Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC North [Print without images]

Wednesday, October 12, 2011
MegatronWatch: Record pace after 5 games

By Kevin Seifert

Calvin Johnson
Calvin Johnson hauled in his ninth touchdown pass of the season Monday night against the Bears.
Calvin Johnson's 73-yard touchdown reception Monday night made him the first player in NFL history to catch nine touchdowns in the first five games of the season. It also provided further fuel to MegatronWatch, keeping the Detroit Lions receiver on pace to shatter the league record for touchdown receptions in a season.

I'm not sure if it's reasonable to expect Johnson to keep scoring at his current pace of 1.8 touchdowns per game. But he doesn't have to in order to break Randy Moss' record. At this point, Johnson needs 15 touchdowns to set a new record of 24. That's an average of 1.36 touchdowns over the Lions' final 11 regular-season games.

I realize those are some big numbers, but the key point of MegatronWatch is to track how Johnson's pace compares to the history before him. Moss had seven touchdowns after five games in 2007 for the New England Patriots. Jerry Rice, meanwhile, had six after five games in 1987. Rice finished that 12-game season with a stunning blitz of 16 touchdowns over the 49ers' final seven games to finish with 22.

One interesting development for Johnson has been his right-handed success this season. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Johnson has caught eight of his nine touchdowns outside the right hash mark. Overall, 65 percent of his receptions have come on that side of the field in 2011.

It makes sense that Johnson would have most of his success on the outside. And most right-handed quarterbacks will look to the right side of the field instead of across their bodies to the left. I don't see any great schematic clues here. To me, it's just a testament to offensive coordinator Scott Linehan's beautifully transparent scheme.

Linehan isn't trying to trick opponents. When he has a player who can win in any matchup, be it Moss in Minnesota or Johnson with the Lions, he'll line him up in a favorable place and get him the ball. The rest is up to the player. So far, so good for Johnson.