Part III of the Lions-49ers matchup series.
Calvin Johnson vs. the 49ers secondary: Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown, Chris Culliver and Dashon Goldson.
It’s almost impossible for any secondary to match up with Calvin Johnson, perhaps the best athlete in the NFL. He puts you in a bind. How many snaps can you afford not to double team him? Double-teaming him leaves the rest of the Lions’ skill players – Brandon Pettigrew, Nate Burleson and Titus Young – single covered. Both Pettigrew and Burleson caught touchdowns against the Niners last season when they were single-covered.
Chris Culliver is the best athlete in the 49ers’ secondary, so he’ll probably have the best chance at slowing down Johnson. This season I expect the Lions to line Johnson up more against Tarell Brown, who’s just 5-10.
Johnson should break 100 yards receiving no matter whom he lines up against. He’s that good. But the 49ers can still win this matchup. It’s a team game, and that’s how the Niners are going to get the edge over Johnson. The 49ers’ defensive line sacked Matthew Stafford five times last season, and I expect them to sack him at least that amount at Candlestick Park Sunday night. Stafford has a strong arm and he can throw it deep to Johnson, but Stafford doesn’t handle pressure well. As long as the 49ers’ defensive line harasses Stafford, Calvin Johnson won’t single-handedly win the game for the Lions.