Lions OC Darrell Bevell: Kerryon Johnson was the player of the game –

Posted: October 4, 2020 at 7:56 pm

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ALLEN PARK -- It was the fourth quarter, and the Lions were facing a third-and-4 while still trailing Arizona by three points. Thats a really big play, and Kerryon Johnson came up really big for it.

No, he didnt run for a first down. No, he didnt even catch the football for a first down.

But he did take out two blitzing linebackers on the play, first Jordan Hicks and then DeVondre Campbell. That bought Matthew Stafford enough time to find T.J. Hockenson over the middle to move the chains, and Detroit drove for the game-tying field goal in the 26-23 win.

Two days later, the Lions were still singing his praises.

Kerryon really, to me, was player of the game, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said.

Thats high praise for a running back who carried the ball just three times, and touched it just four times overall. But Johnson contributed in so many other ways that wont show up in the box score. That includes motioning out on a fourth-down play from the 5-yard line, then set a pick that Jesse James rubbed off for a touchdown catch.

Johnson added a key blitz pickup on a third-and-10 conversion, and of course took on two linebackers at once on that big third-and-4 that led to the game-tying field goal.

Stuff that youd have to really be watching the game and seeing that because thats not going to show up (in the box score)," running backs coach Kyle Caskey said. "Those kind of stats, ProFootballFocus may find a blocking stat for it or something like that, but its those kind of things. Its keeping the quarterback clean, being able to ID the defenses and stuff like that. Thats really where he stuck out this past game.

And thats why Kerryon Johnson continues to play despite being displaced as the lead rusher.

Adrian Peterson signed with Detroit just six days before the opener and has already drawn twice as many carries as anyone else, turning 43 touches into 209 yards. And it seems his role is growing now that hes had some time to settle into the playbook. Peterson drew his first start in Arizona, earned every running back carry in the first half and finished with a team-high 22 carries for 75 yards overall.

With Peterson leading the way on the ground and second-round pick DAndre Swift the primary option through the air, Johnson has found himself in a humbling spot. Hes been the No. 1 back since Detroit took him in the second round of the 2018 draft, but got just three carries for 16 yards in Arizona. He has 18 carries for 62 yards on the season overall.

But Johnson has been in good spirits about his evolving role, and embraced the dirty work that helps win games.

Hes been all team, all in, willing to do whatever weve asked him to do, Bevell said. We told him that we were going to make the switch, and he handled it great. But we told him, like, Hey, heres your role. Its this. Its a huge part. Protecting the quarterback on third downs, being in those situations, being the spell runner. So hes still a part of things, but I just appreciate how hes handled it, I appreciate the work that he puts in. Its still important to him. He wants to be out there and I think it showed in his play. I mean, it gives me confidence to be able to put him in really in any situation.

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Lions OC Darrell Bevell: Kerryon Johnson was the player of the game -

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