In an epic performance Sunday, the Detroit Lions’ Calvin Johnson solidified his status as the game’s premier wide receiver, if there was any doubt.
A few days after the Dallas Cowboys’ Dez Bryant claimed he was at the level of Johnson, the Atlanta native and former Georgia Tech star put on one of the all-time best efforts, with Bryant watching angrily from the sidelines.
In Detroit’s dramatic 31-30 victory, Johnson caught 14 passes for 329 yards, establishing the NFL record for the most yards in regulation and second most of all time, behind the Rams’ Flipper Johnson who had 336 yards in 1989, with 40 yards coming in overtime.
Calvin Johnson’s display was so outstanding that teammate running back Reggie Bush gushed after the game: “He’s the greatest football player, greatest receiver that I’ve ever played with — that I’ve ever seen before…I think that pretty much sums it up.”
Johnson said he was unmoved by Bryant’s remarks. Whether he was or not, he send a resounding message. And when you contrast his humility and Bryant’s two sideline screaming matches with coaches and players, and the decision on who is a better player is clear.
Bryant had to be restrained on the bench as he yelled at quarterback Tony Romo, coach Jason Garrett, assistant coaches and other players. Owner Jerry Jones dismissed it as Bryant’s competitive nature coming through. But it sure looked bad, especially when juxtaposed against Johnson’s grace.
“I’m just going out there doing my job,” Johnson said.
He scored a 2-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal late in the first quarter (after an 89-yard catch and run), elevated above two defenders for another grab and hauled in a bullet of a pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford on the 1-yard line to set up Stafford’s game-winning score in the final seconds.
Bryant was upset with a perceived lack of usage. He had just three catches for 72 yards. Two of them, though, were for touchdowns–and a spectacular one-handed catch for a 5-yard score and a 50-yarder that came after his first tantrum.
“You guys can say whatever you want to say,” Bryant said. “When I told you it wasn’t a comparison and I told you to take a different route with it, that’s fine. This is a team sport. He had a hell of a game. He did some great stuff out there. Outstanding, seriously.”
Johnson tied Lance Alworth’s NFL record with his fifth career 200-yard game. Last year Johnson set an NFL record for receiving yards in a season with 1,964.