Johnson Helps Lions Run the Ball

By: AP
By: AP

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) -- Rudi Johnson finally gave the Detroit Lions a semblance of a running game on Sunday.
His teammates aren't sure if that's going to be enough.
Johnson had 83 yards rushing in the 31-13 loss to San Francisco and scored Detroit's only touchdown on a 34-yard screen pass. He had only seen limited action in the first two games -- losses to Atlanta and Green Bay -- but took over for rookie Kevin Smith early in the San Francisco game.
"It was hard trying to get the play book down, but I have it now," he said Tuesday. "I couldn't do as much as I wanted until I knew the offense, especially the pass protections. Now I feel like I'm ready to help the team win."
The Lions are idle this weekend, returning to action Oct. 5 when they host the Chicago Bears.
Smith never touched the ball again once Johnson got going, but that doesn't mean the eight-year veteran thinks he has won the No. 1 spot. Johnson signed with the Lions after being released by the Bengals at the end of training camp.
"No one has said anything to me about where I am on the depth chart," Johnson said. "I'm just going to keep practicing hard and trying to do the best I can."
Johnson was especially pleased with his receiving touchdown -- just the second one of his 84-game career.
"I've always been able to catch the ball -- it was something I worked hard on in Cincinnati, but the Bengals never asked me to do it," he said. "It would be great if that became more of my role here. I'd like to show that I can stay on the field on third down, which I almost never did with the Bengals."
Johnson's performance, though, couldn't disguise the fact that Detroit's season has been a disaster so far. The Lions have been down 21-0, 21-0 and 21-3 in their first three games, meaning that their plans to have a more balanced attack have been lost to the need to throw the ball and score quickly.
One of Detroit's key offensive weapons, wide receiver Roy Williams, says that's how the team should have been playing all along.
"If I had my way, we'd play four wides early, instead of just using it when we are behind and trying to cut into someone's lead," Williams said.
Williams said that he hasn't spoken directly to offensive coordinator Jim Colletto about the issue, but that he's sure the coaching staff knows his position.
"I've been saying this over and over," he said. "They've heard me say it to the media, and I've said it here. But that's not our philosophy right now."
Lions quarterback Jon Kitna said many of the same things immediately after the loss to San Francisco, but backed off on Tuesday.
"Is the way the offense is going frustrating? Yes, but when you are 0-3, everything is frustrating," he said. "This isn't much fun."
NOTES: With the Lions on their bye week, the players were excused after Tuesday morning's team photo. They will return to practice on Monday to prepare for the game against the Bears. ... Backup quarterback Drew Stanton said that his injured thumb has healed enough that he could have played in an emergency against the 49ers and that he expects to be 100 percent for the Bears. ... Williams plans to spend the bye week in Texas, avoiding football. He said he passed on a chance to see his alma mater, Texas, play Arkansas, and that his high school in Odessa also has a bye this weekend. "I'm going to play golf and play with my little girl."


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