By Larry Lage, AP Sports Writer
DETROIT (AP) – Dez Bryant backpedaled like a cornerback when asked follow-up questions about saying he could do anything Calvin Johnson can do.
“I think a lot of people took it the wrong way,” Bryant said. “Clearly, I said there was no comparison.”
It will be easy to compare the two star receivers when the Detroit Lions (4-3) play the Dallas Cowboys (4-3) because they are both go-to options for their quarterbacks, and they’re facing two of the NFL’s worst teams against the pass.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he’s concerned Bryant’s comments will be used by Johnson to be even more motivated to dominate Dallas.
“Everybody who follows football knows he’s a fantastic player and has been for a long time,” Garrett said. “He’s a mismatch player.”
Johnson proved that perhaps as clearly as ever in last week’s loss to Cincinnati when he leaped to catch a 50-yard touchdown pass while surrounded by three Bengals in the end zone.
When possibly inflammatory comments from Bryant were passed along to Johnson, he extinguished them in a text-message exchange.
“I just told him that I don’t really pay attention to the media anyways,” Johnson insisted.
When Dallas plays at Detroit on Sunday, here are five things to watch:
PASSING FANCY: Bryant and Johnson can play up to their vast potential in part because they’ve got strong-arm quarterbacks throwing them the ball. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has thrown for more yards (27,747) in his first 100 starts than anybody in the Super Bowl era. “We’ve got to stop him from throwing a lot to 82 (Jason Witten) and limit the big plays he makes with 88 (Bryant) to have success,” Detroit safety Louis Delmas said.
Detroit’s Matthew Stafford has 14,936 yards passing, leading all quarterbacks since 1960 after their first 52 starts, according to STATS. “He can throw the ball all over the park,” Garrett said.
CONERBACK’S CHALLENGE: Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr heads into a matchup with Johnson as confident as he’s been in his six-year career. Lions cornerback Chris Houston, meanwhile, was benched for what he said was the first time in his seven-year career against the Bengals. “That was just a wake-up call,” Houston said after the 27-24 loss. “That was probably my worst half of football I ever played.” Houston is in the first year of a $25 million, five-year deal he signed in the offseason to stay in Detroit. Lately, Carr has been providing a return on the $50 million, five-year deal he signed last year. “You have to talk with more confidence, play with more confidence,” said Carr, who is from Flint, Mich., and played at Grand Valley State.
SUBBING FOR STARTERS: The Lions had to replace both starting offensive tackles, Riley Reiff and Corey Hilliard, during last week’s game because of injuries and might not get Hilliard back in the lineup against the Cowboys. Dallas, though, doesn’t have any sympathy.
Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware missed a game for the first time in his nine-year career in last week’s win against the Eagles with a strained right quadriceps. Dallas fared well against Philadelphia without the franchise’s all-time sacks leader. The Cowboys also did OK without injured running back DeMarco Murray because rookie Joseph Randle had a career-high 93 yards from scrimmage.
INSIDE INFORMATION: Both teams have a player very familiar with this week’s opponent. Lions receiver Kevin Ogletree spent the previous four years in Dallas, and Cowboys linebacker Justin Durant was with the Lions the last two seasons. “I’m sure the Lions have talked to Kevin about some of the things we try to do on offense,” Garrett said. “You have to understand there’s a lot of things that change from year to year with players and scheme and all that.”
SENSING URGENCY: Detroit fell out of a first-place tie in the NFC North last week and is desperately hoping to avoid its first two-game losing streak of the year so that the team can go into the bye week with a winning record. “This is a big game, it’s a playoff-type game for us,” Lions linebacker Ashlee Palmer said.
The Cowboys, of course, are hoping to win three straight games to stay alone atop the NFC East.
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