Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson gave the home crowd something to cheer about when he set a National Football League record for most receiving yards in a season in a 31-18 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday.
Johnson caught 11 passes from quarterback Matthew Stafford for 225 yards and a total of 1,892 yards for the season with one game remaining.
The speedy, 6ft-5in (1.96m) Johnson, serenaded by chants of "Calvin, Calvin" even while the team was falling to its seventh loss in a row, eclipsed the record of 1,848 yards set by Hall of Famer Jerry Rice in 1995 for the San Francisco 49ers.
After his 26-yard fourth-quarter reception on one of his typical catch-and-run plays across the middle moved him past Rice, the Lions receiver jogged to the sideline to hand the ball to his father as the crowd roared in appreciation.
"This is a huge accomplishment to take one of those records from the great Jerry," said the 27-year-old Johnson, taken with the second overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft out of Georgia Tech.
"He's amazing," Rice said in a phone interview during the ESPN telecast. "Just watching him go out there and do his thing on the football field, he's a true talent and that's why they call him 'Megatron'.
"You never want your record broken, but if anyone is going to do it, I prefer it's Megatron."
Rice said Johnson's combination of size, strength and speed made him an exceptional threat on the gridiron.
"I just sit back and I'm just like a fan," said Rice, whose NFL records include most career touchdowns (208).
"He can run every route, from the slant route, to running by you with that 4.35 (seconds over 40 yards) speed. Then he can out-jump you, where he can just get up in the air and just levitate his body and make those incredible catches. This guy has all the tools."
Lions coach Jim Schwartz said surpassing Rice was a great achievement.
"To break a record by a guy who is maybe the greatest player ever to play in the National Football League says a lot about what he accomplished," Schwartz said, adding: "His best is yet to come."
Johnson also set an NFL record by gaining more than 100 yards receiving for an eighth straight game.
It was Johnson's 11th game this season with at least 100 yards receiving, matching the NFL mark achieved in 1995 by Michael Irvin of the Dallas Cowboys.
After the game, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan sought out Johnson on the field. "I congratulated him," Ryan said. "I'm a fan."
(Reporting by Larry Fine of New York; Editing by John O'Brien)
- Lost in all the hoopla surrouding Adrian Peterson's chase of Eric Dickerson's NFL-record 2,105 rushing yads in a season was Calvin Johnson's equally historic pursuit of Jerry Rice's single-season yardage record for receivers. Here are the top 10 receiving seasons in NFL history. Photo: Getty Images
- A year after threatening Jerry Rice's record for receiving yards in a single season, Detroit's Calvin Johnson broke it with one week to play in the regular season. Saturday night against Atlanta, 'Megatron' caught 11 passes for 225 yards to give him 1,892 yards this season, breaking Rice's record of 1,848 set back in 1995. And Johnson could have the first 2,000-yard season if he has a big game next week. Photo: Getty Images
- Before Johnson finally broke the record, Rice had set the standard back in 1995, going for a record 1,848 yards. Photo: Getty Images
- Rice broke a record that had stood for 34 years. In 1961, AFL receiver Charley Hennigan caught 82 passes for 1,746 yards, good for an average of 21.2 yards per catch. Photo: Henninganforthehall.com
- 1995 was a banner year for wide receivers. Rice broke the yardage record, and Isaac Bruce and Herman Moore also went over the 1,600-yard mark. Until Johnson broke the record this season, Bruce had the second-highest total in league history with his 1,781 yards. Photo: Getty Images
- Marvin Harrison is one of two men who appear on this list twice. In his best season in 2002, he racked up 1,722 receiving yards. Photo: Getty Images
- Lining up on the other side of Bruce, Torry Holt turned in a 1,696-yard performance as part of the 'Greatest Show in Turf' in 2003. Photo: Getty Images
- Also largely forgotten because of Bruce and Rice's efforts, another Lions receiver, Herman Moore, gained 1,686 receiving yards in '95. Photo: AP in English
- Just last year, Johnson took aim at the record with 1,681 receiving yards. Photo: Getty Images
- Harrison and Johnson are the only men who are on this list twice. In 1999, Harrison gained 1,663 yards receiving. Photo: Getty Images
- 1999 was another great year for receivers, because while Harrison cracked the top 10 with his effort, Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Jimmy Smith also had a big season, gaining 1,636 yards. Photo: Getty Images