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Charles Tillman looks forward to matchup with ‘Megatron’ Calvin Johnson

Updated: September 25, 2013 11:37PM

Lions receiver Calvin Johnson was 108 yards away from history. A typically powerful, productive performance against the Bears in the final game of the 2012 season would make him the first receiver to reach 2,000 ­receiving yards.

But cornerback Charles Tillman was in the way. As always.

Johnson caught five passes for 72 yards on Dec. 30 in Detroit, falling 36 yards shy of hitting 2,000.

Their storied matchup begins their 2013 chapter Sunday at Ford Field. Will Tillman, with knee and groin issues that kept him out of practice on Wednesday, continue to do what no other cornerback seemingly can? Can he stop Megatron again?

“I didn’t have the best games against them last year, so I definitely want to have some good performances against them,” said Johnson, who has 17 catches for 268 yards and three touchdowns this season.

Neither defensive coordinator Mel Tucker nor Tillman (on a conference call with Detroit media) were too revealing about their plan to slow Johnson. But the past, film study and Johnson tell you it’ll be plenty of man-to-man and press coverage.

“They use it pretty regularly,” Johnson said. “I’ve been facing Tillman the last couple years. He’s usually within five yards of the line of scrimmage, so I’m used to it.”

Johnson said the Bears’ defense is functioning similarly to last season, but that “you might see them in single-high a bit more than usual.”

As for Tillman, Johnson said it’s his smarts — “He understands some of the concepts probably that we do on offense, so we’ve got to throw different things at him to get him off balance,” he said — and his size that make him a difficult foe.

During his record-setting 2012 season, Johnson had eight catches for 106 yards against the Bears.

“A lot of the plays I’m able to make on Calvin have been because of my defensive line,” Tillman said. “If you take them out of the mix, I can’t do anything.

“He’s like the LeBron James of wide receivers. He’s like that Madden character that you can create in the game — he’s tall, he’s fast, he can catch, he’s got quickness, he’s got the speed, he’s got the agility, the leaping ability, the extra boost.”

Asked if his injuries will keep out, Tillman said, “No, I’ll be there.” Backup corners Zack Bowman (knee, limited) and Sherrick McManis (quad, out) also are on the injury report.

Johnson also missed practice Wednesday with a knee injury, but he didn’t sound like player who was going to sit out.

“We all play this game because of the competition,” Tillman said. “Calvin is probably the best competitor in the game at the receiver position.”


Twitter: @adamjahns

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