So in that respect, last weekend's victory was particularly encouraging.
''We've been asked this question on several occasions this year, last year and I answered it this year: Can he still run by people? Absolutely. Can he jump over the top of folks and make catches? You better believe it,'' coach Jim Caldwell said. ''Can he score touchdowns? All right, he can do all of those things.''
Johnson caught six passes for 166 yards and a touchdown Sunday, and his 57-yard reception in overtime set up the winning field goal in Detroit's 37-34 victory over Chicago. It was the first time this season Johnson surpassed 100 yards receiving.
''Stafford's been doing it his whole career,'' Johnson said after the game. ''Especially when we've seen situations where not only him, but we've got our backs up against the wall and come out firing. That's all he did (Sunday), kept his composure all week and didn't worry about what happened in the past.''
On Monday, Caldwell seemed intent on moving on from this victory as quickly as the Lions (1-5) have tried to move on from their defeats. There was some bad news following the win over the Bears. Running back Zach Zenner is out with broken ribs and a partially collapsed lung.
''He is in the hospital, but things are improving for him,'' Caldwell said Monday. ''At some point in time, he'll be placed on injured reserve.''
Zenner has 60 yards on 17 carries this season. He impressed during preseason and has received some playing time in a backfield that's been hurt by Joique Bell's injury problems and Ameer Abdullah's fumbling.
Theo Riddick made the most of his opportunities Sunday, running for 28 yards on seven carries and catching three passes for 50 yards.
On Sunday, the Lions managed 155 yards on 32 carries.
''It's not that we have to go out and rush for 700 yards. That's not the kind of team we are, we're not constructed that way,'' Caldwell said. ''But what we have to do is make certain that our run game is respected. ... Doesn't necessarily have anything to do with necessarily how many times running, even though I think we had 32 attempts in this particular game, which was good.''
Stafford himself contributed to that total, showing more mobility than usual with six rushes for 37 yards.
''He wasn't hesitant,'' Caldwell said. ''There was a couple that he saw open up.''
The playoffs still seem like a longshot for the Lions. Their 0-5 start may be too much to overcome. But if the season ended now, the wild cards in the NFC would be Atlanta (5-1) and Minnesota (3-2).
The Vikings play at Detroit next weekend.
''We've got a tough (opponent) that has maybe one of the best runners in all of football and we better get started and get focused on him and that team,'' Caldwell said. ''They have an excellent quarterback and they're playing well.''
In other words, the Chicago game is over and done with.
''One game does not a season make either way,'' Caldwell said. ''We still have work to do. Let's see where we are after next week.''
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