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Caldwell Not Worried About How Much Stafford Targets Johnson

By Ashley Dunkak

CBS DETROIT - Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell does not buy the narrative that quarterback Matthew Stafford has been forcing the ball to superstar wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Caldwell said the fact Stafford has targeted Johnson 24 times, significantly more than any other Lion, just reflects the fact that teams want to get their best weapons as many opportunities as possible.

To illustrate his point, Caldwell noted the Green Bay Packers, whom the Lions meet Sunday at Ford Field.

"You take a look at the team that we're about to play, and just take a look at the most talented guy that they have out on the flanks, Jordy Nelson," Caldwell said to Karsch and Anderson of 97.1 The Ticket. "[Aaron] Rodgers throws the ball to him three times more than he throws to anybody else, and then the next guy's [Randall] Cobb, and it's a distant second, and then the next guy's a distant third. So I think you find in this league in particular that you want to be able to get the ball to guys that can make a difference in the game

"I think if it hadn't been for the interception [Stafford threw Sunday], nobody would even say a word about whether or not they think that he's forcing the ball to Calvin," Caldwell continued. "And that was on a deep post pattern, and really he had exactly what we were looking for, you can see Calvin starting to run by both guys, and [Matthew] just had to get it out there a little bit more. That was the only issue."

Caldwell would like for Stafford to spread the ball around, and he said the run game also must improve. With a wealth of options offensively, maximizing all of them is easier said than done, though Caldwell does not mind working to manage that situation.

"It's a good problem to have ... because of the fact that in this game, in the people that we play, the parity in the league, you're going to have to win different ways," Caldwell said. "There are going to be some ball games where you're not going to be able to maybe run it as well as you'd like, and you're going to have to put it up in the air. If you have weapons in that area - obviously which we do - we feel pretty good about it. Or there'll be other games when maybe they've taken some phase of the passing game away from you ... and you've got to pound it in there, you've got to pound it to win the game because of weather conditions, and we have fine players like Reggie [Bush] and Joique Bell and those guys that able to do that as well, and a capable line.

"Contrary to what people think just in terms of how things go and in terms of getting a guy the ball enough times, sometimes they take those options away from you depending on what they line up in," Caldwell added. "A lot of football nowadays is adjustments at the line of scrimmage so you call the best play that gets you in the best possible position against that particular look. There are a lot of variables in there, but we try to spread it around as much as we can."

The Lions played the New York Giants in week one and faced the Carolina Panthers in week two. Sunday will be the first division game for Detroit this season. Though Caldwell is new as the head coach of the Lions, he is no stranger to the rivalries of the NFC North.

"I grew up watching the Black and Blue Division, and so I know what that's all about," Caldwell said. "I didn't have to get immersed in it; I grew up in it, obviously right on the state line between Wisconsin and Illinois ... The rivalry with the Packers, the Bears, obviously the Vikings not far away and the Lions as well, that's always been something I understood fully."

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