Updated: September 25th, 2011 6:56pm
Notebook: Calvin Johnson takes over as Lions roar back in second half

Notebook: Calvin Johnson takes over as Lions roar back in second half

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Any fear that Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson was going to have a huge day against the Minnesota Vikings secondary appeared to be gone by halftime of Sunday's game.

The Vikings led 20-0 after 30 minutes, and Johnson had one reception for 7 yards on only three targets by quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was under consistent pressure and had completed only 10 of 16 passes for 64 yards at that point.

"There really wasn't anything to say (at halftime)," Johnson said. "There wasn't any yelling going on. We just came in here, calm and collective like we always are and made some adjustments in the second half."

Safe to say, the adjustments worked. Johnson dominated the Vikings in the second half.

Johnson, who is 6-foot-5, 236 pounds, got excellent position on left cornerback Chris Cook (6-2, 212) to catch a 32-yard touchdown pass on the Lions' second drive of the third quarter as the Lions began to rally for what turned into a 26-23 victory in overtime.

"He had better position than me to play the ball," Cook said. "I tried to go up and knock it out, but he made a play on the ball. My hat's tipped to him."

Johnson also caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Stafford in the fourth quarter on a play in which safety Jamarca Sanford seemed to lose track of him and finished with seven receptions for 108 yards. That was second to tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who had a game-high 11 receptions for 112 yards.

Johnson's final catch came in overtime as he beat cornerback Cedric Griffin to make a 40-yard reception that set up Jason Hanson's 32-yard field goal that ended the game.

"Cedric had good coverage," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "That wide receiver made a great adjustment to the football. I don't know if he could have done anything different. The adjustments (Johnson) made to the football was pretty good. A great receiver, a great player, makes great plays."

Said Johnson: "We got what we wanted. They went Cover-3 which basically is, for us, to run around the outside. Matt gave me a great throw. It's funny, because he made a throw just like that in the pregame that exact same way. We were able to convert on it and take advantage of it."

Cook, who was used in the nickel and dime defense when Antoine Winfield moved inside, made two nice defensive plays against him, breaking up a deep ball down the right side in the second quarter and then getting his left hand on a Stafford pass on third-and-2 in the fourth quarter.

Defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who returned after serving a two-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances, was left frustrated by what Johnson was able to do.

"I couldn't possibly think of messing up that bad to give up 20-something points in the second half," he said. "They're not throwing anything major downfield -- just lollipops on some of those throws. I mean, I know Calvin's big, but good Lord, we've got to do something."

Offensive adjustment

After a slow first half, Stafford finished 32-of-46 passing for 378 yards with two touchdowns. He was sacked five times, but three of those came in the first half.

Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan had Stafford go to a quick passing game in the second half, meaning it was far more difficult for the pressure to get home.

"They were just settling for 2- and 3-yard routes and trying to get a couple yards after the catch," Williams said. "They didn't try to go down the field very much. The couple he did throw were just kind of blind throws. ... I don't know."

Streak ends

The Vikings' 13-game home winning streak against the Lions came to an end. Detroit, which was favored for a game in Minnesota for the first time since the 1981 season, hadn't won at the Metrodome since a 14-13 victory on Dec. 14, 1997.

The Lions beat the Vikings in both meetings in 1997, the last time Detroit put together back-to-back victories against their divisional rival until Sunday.

The Lions also beat the Vikings, 20-13, in the regular-season finale in 2010 at Ford Field.

No lack of playing time

Williams also is dealing with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Frazier had said Williams' snaps Sunday would be monitored closely but he played the majority of the game.

"I ain't going to say I felt the best," Williams said. "... The foot kind of hurt a little bit early, but it went away after that. It wasn't really any problem. Got a little winded when they had a couple long (drives), but for the most part, I felt all right."

Harvin hurting

Percy Harvin took a big hit on a fourth-quarter kickoff return and was not seen on the field for the Vikings' final two series of the fourth quarter.

Harvin, who missed practice Thursday because of a virus, said he got "dinged up" but would not elaborate. He did say he expects to be ready for next Sunday's game at Kansas City. Frazier said Harvin got the wind knocked out of him.

Harvin, meanwhile, went from playing only 30 of 68 offensive snaps in Week 2 against Tampa Bay to being on the field for 37 total offensive snaps on Sunday. The Vikings ran a total of 63 offensive plays.

Harvin caught three passes for 47 yards and also had two rushing attempts that went for 41 yards. He took an end-around to the left that went for 39 yards to set up Adrian Peterson's 6-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

Costly miscue

The Vikings appeared to be in excellent field position to take a final shot with 11 seconds left in the fourth quarter after Marcus Sherels returned Ryan Donahue's to the Lions 45-yard line.

However, backup linebacker Kenny Onatolu was called for a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty moving the ball back to the Vikings 40.

Working from the shotgun, Donovan McNabb completed a 24-yard pass to Michael Jenkins, who then threw an illegal forward pass to Bernard Berrian as time expired in regulation.

"You look back, see the returner returning the ball and you just try to go find somebody," Onatolu said. "That's what I did. I didn't hear a whistle. I didn't know whether it was early or late. I got a pretty good hit on the guy, and I turned around and I saw a flag.

"Honestly, I was in shock. So, I guess I have to watch it on film, but I guess you've got to go with the call. I didn't hear a whistle, and I was just trying to play hard. ... I thought I was playing to the whistle, but it's just hard when you feel like you kind of cost your team in critical situations. That's always a tough pill to swallow."

McNabb's wrist

Quarterback Donovan McNabb took a hit to his already-sore right wrist on a second-down play in the third quarter as he was sacked by Lions left end Cliff Avril.

McNabb fumbled the ball, but it was recovered by right tackle Phil Loadholt. On the next play, McNabb attempted a pass to Michael Jenkins but the ball sailed on him.

"The wrist kind of stiffened up a little bit but it loosened up as we continued," McNabb said. "I had a missed throw to Jenkins when I was trying to loosen it up, but I went back out there and continued on."

McNabb finished 22-of-36 passing for 211 yards with a touchdown and an 86.7 passer rating. He was sacked four times.

Just the stats

Harvin set a franchise record for most rushing yards in a career by a wide receiver. He has 316 since 2009, breaking the mark of Anthony Carter (1985 to '93).

Peterson established a team record for the most career rushing touchdowns in the month of September with 14. Daunte Culpepper had 13 from 1999 to 2005.

Peterson set a Vikings record for most yards gained on touchdown runs in a career with 870. Robert Smith (1993-2000) had 869 yards. Peterson tied Smith's team mark for most 40-plus yards runs in a career with 16.

Kicker Ryan Longwell becomes the 13th player in NFL history to reach 1,600 career points and now has 1,607.

Jenkins' 10 receptions on Sunday were a career high and his 99 yards tied a personal best.

Quick hits

• DE Everson Griffen was used on a handful of plays as a linebacker behind a three-man front in a subpackage that often included Asher Allen on the field in a dime defense. Griffen played a bit of linebacker near the end of training camp, but this was the first time he did it in a game. Griffen said the Vikings put him in that defense last week.

• SS Tyrell Johnson was active for Sunday's game after being arrested for alleged drunken driving last week but he primarily played on special teams. Johnson did get one series in the third quarter at strong safety in place of Jamarca Sanford, but other than that, Sanford played the entire game alongside Husain Abdullah. Sanford and Johnson had rotated far more often in the first two games.

Tom Pelissero contributed.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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