House gaining confidence after limiting Johnson
Davon House was in the middle of every cornerback's worst nightmare before a packed crowd of 62,000 fans at Ford Field.
On third-and-10 from near midfield, Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson was going deep down the right sideline. House knew this. He anticipated what was coming before the snap.
Man-to-man coverage against the best receiver in the NFL, the fourth-year cornerback held on for the ride of his life.
"I noticed that he was doing an out-and-up," House said in the visiting locker room after Green Bay's 19-7 loss in Detroit. "Once I got my head around, my thing was not to let him get on top of me, because then that's when he'd be able to go up and get the ball. He'll just out-jump me and get the ball.
"So I just stayed on his top shoulder and was able to make the play on the ball."
House covered the out-and-up perfectly. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford overthrew Johnson, and House beat him to the spot. Never out of position, House looked like the intended receiver. He made a leaping, highlight-reel catch for an interception.
Yes, the play backfired. Initially ruled a touchback, replay review put the Packers at the 1-yard line. Green Bay's offense marched onto the field, handed the football to Eddie Lacy, and coughed up 2 points when the tailback was tackled in the end zone.
"I thought they were challenging the catch at first," House said. "Then I realized they were challenging the spot of the ball."
House had no control over what came after his play. He'll remember it for what it was, a measuring stick against the toughest test in the game.
The Packers rotated cornerbacks Sam Shields, Tramon Williams and House against Johnson on Sunday. It was House's first time matching up against the three-time All-Pro receiver.
Early in the week, House admitted he didn't know how he'd approach the challenge of covering Johnson. He needed a game plan. House pulled film of cornerbacks around the league, studying how they covered Megatron. He must've figured something out.
Five of Johnson's six grabs for 86 yards came against Shields and Williams. House caught the same number of Stafford passes as Johnson when matched up on the big receiver.
"It really was playing to the defense, knowing where I was going to have help at," House said. "The time when I was singled up on him, it was just having confidence. Confidence that (Stafford) is not going to have 10 seconds to throw the ball because our front four was going to get there, or confidence that if I do the right thing off the line, I'll be able to cover him. Confidence like that."
Early in his career, it was the type of game that could offer a young cornerback something to build on moving forward. House's only regret was that he couldn't finish the game.
After halftime, House returned to the locker room with cramps. He knew these were coming, too. It was only the second time in his career the former New Mexico State corner left a game with cramps. The first came two years ago in Detroit.
House said he loaded up on fluids before the game, hoping history wouldn't repeat. It didn't matter.
"I knew that it was a possibility I might cramp up again," House said. "I drank water all day, Gatorades. Still ended up cramping after halftime.
"I don't know if it's because I'm playing in a dome, or whatnot. But the two times I've been cramping have been in Detroit."
After the game, the Packers announced House also had a knee injury. House didn't mention it in the locker room, but the fact he spoke with reporters could be a sign it's minor. House said his cramps were gone. He received an IV before they went away.
On Monday, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he had no medical updates. The severity of House's injury won't be known until the Packers practice at noon Wednesday.
"I'm feeling good," House said in the locker room Sunday. "I'll be sore tomorrow for sure. So we'll see how the week pans out."
House has an injury history, though not knee related. Hamstring issues limited House to just two games in 2011, his rookie season. The next season, he wore a shoulder brace to protect an injury that eventually required offseason surgery.
Now, after playing all 16 games last year, he's started to make plays. In Green Bay's opener, House forced a fumble on special teams when he was blocked into Seattle Seahawks punt returner Earl Thomas.
If he's able to play Sunday, House and the rest of the Packers secondary will face a similar matchup when they travel to Chicago for a noon kickoff Sunday at Soldier Field. Bears receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery lack Johnson's breakaway speed after the catch, but they have similar builds. At 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, Marshall is one of the bigger receivers in the game. Jeffery (6-3, 216) isn't far behind.
Marshall and Jeffery stretch a defense. They're vertical threats, always dangerous when going deep. A healthy House could be vital to success for the Packers secondary. At 6-foot, 190 pounds, House is the biggest cornerback on Green Bay's roster. His size helped limit Johnson to a single catch on only three targets.
Another nightmare could be waiting in Chicago. Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said he's pleased with how House handled the first one.
"Obviously, any time you play against Calvin Johnson, they're going to throw the ball up the field," Capers said. "Davon knew on his interception. He knew what was coming. He was in great position and did a nice job of laying out, coming up with that football.
"They tried to get the ball to him a number of different times. Our guys had good coverage on him."