There is no question that Calvin Johnson is the focal point of the Detroit Lions' offense, and deservedly so. Last season Megatron dominated and the Lions won games. However, this season is a different story. The NFL has adjusted, and with the Green Bay Packers coming to town, the Lions would be wise to do the same.
That's because the throw-it-to-Megatron-and-let-him-win-games-by-himself plan isn't working. Sure, he's putting up monster numbers again. He's on pace to get 100 receptions for the first time in his career and over 1,600 receiving yards for the second year in a row.
Not surprisingly, the Lions' offense is the No. 1-ranked passing offense in the NFL and Matthew Stafford has a legitimate shot at 5,000 yards passing for the second straight year.
Yet the Lions are 4-5. Despite the aforementioned numbers, their offense is inconsistent and struggles to get into the end zone. They rank 13th in the NFL in touchdowns scored according to teamrankings.com, and Johnson's only scored twice.
So what good are gaudy numbers if they don't translate into scores or wins? They're nice to look at, but at the end of the day the goal is to get into the playoffs and beyond, not to sit atop the league-leaderboard.
Clearly the Lions are better with Johnson on the field, but he's not enough. Detroit needs other players besides him to make plays to get the win against Green Bay and keep their playoff hopes alive.
Look at their recent two-game win streak. Against Seattle Titus Young broke out for 100 yards receiving and scored two touchdowns. In Jacksonville Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell combined for 141 yards rushing and four touchdowns.
It seems like common sense doesn't it? One player can't win games by himself; other players need to step up too.
Last July, Pat Kirwin of CBSSports.com described how the most potent offenses in the NFL have "triple threats." Ironically, he ranked the Lions as the fifth best triple-threat team.
That hasn't played out during this regular season. They've struggled to get a second player to step up, much less a third.
They've certainly been hurt by the absence of Jahvid Best. He was a legitimate second threat to pair with Megatron and the Lions have yet to find anyone to replace him.
If they hope to defeat the Packers they better find someone to fill that role. In fact the Packers are a team the Lions should aspire to be more like. As the host (Sean Baligian) of a favorite radio show of mine says, "The Packers are who the Lions want to be when they grow up."
Greg Jennings is their best receiver, but when he went down with an injury, they didn't miss a beat. That's because Aaron Rodgers has a number of weapons at his disposal, not just one guy. Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, James Jones, Donald Driver and Jermichael Finley are all big-play threats.
James Jones has eight touchdowns for crying out loud, and they do all of this with no running game!
Who will step up besides Megatron?
So why can't the Lions mirror the Packers' success? They have a big-time quarterback and talented receivers who have shown an ability to dominate—from time to time. Therein lies the rub. No one besides Johnson has shown a consistent ability to make a play. Not Titus Young. Not Brandon Pettigrew and not Mikel Leshoure.
To beat the Packers the Lions' focus needs to be on getting the most out of one of those guys or someone else. Where did Ryan Broyles go against the Vikings? He was only targeted once, but he had provided a spark in previous games—back-to-back touchdowns in Weeks 7 and 8.
He's not a home run threat, but he's shown a knack for getting open and getting yards after the catch. That's what the Lions need: someone else who can consistently move the chains.
The journey back into the playoff race starts against Green Bay, and if the Lions hope to win, they have to beat the Packers at their own game. They have to spread the ball around and get a big game from someone other than Megatron.
* All stats are courtesy of ESPN