NFL

Johnson shows Dez how it's done

Billick: Dez Bryant needs to grow up
Billick: Dez Bryant needs to grow up
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Brian Billick

Brian Billick served as head coach of the Baltimore Ravens from 1999-2007, winning Super Bowl XXXV. He has also authored books, including More Than A Game: The Glorious Present and Uncertain Future of the NFL. Follow him on Twitter.

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After Week 7, teams had scored 4,928 points this season and had combined for an average of over 46 points per game, both historical highs. In the 12 completed games in Week 8, with Monday Night Football yet to be played, the per-game scoring average was even higher at 49.4 points per game. The high was 75 points between the Packers and Vikings and the low was just 22 points between the Giants and Eagles.

With offenses performing at record-setting pace, it should be no surprise that quarterbacks are putting up breakneck numbers and unbelievable statistics. Heading into the weekend, quarterbacks had combined for a league-wide passer rating of 87.1 and a completion percentage of 61.6. Not only are those numbers historical league highs, but considering that quarterbacks are also averaging the most yards per pass attempt in the Super Bowl era, those number become even more impressive -- particularly the completion percentage.

There certainly wasn't a shortage of phenomenal quarterback performances this weekend, but just as they get too much of the blame for a loss, they also get too much of the credit for a win. If you watched the Lions game this weekend, you will certainly understand what I mean.

Matt Stafford finished the game with 488 passing yards, just 32 yards fewer than his own franchise record of 520 yards in 2011. While Stafford was impressive, his performance was trumped by Calvin Johnson, who hauled in 14 catches for an astonishing 329 yards and was on the receiving end of Stafford’s only touchdown pass of the day.

Johnson finished just seven yards shy of an NFL record, but Flipper Anderson’s 337 yards in 1989 came in an overtime game in which he made a 25-yard reception to set up the winning score in the extra period.

For Megatron, it wasn’t just the sheer numbers that were impressive, it was how he went about getting them. It was a slant in the first quarter that he took 87 yards after a stiff arm and a couple of broken tackles. It was a jump ball down the middle of the field in double coverage in which he out jumped both defenders by at least a full 12 inches. Those two plays alone accounted for 141 yards of Stafford’s 488-yard total and had it not been for Johnson, could have easily been a simple 12-yard gain on the slant and most assuredly an interception deep down the middle of the field.

Don’t get me wrong, Stafford completed some big-league passes in very tight windows, especially during the game-winning drive, but what I am saying is that behind every great quarterback performance there is a receiver or group of receivers making some extraordinary plays.

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In the same game, Tony Romo threw for three touchdowns, two to Dez Bryant. Neither of them would have been touchdowns had it not been for two phenomenal plays by Bryant. The first was a back-shoulder fade in which Bryant out jumped the defender, contorted his body, trapped the ball between his hand and shoulder pads and then completed the catch without ever having to use the other hand. The second touchdown came in the fourth quarter on a simple deep out route where Bryant came back to the ball, spun off a hit and then outran three defenders for 30 yards to complete the 50-yard scoring play.

Now I said my piece during the broadcast about Dez Bryant’s antics on the sidelines but I also explained just how important he is to the team. It’s a shame that his rants became the story instead of his great play on the field, but that is part of the maturation process in this league. Look across the field, you don’t see Calvin Johnson acting that way. Larry Fitzgerald has played with some of the most incompetent quarterbacks in the league in the past two seasons, you don’t see him acting that way. AJ Green is one of the best deep-ball receivers in the NFL and plays with a quarterback that struggles mightily with his deep-ball accuracy, but you don’t see him acting out on the sidelines.

This was a tremendous game with two elite athletes trading punches in an “anything you can do, I can do better” fashion. That’s what the headlines should be. Instead there will be the, “yeah, but …” attached to it for the remainder of the week or even the season.
 

Tagged: Cowboys, Lions, Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant

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