Packers vs. Lions Key Match Up #3: Morgan Burnett vs. Calvin Johnson

Gregory Shamus

It's extremely tough to shut down Calvin Johnson completely, but it is not that hard to limit his effectiveness. The Packers will need a strong day from their safeties, and most notably Morgan Burnett, to cut off Johnson's big play ability.

Coming into the season many people were enamored with the high powered Lions offense. This is an offense that big play potential and can score points in bunches. There is an interesting problem though when you have playmakers (okay really only one playmaker) like the Lions have…a team can become addicted to the big play. The offense can depend on it, and then shutting down that high powered, invincible offense becomes a simple task of solid safety play over the top stopping the big play. Once a defense can do this then they challenge the offense to execute consistently and put together long drives. This is the secret of stopping the Lions…force them to run long drives.

In order to do this though the Packers are going to have to stop Calvin Johnson. Johnson is unlike 90% of the receivers in this league. He’s not only big, but he’s also strong and fast. There are two receivers that would be close to what Johnson brings to the table, Larry Fitzgerald and Brandon Marshall. The good news for Packer fans is that the defense handled these receivers relatively well. Marshall was complete shutdown in week 2 and Fitzgerald was generally contained right before the bye. The cornerback who will draw most of the coverage is obvious, Tramon Williams, but he will not be the real key to stopping Johnson and was not the key to stopping Marshall or Fitzgerald. No that honor belongs to Morgan Burnett.

Let’s face it, stopping guys like these three receiving monsters is not a simple task of matching a corner one on one with him and moving on from there. Well it might if you have Darrell Revis in his prime, but that’s it. Other than that it’s going to require double coverage for most of the game mixed with great play from the safeties keeping the play in front of them. Burnett is a guy who has gotten better each week. Early in the season he struggled a bit. This is not to say he was bad, more just middling. Over the past month of the season he has been making more plays. His play has been superb since Woodson went down against the Rams. In the last two games Burnett has been a leader and a playmaker, showing ability in blitzing and making sure all those young DB’s are in the right place.

Calvin Johnson is going to get his yards. Megatron ranking up yards doesn’t kill the Packers’ chance at winning this game. Calvin Johnson making big plays and scoring touchdowns does though. If Burnett and rookie Jerron McMillian can cut off that big play ability and force the Lions to put together long drives the Packers should win the game.

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