We all know that Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson is great, but just how amazing has he been this season? With a quarterback in Matthew Stafford, an ostensible second receiver in Titus Young who can’t stay out of the doghouse, and precious little in the way of a run game through most of the season, “Megatron” is on pace to break Jerry Rice’s single-season record of 1,848 receiving yards despite the fact that every defense facing the Lions knows that Johnson must be covered with more than one defender on every play.
Or, at least every defense is supposed to know that. Johnson made an amazing one-handed sideline grab against the Indianapolis Colts with just one defender on his heels. He later brought in a 46-yard touchdown from Stafford, and he caught 13 passes for 171 yards.
However, the Lions fell to 4-8 on the season, losing 35-33 to the Colts, as Andrew Luck threw a touchdown pass to Donnie Avery as time ran out.
“He’s a heck of a player,” Stafford said of Johnson after the game. “I even missed him on a couple, could have had a really big day. So still some things to iron out, but obviously we leaned on him when [WR Ryan] Broyles went down. Then [TE Tony Scheffler] went down for a little bit so we leaned on him big-time.”
The Colts were more effusive in their praise of the receiver nobody seems to be able to stop these days.
“That dude’s a beast,” Colts defensive lineman Cory Redding said. “Every year, as long as he’s in the league, I don’t care what he’s doing, he’s got my Pro Bowl vote. The guy’s an awesome kid. I remember him coming in as a rookie and just seeing his work ethic. And what he’s doing now, I expect that because he’s an unbelievable player and does great things. He’s truly a good teammate.”
“I mean how many teams done stopped him? None,” Colts cornerback Cassius Vaughan added. “He gets paid the big bucks for a reason and Calvin’s a great player. He’s the best player on that team, hands down. And we knew he was going to get his, but we were going to contain him as much as we could. It wasn’t about him getting everything. Our focus wasn’t on ‘we got to keep him from getting so many catches’. We got a team win. We stopped the run first.”
The 8-4 Colts did get a team win, but Johnson can bask in some amazing individual accomplishments. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, Johnson’s 1,428 yards through the first 12 games of the season is tied for the most in a 12-game stretch with Lance Alworth of the AFL’s San Diego Chargers in 1965. Only Charlie Hennigan of the 1961 Houston Oilers (1,541) and Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch of the 1951 Los Angeles Rams (1,495) have more in any 12 games in NFL history.
Johnson needs to average 105 yards per game in the Lions’ last four games to reach Rice’s record. Since he’s averaged 158 yards per game in the Lions’ last five contests, we’re thinking he’s got a pretty good shot. In fact, it’s not too soon to wonder if Megatron could put together the first 2,000-yard receiving season in league annals.
We wouldn’t put it past time. With Calvin Johnson, anything is possible.