Johnson's 329-yard game leaves teammates amazed
Calvin Johnson doesn't spend much time trying to call attention to himself.
Johnson's performance Sunday spoke loud and clear, of course. In a dazzling 329-yard effort against the Dallas Cowboys, the Detroit Lions standout fell just 7 yards shy of the NFL's single-game receiving record - and as usual, he seemed to take everything in stride after Detroit's 31-30 victory.
''It was definitely an aggressive mindset going into the game with the play calls and everything,'' Johnson said. ''The whole week, it was that kind of mentality and it definitely carried over.''
Teammate Nate Burleson, who sat out the game with an injury, was a bit more effusive.
''He's a living legend,'' Burleson said. ''I'm not going to pat myself on the back but I feel like I've been telling everybody how great he is for a long time, ever since I got on the team. I'm just glad that everybody's able to share in moments like this.''
The 28-year-old Johnson is in the prime of his career. He set an NFL record last season with 1,964 yards receiving, and on Sunday he nearly surpassed Flipper Anderson's single-game mark of 336 (Anderson needed overtime to reach his total in a 1989 game).
Against the Cowboys, Johnson made almost every type of catch imaginable. In the first quarter, the seventh-year pro turned a short slant into an 87-yard gain by making a couple Cowboys miss in the secondary. When the drive almost stalled anyway, Matthew Stafford found Johnson on a quick pass to the right for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 2.
Dallas, perhaps lulled into a false sense of security by four Detroit turnovers, never came close to controlling Johnson. With the Cowboys leading 27-17 in the fourth quarter, Stafford threw deep over the middle, where the 6foot-5 ''Megatron'' outjumped two defenders for a 54-yard gain.
''The guy goes up and makes a freak-show catch. He does it all the time,'' Stafford said. ''The best thing about that dude is how humble he is and how much of a team player he is. I can't express it enough to you guys. I say it, you guys don't really know it because you're not in the locker room with him.''
Johnson's 14th and final catch of the day put the Lions in position to win the game. He beat one defender and held onto the ball while being hit hard by another. The 22-yard gain gave Detroit the ball at the Dallas 1-yard line, and Stafford's quarterback sneak with 12 seconds left gave the Lions the win.
''Shoot, I'm going to get hit, so I might as well make the catch,'' Johnson said. ''I've been in that situation plenty of times where I didn't come down with it. I was like, `Shoot, you're going to get hit either way, so you might as well make it.'''
Johnson already has five 200-yard receiving games in his career, tying Hall of Famer Lance Alworth's record.
''Honestly, when you look at the film, it sort of creeps up on you. You don't really see it as being that kind of day because you just expect so many of those plays,'' Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. ''He's a big-play machine. When he's covered, he's still open.''
Before the 2012 season, the Lions gave Johnson a $132 million, eight-year contract - and the size of that deal is almost an afterthought now because of how well he has played. On Sunday, Johnson overshadowed Dez Bryant, his Dallas counterpart, even though Bryant caught a couple touchdown passes himself.
''Nobody's Calvin Johnson. That's not a shot toward Dez,'' Burleson said. ''You can't compare Calvin to mere mortals.''
After Sunday's game, pretty much any superlative seemed to fit.
''The greatest. The dude is amazing. The guy doesn't say anything,'' Lions offensive lineman Rob Sims said. ''He lets his hands do the talking. The guy is unreal, he's a great person, a great teammate and I am happy I have the opportunity to play with him in my career.''