With 6 minutes and 38 seconds left in Sunday's game between the Detroit Lions and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers,
He had not caught more than four passes in a game. He had not finished with more than 70 yards in a game. Minnesota's
But with Detroit ahead by nine points and the clock ticking in the fourth quarter, Johnson showed why the Lions drafted him second overall last spring and why numerous talent evaluators hailed him as one of the best receivers ever to come out of college. Remarkably, he didn't even need to catch a ball. He just needed to get his hands on it.
Lined up left, Johnson went in motion at the Bucs' 32. Quarterback
As Jackson pirouetted into the end zone,
It is not uncommon to see a receiver juke a linebacker. But it is eye-popping to see a receiver juke one linebacker and stiff arm another. At 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, Johnson is a unique cocktail of physical talent -- too strong to arm tackle, too fast to catch.
"Not many people make that play," Kitna said. "He stiff-armed one of the better linebackers in this league and then made a guy miss and then carried the leading tackler in the NFL into the end zone. What else do you need to say? That's why he is who he is."
In other words, that's why he's Megatron.
Johnson started this season with touchdown receptions in his first two games. Then he injured his lower back, forcing him to miss one game and struggle in another. It just so happened that Peterson took off right after Johnson went down. Because they are both top-10 picks who play in the same division, the rookies are easy to compare.
So far, Johnson has not stacked up. Even Sunday, he finished with only two receptions for 37 yards. But that one end-around -- combined with a nifty diving catch on the play before it -- prompted hope that the Lions did indeed draft the right guy.
The cheers that went up at Ford Field sounded like giant sighs of relief. The Lions have been burned by first-round receivers before.
But Johnson was supposed to be different. When he left Georgia Tech, he was billed as a bonus baby who was willing to work. Unlike so many elite receivers, Johnson is more diplomat than diva. He never demands the ball, at least not when he's on camera.
After his touchdown run Sunday against the Buccaneers, Johnson was asked what linebacker he shoved out of his way. "I know who I stiff-armed," Johnson said. "But I don't want to put him out there like that." He paused for a moment. "OK, it was Cato June. But this stuff could be on TV. I don't want it like I'm bragging."
He needs Roy Williams to gloat for him. "Megatron is a different athlete," Williams said. "He's a little bit faster than me. He's bigger than me. I put him in the same boat with me. People were getting on him the first couple of weeks. People were getting impatient with him. But he makes it work, man. He's that piece we're missing."
Usually, the Lions are missing more than just one piece. After all, they have one playoff victory in the past 50 years. But Kitna is a willful leader and
Still, to make
"I'm definitely getting comfortable," Johnson said. "I feel I'm doing what I have to do to help this team. Everybody here, all the playmakers, are itching to show what they can do. We've done that somewhat. We just have to keep on being able to do it."
The first time Johnson watched
Johnson has never played this kind of part. But in Detroit, a transformation may be underway.