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Matthew Stafford’s Performance in the Absence of Calvin Johnson Shows Why Offensive Weapons Key

October 8th, 2013 at 9:16 AM
By Max DeMara

For years, the Detroit Lions have been criticized for always trying to win by adding offensive weapons. Sunday afternoon during a loss to the Green Bay Packers, the team showed why that's not always the wrong idea.

Without Calvin Johnson, the Lions were a lost cause from the get-go Sunday. With plenty of eyes on him, Reggie Bush didn't have the ability to break the game open as in weeks past, and every other Lion player shrunk to the challenge of filling Johnson's massive shoes. Quarterback Matthew Stafford flunked his first elite quarterback test along the way, failing to make any one of his other targets stand out or create a star out of thin air. Although you could probably still place a bet on who he will eventually help emerge over at

Despite playing an offensive position in which Jim Schwartz admits is very taxing, Johnson has proven durable, only missing his fifth game as a member of the Lions. Detroit has been lucky that's been the case, considering how terrible they have looked without him. Clearly, in this quarterback-receiver relationship, Johnson wears the pants. He is the player making Stafford look better, and not the other way around.

So, the paradigm is becoming this in the NFL: unless a team is blessed with a Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, adding offensive weapons, especially at receiver, should never be considered out of the question. The adage says that offense wins games while defense wins championships. Without the proper amounts of skilled offense, though, its hard to imagine teams even competing for championships anymore.

That's particularly true when you take into account each of the last 10 Super Bowl contestants dating back to 2009. In that time span, all have had diverse attacks and more than one player capable of breaking the game, including multiple such threats at the wide receiver spot. It's virtually impossible to get by with one supremely talented player. Instead, even the most complete quarterbacks need multiple weapons down the field.

In Detroit, even Bush might not be enough. When the Lions draft their next receiver, don't cringe or give an eye roll about the selection of the position. Instead think about October 6, 2013, when the team failed to make enough impact plays in the absence of their biggest option and biggest threat. Stafford did alright on Sunday himself, but against a quarterback like Rodgers, doing alright will never be enough. Without Johnson, he's simply alright.

As Schwartz says, hits and potential injuries are always going to pose a roadblock, no matter how durable a player may be. "That's what goes along with being a number one in the NFL. Same thing with running backs, tight ends. It's football, you're gonna take some hits," he said Monday.

Hopefully for Stafford and the Lions, Johnson can recover quickly from his latest injury troubles, lest more offensive performances like Sunday's show up.

Max DeMara is the managing editor of Lions 101. You can find him on this site's Twitter @detroitlions101

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Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Calvin Johnson, Detroit, Detroit Lions, Football, Jim Schwartz, Matthew Stafford, NFL, Peyton Manning, Reggie Bush, Tom Brady

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