Adrian Peterson‘s pursuit of Eric Dickerson‘s single-season rushing record seemed to be all the rage as this NFL season slowly wound down. The chase was so captivating that it even overshadowed some other notable quests. Not anymore, though.
Calvin Johnson stole the attention from Peterson on Saturday night as a season full of hardship, defeat and a whole boatload of receptions saw a 17-year-old NFL record fall.
Johnson caught 11 passes for 225 yards on Saturday, finally breaking Jerry Rice‘s single-season receiving record of 1,848 yards. The record-breaking performance came in the Lions’ ninth straight loss, which made for a bittersweet moment. But even while his team disappoints, Johnson continues to exceed expectations.
After Johnson’s 96 catches, 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns helped guide Detroit to a playoff berth in 2011, hopes were high for an emerging Lions team this season. The Lions have not come through on their part of the deal, though, going just 4-11. But Johnson has continued his meteoric rise to the top of the NFL’s wide receiver hierarchy.
Players like Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall and even Wes Welker deserve some consideration among the NFL’s best at the receiver position. But the man commonly known as Megatron is still in a class of his own. Johnson’s monstrous 6-foot-5, 235-pound frame, combined with his blazing speed and reliable hands, make him the perfect target for any quarterback.
Johnson has far surpassed his impressive 2011 campaign by not only breaking Rice’s record but also in securing his first 100-catch season (117 catches overall). With 1,892 receiving yards and one game left on the schedule, he also has the chance to become the first receiver to ever eclipse the 2,000-yard plateau — a feat that would further establish his place among not only today’s greats but also among the all-time elites.
Six seasons into his NFL career, Johnson can’t be counted alongside Rice, Cris Carter, Tim Brown and the other legendary receivers just yet, but he’s on the right track. Such a high honor is still well within Johnson’s reach, and his title as the NFL’s best active receiver should only help to strengthen that pursuit.
For now, Johnson can hang his helmet on his newly minted record, but it would appear a gold jacket and trip to Canton, Ohio, are well within his future.