RENTON, Wash. – The biggest challenge in Detroit will also be Seattle’s biggest chance.
The Lions throw the ball. A lot. More than anyone in the league, in fact, 46 passes per game. Seattle’s defensive backs don’t shudder at that thought, they salivate.
“It definitely gets me excited,” free safety Earl Thomas said. “Just like when we played the Patriots or Green Bay. If you’re a DB, you want to be able to play in that game. I think your opportunities go up.”
Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford comes armed with a green light to throw deep. Repeatedly.
“He’s got a loose arm, man,” safety Kam Chancellor said, “so you know he’s always going to look downfield to throw the deep shot. You’ve just got to stay disciplined and stay back.”
It’s not just Stafford’s arm, but the players he’s throwing to. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson is 6-foot-5 and catching the ball even more frequently than he did a year ago when he led the league in receiving yardage.
“We know that’s their deep threat and major weapon,” Thomas said. “That’s where the ball wants to go, but I think we match up well just with our size and our corners’ aggressiveness.”
Johnson sat out Friday’s practice in Detroit with a sore knee, but is listed as probable, which means it’s virtually certain he will play Sunday against a Seattle secondary that is known for its size. Chancellor is 6-3, and so is cornerback Richard Sherman. The other cornerback, Brandon Browner, is 6-4.
“It’s like a junior college basketball team out there with their great length,” said Jim Schwartz, the Lions’ coach.
Don’t forget the attitude, because Seattle’s two cornerbacks don’t back down. Not on the field. Not in their words. Sherman was asked about the challenge a receiver like Johnson poses.
“Same challenge as every week,” Sherman said.
Really? The guy was the No. 2 pick in the 2007 draft, matching the highest a receiver had been chosen since Keyshawn Johnson was No. 1 in 1996.
All Johnson did last season was finish with 1,681 yards receiving and catch 15 touchdown passes, more than four NFL teams totaled in 2011.
“No different to me,” Sherman said. “I don’t care who’s out there. It’s the league, boy, they’re going to have a good receiver out there every week.”
Well, how about Johnson’s size then? What does it mean that he’s 6-5?
“Nothing to someone who’s 6-3,” Sherman said. “Actually, it might be a little less of an issue due to height. Closer to size, you move similar to him.”