DETROIT — Calvin Johnson is used to looking down at defensive backs.
The Detroit Lions’ 6-foot-5 wide receiver won’t be able to do that against the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle can match up cornerbacks Brandon Brower and Richard Sherman, both of whom are at least 6-3, with Johnson and can have 6-3 safety Kam Chancellor lurking nearby.
“That’s like a junior college basketball team,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. “They’ve got some length and some size.”
While preparing for Seattle, Johnson said the tall defensive backs remind him of New York Jets’ 6-2 cornerback Antonio Cromartie
“It’s like they’ve got a bunch of Cromarties,” Johnson said.
Even smaller defenders, though, have slowed down Johnson and that has led to Detroit (2-4) going into Sunday’s against Seattle (4-3) desperate for a win.
Johnson has scored one touchdown — on a pass from backup quarterback Shaun Hill — after scoring 16 last season during one of the best seasons by a receiver in NFL history.
“You can’t get too caught up in what has happened,” Johnson said. “You just have to keep pushing when adversity comes knocking because an NFL season is a 16-game grind.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll thinks his big cornerbacks have a shot to keep Johnson in check.
“Well, we’re closer to him than everybody else is,” Carroll said. “They only have to look up a little bit. It’ll be interesting to see how our guys do. I can only imagine when the corners that are 5-10 or 5-11 are looking up at him.”
Days before the game in Detroit, Sherman changed his name on his Twitter account to “Optimus Prime,” a Transformers character going into his matchup with Johnson, whose nickname is “Megatron.”
Sherman, who leads the NFL with 11 passes defended, insisted that covering Johnson is the same as facing Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Smith or Brandon Lloyd.
“Ain’t no different to me, I don’t care who is out there,” Sherman said. “It’s the league. There is going to be a good receiver out there every week.”
The Lions are down a good receiver for the rest of the year in Nate Burleson after he broke his right leg in Monday night’s loss at Chicago.
They’re hoping second-year pro Titus Young, rookie Ryan Broyles and tight end Tony Scheffler do enough together to make up for the loss.
Seattle will be without receiver Doug Baldwin, who has a high left ankle sprain and might be replaced by Charly Martin.
The Seahawks, though, have one of the more promising young quarterbacks in the league. Russell Wilson, a third-round pick, leads his draft class of quarterbacks with four wins and is the first rookie QB since the merger to throw game-winning touchdown passes in the last two minutes of regulation or in overtime. He did it against New England and Green Bay. Wilson has completed nearly 60 percent of his passes with eight TDs and seven interceptions and has run for 119 yards on 35 carries.
“I feel very, very comfortable,” Wilson said.
Matthew Stafford, meanwhile, is not coming close to the production he had last season in his first full year as a starter. Stafford has thrown fewer TDs (five) than interceptions (six) after throwing 41 TDs and 16 interceptions last year.
Stafford connected nine times with Johnson in the end zone during a 5-0 start that set the team up for its first playoff appearance since the 1999 season.
Stafford acknowledged teams have done a good job of keeping Johnson out of the end zone with their blanketing coverages and fewer blitzes from a year ago.
“We have to just hurt them in other ways,” he said. “And guys have to step up and make plays, including myself.”
Detroit started the season with a quest to put the franchise in consecutive postseasons for the first time since the mid-1990s.
The odds are stacked against the Lions right now, and they would get worse with another loss.
Since 1978, 18 of 208 teams that started 2-4 since earned a spot in the playoffs, according to STATS LLC, and four of 156 teams that lost five of their first seven games rallied to make the postseason.
“If we lose, we go down,” Lions cornerback Chris Houston said. “If we win, we still got a chance.”