Detroit Lions Film Review: Did Xavier Rhodes Shut Calvin Johnson Down?


Last Sunday, many were excited for the matchup between Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, and Minnesota Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes. We’re all aware of Johnson’s status as the best receiver in the NFL. Rhodes on the other hand, isn’t exactly a household name just yet.

Many are not aware of Rhodes’ sudden string of dominance in pass coverage. He holds the sixth lowest catch rate when targeted. On 74 targets, he’s given up just 36 catches (48.6 percent).

Rhodes has deflected 14 passes thrown his way. That’s second in the NFL behind Bradley Fletcher of the Philadelphia Eagles (17).

Live Feed

Cowboys inactives list for Buccaneers showdown includes a big surprise
Cowboys inactives list for Buccaneers showdown includes a big surprise /

The Landry Hat

  • Cowboys sign three-time Pro Bowler to boost secondaryFanSided
  • Cowboys should sign recently-released former Pro Bowler to stabilize CB roomThe Landry Hat
  • Buffalo Bills place Christian Benford on IR; sign Xavier Rhodes from practice squadBuffaLowDown
  • Vikings News You (Probably) Missed: Adrian Peterson being sued againThe Viking Age
  • 3 reasons Xavier Rhodes would be a great signing for the Buffalo BillsBuffaLowDown
  • Rhodes has specifically turned it up a notch over the past four weeks. Seven of his 14 pass deflections have come during that span, and quarterbacks have combined for a QB Rating of 34.6 when throwing his way since week 11.

    Not only that, but he’s doing this without being as overly physical as we’re prone to seeing. Rhodes has been called for 10 penalties on the year, which is fifth most among all cornerbacks. Over the past four weeks, he’s received just one penalty that ended up offsetting.

    So now that you know a little bit about Xavier Rhodes, let’s take a look at his matchup against Calvin Johnson this past Sunday.

    Johnson was held to just four catches for 53 yards against Minnesota. This has a lot of Vikings fans claiming that Rhodes shut Megatron down. But is it true? Did Rhodes really shut down the best receiver in the NFL?

    Despite losing, the Vikings controlled much of the game versus the Lions. They owned time of possession, and held the Lions to just 52 total plays on offense (their lowest on the season).

    Of those 52 plays, just 30 were pass attempts. Of those 30 pass attempts, Calvin Johnson was on the field for all but one. And on those 29 snaps, Johnson was lined up across from Xavier Rhodes just 20 times.

    That’s a pretty small sample size for someone who seemingly shut down the best receiver in the NFL. After watching every play where Rhodes and Johnson squared off, I discovered that Stafford included Johnson in his progressions just eight times all game.

    I decided to take a closer look at those plays.

    First Quarter:

    3rd and 8 on DET 45 (10:40)

    Rhodes gives Johnson about eight or nine yards of cushion on third-and-long and Stafford sends him on a go-route down the left sideline. Johnson is clearly the primary receiver here as Stafford eyes him down the entire play.

    Credit: NFL Game Rewind

    There is no double-move or anything from Johnson and Rhodes is able to stick on him like glue. The pocket collapses and Stafford is forced to throw the ball away. Seems like a wasted play in hindsight. No real opportunity there.

    1st and 10 on DET 32 (7:17)

    Johnson abuses Rhodes on an in-and-out route down the right sideline. Stafford has him wide open between Rhodes and the safety over the top.

    Credit: NFL Game Rewind

    Stafford ends up overshooting Megatron by a mile and isn’t even able to keep the ball inbounds. A missed opportunity for the Lions, and Xavier Rhodes is shaken up after the play is over.

    Second Quarter:

    3rd and 8 on DET 22 (14:12)

    Rhodes is in press-man and Johnson forces him over to his inside shoulder. This allows him to create some space on a corner route towards the left sideline.

    Credit: NFL Game Rewind

    Once again, Stafford is unable to hit an open receiver after throwing it behind Johnson. The Lions are forced to punt for their fourth straight offensive series.

    3rd and 4 on MIN 13 (0:49)

    This is the Lions’ last chance to tie the game up before halftime. Rhodes gives Johnson about six yards of cushion. Stafford stares down Johnson who fakes a corner route into a post towards the middle.

    Rhodes does a great job of not bidding on the double move and stays with him the entire way. Stafford has nowhere to go with it and scrambles for two yards. The Lions are forced to settle for a field goal.

    Third Quarter:

    2nd and 10 on DET 13 (10:59)

    The Lions stack Calvin Johnson on top of Jeremy Ross on the right side. #24 for the Vikings is initially guarding Johnson and Rhodes is about 10-11 yards deep. Immediately after the snap, the two defensive backs switch their coverage assignments and Rhodes is responsible for Johnson.

    Credit: NFL Game Rewind

    Rhodes still has about six yards between him and his receiver while the ball is released and makes a late break towards Johnson. This results in the easiest 18-yard reception of Megatron’s career.

    2nd and 8 on MIN 27 (6:16)

    Rhodes gives Johnson about 10 yards of cushion. Stafford recognizes this and makes an easy 8-yard pitch and catch. As simple as it gets.

    Fourth Quarter:

    1st and 10 on DET 46 (6:36)

    Play-action pass. Stafford looks Johnson’s way but Rhodes gets physical with him and doesn’t allow him to get open. Stafford forced to scramble and gets hit hard after throwing an incomplete pass.

    If Stafford throws it Johnson’s way he has a chance at drawing a pass interference or illegal contact penalty, but decides it’s too risky of a move.

    2nd and 10 on DET 46 (6:28)

    Johnson runs a shallow cross over the middle and Rhodes runs directly into his teammate who is covering Jed Collins in the flat. This frees up Johnson who takes it for a 23-yard gain.

    It’s a shame that we weren’t able to see enough of Rhodes on Megatron, but they both had their moments. If you ask me, Rhodes was far from shutting Megatron down, but he did a nice job of containing him. It helped that Stafford was clearly off of his game early on.

    That does it or this week’s film review. Let us know what you think of last week’s matchup between Calvin Johnson and Xavier Rhodes below.

    Next: NFL Power Rankings Week 16