After Steve Smith, Bears face taller test in Calvin Johnson
By Mark Potash email@example.com October 3, 2011 11:24PM
Updated: November 15, 2011 12:27PM
If the Bears can’t stop 5-9 Steve Smith, how are they going to stop 6-5 Calvin Johnson?
That’s the challenge this week against the unbeaten Detroit Lions on Monday night at Ford Field. Johnson caught two touchdown passes as the Lions rallied from a 27-3 deficit in the second half to beat the Dallas Cowboys 34-20 on Sunday at Cowboys Stadium.
The Lions became the first team in NFL history to overcome deficits of 20 points or more to win in back-to-back weeks. They trailed the Minnesota Vikings 20-0 on Sept. 25 at the Metrodome but rallied to win 23-20. Johnson had two touchdown catches in that game, too.
In fact, Johnson has two touchdown receptions in all four games this season, an NFL first to start a season. That’s daunting for the Bears after the Carolina Panthers’ Smith burned them with eight receptions for 119 yards Sunday.
Johnson has 24 receptions for 321 yards (13.4 per catch).
‘‘He’s probably the top receiver in the league right now, as far as just throwing the ball up and letting him get it,’’ Bears cornerback Charles Tillman said. ‘‘He’s the Goliath of receivers. We as a secondary will definitely have our hands full trying to contain him.’’
Coach Lovie Smith is hopeful that right guard Chris Spencer will play against the Lions despite a broken right hand. Lance Louis, who replaced Frank Omiyale at right tackle in the second half Sunday, could start there Monday.
Louis started at right guard in the season opener. He missed the next two games with an ankle injury, and Spencer replaced him. Louis held his own after replacing Omiyale against the Panthers, though he wasn’t tested often in pass protection.
‘‘He played well. We’re still evaluating,’’ Smith said. ‘‘He contributed in a lot of ways.’’
The Bears had no timeouts left with 6:45 to play in a 24-23 game Sunday because they kept having to use them to get the right play called or the right personnel on the field.
The Bears have called 19 timeouts this season, but only one to preserve time. They lost one timeout on a failed replay challenge and had to call another when a player couldn’t get his shoe tied in time.
‘‘It’s all of us,’’ Smith said. ‘‘We don’t come into these meetings and start placing blame. But we need to do a better job with our timeouts. And we will.’’