“He just broke a record set by Jerry Rice, who is arguably the best player in the history of this league,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said after the game.
Johnson, now owns the record with 1,892 yard, etched his name in the NFL record books in the fourth quarter for his 10th catch of the game that pushed over the 200-yard mark in the game.
After making the historic catch, he pointed up to the sky and jogged over to the sideline and gave his father the ball.
“That was a very special moment,” Johnson said.
Johnson entered Saturday’s game needing only 182 yard to surpass Rice. But Rice did not want to see his record broken.
“Well, you never want your record to be broken,” Rice told ESPN in a television interview during the halftime of Saturday’s game. “But if anyone is going to do it, I would prefer Megatron to try and do it.”
The 27-year-old Johnson finished with 11 receptions for 225 yards and broke several other records against the Falcons. He had more than 100 yards receiving for an eighth straight game, breaking an NFL record set by Charley Hennigan in 1961 and matched by Michael Irvin in 1995.
This was Megatron’s 11th game with 100 yards receiving this season, tying Irvin’s mark. In the first quarter, Johnson claimed the single-season franchise record for the Lions passing Herman Moore’s 1,686 yards.
Johnson is in his sixth season with the Lions and has numbers similar to Rice’s first six seasons in the league. Through 92 games Rice had 7,866 receiving yards and Johnson has 7,743 yards through 91 games. Johnson is sure to pass Rice’s receiving yards next week with another big game.
“I believe records are meant to be broken,” Rice said. “I’ll be the first one to congratulate this guy because I know what he stands for. He’s a hard worker. He got the major contract and he’s still hungry, and he wants to prove to everybody that he’s the best receiver to play the game.”
Rice ultimately believes that since Johnson has the single-season record that he will attempt to raise the bar and go for 2,000 yards.
“I think this guy is not only trying to break my record, but he’s trying to get to 2,000 yards,” Rice said. “I tried to get to 2,000 yards and was not successful at it. I think he’s going to do it.”
In the midst of Johnson’s accomplishment, the Lions (4-11) loss their seventh straight game, which is the league’s longest active losing streak. The Lions turned the ball over three times and it proved to be costly.
“Seventeen points off turnovers is the difference in the game,” Schwartz said.
The Falcons (13-2) have clinched home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs with Saturday’s win. But Falcons cornerback Robert McClain feels they have yet to peak.
“We had defenses to stop Calvin, but we also knew the biggest thing was to get the win,” McClain told ESPN. “We have not peaked yet, we’re just going to keep improving.”
The Falcons will end their regular season with a home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next Sunday as they get a first-round bye in the playoffs.
The Lions will face the Chicago Bears next week as Johnson looks to add to the single-season record in a disappointing season with the Lions. But Johnson has left an impressionable image in Schwartz’s head.
“I’ve been an NFL fan my whole life, dating back to watching Johnny Unitas and Raymond Berry as a kid, and I’ve coached in this league for 19 years,” Schwartz said. “I’ve seen a lot of Hall of Famers, but I’ve never seen a better player than Calvin Johnson.”