The plan heading into Sunday’s game against the Lions was to switch up the looks on Calvin Johnson to keep him guessing. That tactic was used sparingly early on. By our count, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie lined up over Johnson just three times in the first half. Nnamdi Asomugha was in charge of Megatron the rest of the time.
Johnson ended the half with one catch for 28 yards.
“I was on him most of the game,” said Asomugha. “I think when we got to the fourth quarter there was a lot more trying to give him a different look, give him something else so that he doesn’t get comfortable with one guy. There were sometimes, especially in the fourth quarter, when Dominique would go to him.”
Unofficially, Rodgers-Cromartie was on Johnson 11 times overall — eight of which came after intermission.
Following the opening 28-yard reception, Johnson was held without another catch until that fourth quarter. From there, he racked up five grabs for 107 yards as the Lions overcame a 10-point deficit to edge the Eagles, 26-23 in overtime.
Johnson had three grabs for 68 yards on a drive early in the fourth that ended in a one-yard Matthew Stafford touchdown run and cut the Eagles’ lead to three. Johnson’s 20-yard pick-up got Detroit down to the goal line. The Eagles’ were in zone coverage on that play and Nate Allen, who it turned out was playing on an injured hamstring, ended up on Johnson and got beat.
Rodgers-Cromartie was primarily responsible for Johnson on the key 17-yard reception in overtime. Juan Castillo dialed up a blitz on the play, sending Kurt Coleman, who did not make it to the quarterback. While much of the talk will be about the lack of blitzes called by the defensive coordinator, the belief by some in the locker room afterwards seemed to be that the blitzes late did more harm than good.
“We brought a little bit [of pressure] today, and they got us on a couple of them,” said Andy Reid. “We have to do better when we do blitz, and obviously we have to get more pressure on the quarterback.”
The decision to blitz late and use more of Rodgers-Cromartie on Johnson in the fourth represent two critical changes in approach that arguably damaged the team’s chances of winning. There was an interesting exchange between a reporter and Asomugha after the game exploring that subject.
As a player, when things go so well for three quarters, is there a sense of wanting the other team to prove they can beat what you’re doing before you change things up?
Asomugha paused for a moment, then said, “Um, yeah.”
As a veteran, is that a spot where you go to your coaches and say, ‘Hey, this is working, let’s try to use more of what’s working?’
“I don’t know if we changed what was working, I’ll just say that I know we blitzed a lot more toward the end of the game. We didn’t do as much blitzing the first three-and-a-half quarters, then we wanted to get after him. We did, and [Stafford] found the spot that he wanted to go to.”