shattered records held by Jerry Rice and Michael Irvin. (Rick Osentoski/AP)
Calvin Johnson entered Saturday night's game against Atlanta needing 182 yards to break Jerry Rice's single-season receiving yardage record. He blew past that mark with 2:57 left in the fourth quarter, on a 26-yard pass from Matthew Stafford.
Johnson immediately ran to the Lions' sideline and handed the ball to his father, Calvin Johnson Sr., as the home fans saluted their superstar with a standing ovation.
"When you're in the game, you're still in the moment," Johnson said. "I don't even think I said anything to my dad when I gave him the ball.
"When I think back on it, it was a special moment."
He added another catch later to finish with 225 yards in a 31-18 loss to Atlanta, putting him at 1,892 yards in 2012. Now, the Detroit Lions' sensational wide receiver can set his sights on an even more remarkable goal: 2,000 yards receiving in a season.
"I tried to get to 2,000 yards and I was not successful," said Rice, whose 1,848 yards had stood since 1995, in a interview with ESPN announcers Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden during the game. "I think he's gonna do it."
Johnson hauled in seven receptions for 131 yards in the first half, then made two 20-plus-yard catches on a Detroit field goal drive that stretched from the third quarter into the fourth. Those grabs left him at 1,845 yards -- three shy of Rice's record.
The man known as "Megatron" picked up the necessary yardage (and then some) on the 26-yard play of Detroit's next drive.
"You never want your records to be broken, but if anyone is going to do it, I prefer if Megatron does it," Rice said. "I'm just like a fan (when I watch him), because he can run every route ... He has all the tools, and if they surround him the right way, he's going to be around for a long time."
Johnson also Saturday became the first NFL player with eight consecutive 100-yard receiving games and with four straight games of 10-plus receptions.
"I've been an NFL fan my entire life. I've never seen a better player than Calvin Johnson," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said.
Rice set more than 20 records during his NFL career, but this one looked like it might stand for a while longer. Second place on the single-season receiving yards record, prior to Johnson's rice, was Isaac Bruce, who reached 1,781 in that '95 season. No receiver aside from Marvin Harrison (1,722 in 2002) had topped 1,700 yards since then.
Johnson came close last season, finishing with 1,681 yards. He took his performance to the next level in 2012 and, with Rice's total in his rear-view mirror, has a shot to get to the previously unimaginable 2,000-yard barrier next week against Chicago.
"I believe records are meant to be broken," said Rice of Johnson, "and I'll be the first one to congratulate this guy because I know what he stands for."
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