacking."
  • The Lions continue to make opposing quarterbacks look great. Matt Hasselbeck threw an interception on his first pass attempt, but he finished 39-for-51 for 329 yards and a touchdown, completing 15 consecutive passes at one point. The Seahawks went 7-for-15 on third down. "We tried to blitz," Schwartz said. "We had a hard time getting that done, and we tried coverage. We can't allow 50% conversions on third down."

Report Card

PASSING OFFENSE: F -- Rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford threw five interceptions. The first two came in Seattle territory when the Lions had a lead, keeping them from extending it, helping the Seahawks chip away at it. The other three came when the Lions were trying to catch up. The last one was the final nail, returned 61 yards for a touchdown with 22 seconds left, when the Lions still had a chance to win and Stafford was starting to move the Lions down the field in the two-minute drill. Two positives: Tight end Brandon Pettigrew caught his first NFL touchdown pass, and wide receiver Bryant Johnson made an impressive TD catch.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- Running back Kevin Smith finally broke a run longer than 20 yards. He busted a 31-yarder. But another running back might have gotten even more, and he was average otherwise. His final numbers: 13 carries, 67 yards. Aaron Brown and Maurice Morris each had four carries, with Brown gaining 27 yards and Morris gaining 20.

PASS DEFENSE: F -- Safety Louis Delmas intercepted Matt Hasselbeck's first pass and returned it to the 2, setting up the Lions' first touchdown. But Hasselbeck eventually got hot and picked apart the Lions, with a career-high 39 completions on 51 attempts for 329 yards. One sad stat: He posted the second-worst passer rating against the Lions this year, but it was a 91.1.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- The Seahawks gained only 55 yards. But that was because they knew they needed to attack the Lions through the air. The Lions knew what was coming, too, keeping run-stuffing defensive tackle Grady Jackson inactive and dressing eight pass rushers so they could have a fresher, more athletic rotation.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- Jason Hanson clanked a 34-yard field-goal attempt off the right upright, though he made 41- and 50-yarders later, and the kickoff coverage team allowed three big returns: 29 yards, 41 yards and 46 yards. Derrick Williams chipped in a 32-yard return for the Lions.

COACHING: F -- The Lions lack talent. Everybody knows that. But these coaches have been unable to break the pattern of failure established long before their arrival. The Lions took a 17-0 lead, and no one in the stadium thought it was safe. Seattle wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said he was confident the Seahawks would win. Sure enough, the Lions collapsed. The Lions are 1-7 at their midway point, once again in the NFL's basement, and it looks like they'll be lucky to win one more game at this point.

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