It’s been only a few weeks since Lions star receiver Calvin Johnson ruined cornerback Kyle Fuller’s Thanksgiving. But it’s felt longer than that for the Bears’ prized rookie.
“I was definitely looking forward to the next time,” Fuller said Friday of playing against Johnson at Soldier Field on Sunday. “Facing him two times a year definitely makes you better.”
Nothing will overshadow coach Marc Trestman’s decision to bench Jay Cutler and start Jimmy Clausen. But Clausen can’t be the next Josh McCown if the Bears’ defense continuously puts him at a disadvantage like it did with Cutler throughout this season. Trestman can’t prove his offense works with Clausen if he doesn’t have the ball.
In other words, Fuller’s second matchup with Johnson remains important at personal and team levels.
Johnson had his best game of the season in their first meeting, catching 11 passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns. According to Pro Football Focus, nine of Johnson’s receptions came against Fuller, who shadowed him at times in coverage.
“You always play some guys different,” said Fuller, who has received some advice from veteran cornerback Charles Tillman for guarding Johnson.
“I don’t feel like I’ll change it too much. You do some, but you don’t think about it too much.”
In their first meeting, Fuller and others gave Johnson space in coverage. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said that should change for Sunday.
It also helps the Fuller feels better physically now as opposed to on Thanksgiving when his broken hand and hip pointer injury still were more of an issue.
“We have to play tighter coverage, be more disruptive on the routes and we have to hit the quarterback more,” Tucker said. “We’ll work to get that done.
“It’s going to take all of us to slow him down, not just up to Kyle.”
Fuller said part of the challenge is accepting that failure against Johnson is inevitable.
“It was just a challenge the whole game,” Fuller said. “You know he’s going to make some plays. Your mentality is that you got to make more plays than he does.”