Stats & Info: Calvin Johnson

Lions slide thanks to their giving spirit

December, 10, 2013
12/10/13
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Elsa/Getty ImagesTurnovers have been especially costly recently for Matthew Stafford and the Lions.
After a 21-19 victory over the Chicago Bears in Week 10, the Detroit Lions improved to 6-3, ascended to No. 9 in the weekly ESPN.com NFL Power Rankings and had sole possession of the NFC North lead.

The Lions have gone 1-3 since then, currently sit at 12th in the rankings and are even in the loss column with the Bears and Packers, who have both been playing with backup quarterbacks.

Despite averaging 27.0 points per game over the last four games (26.4 the first nine games), the Lions have found themselves losing due to an excess of turnovers and miscues.

Turnover machines
Since the start of Week 11, the Lions have turned the ball over an NFL-high 15 times and have forced only four, giving them the worst turnover differential in the NFL (minus-11). The Lions committed 13 turnovers the first nine games of the season and had a plus-1 differential.

The three biggest culprits for the Lions have been Matthew Stafford, Reggie Bush and Joique Bell.

Stafford has thrown seven interceptions and lost two fumbles the last four games. The seven interceptions doubled Stafford’s season total.

The increase in interceptions has come as a result of increased defensive attention on Calvin Johnson. Stafford has thrown four interceptions when targeting Johnson the last four games after throwing only four targeting Johnson the first nine games.

In the running game, Bush and Bell have had trouble holding onto the ball in recent weeks. Each has lost two fumbles the last four games, joining Stevan Ridley as the only backs with multiple lost fumbles in that stretch. Bush and Bell combined for two lost fumbles the first nine games of the season.

Cost of the turnovers
Turnovers can always be costly, but the Lions’ turnovers have been extra painful.

Detroit's opponents have scored 40 points off 15 turnovers the last four games, which is worst in the NFL. The turnovers have led to opponent scores, but have also thwarted great scoring opportunities.

Of the 15 turnovers, eight have been within the opponent’s 30-yard line, including seven in the three losses. The Lions have lost their last three games by a combined 27 points.

The Lions have 11 such turnovers on the season, while no other team has more than six.

More miscues and poor play
The Lions have held a fourth-quarter lead in each of their last three losses. To say Stafford has struggled in the fourth quarter of those games might be an understatement. Stafford is 8-of-33 passing in the final quarter of the last four games, including an 0-for-10 effort in a Week 11 loss to the Steelers, and a 1-for-8 effort in Week 14’s loss to the Eagles.

Outside of Calvin Johnson, Stafford hasn’t had much help. The Lions have dropped an NFL-high 41 passes this season, 10 more than the next highest team (Rams). Even accounting for the volume of passes, the Lions have the highest drop percentage (8.1 percent).

Penalties have also been a problem in Detroit. Only the Rams have committed more defensive penalties than the Lions this season.

Keys to victory: rushing and pass rush

November, 28, 2013
11/28/13
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Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsReggie Bush had more yards from scrimmage than the Packers offense in Thursday's win.

The Detroit Lions made a statement with their 40-10 win over the Green Bay Packers.

Most notably, it snapped a nine-game Thanksgiving Day losing streak, which was the longest such losing streak in NFL history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. It was also just the Lions' fourth 30-point win in 75 all-time Thanksgiving games, and the first since a 35-point win over the Chicago Bears in 1997.

The Lions finished with a 435-yard advantage over the Packers in total offense (561-126). That’s their largest single-game yard margin in franchise history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Lions running backs Reggie Bush (182) and Joique Bell (128) both finished with more yards from scrimmage than the entire Packers offense.

The yardage discrepancy was especially evident in the rushing game. The Lions finished with 241 rushing yards, the Packers had 24 and were held without a rushing first down for the first time since 1990. Lions rushers were hit in the backfield twice on 40 designed rushes. On the other side, Packers rushers were hit in the backfield on five of their 13 designed rushes.

Much like the rushing game, the Lions pass rush was excellent, recording seven sacks on Matt Flynn, including one for a safety. Only two teams have recorded more sacks in a game this season than the Lions today: the Chiefs (nine vs. the Raiders in Week 6) and the Jets (eight vs. the Bills in Week 3).

Of course, Lions WR Calvin Johnson was his usual self, with 101 receiving yards and a touchdown. He has caught a touchdown in five straight and six of his seven career Thanksgiving Day games. It’s his seventh 100-yard receiving game of the season, most in the NFL, although Jimmy Graham and A.J. Green could match him this week.

Detroit picked up the win despite four turnovers, becoming the first team to win by at least 30 despite having four or more turnovers since the 2001 Rams, who beat the Panthers by 34 even with four turnovers. Those Rams finished 14-2 and went to the Super Bowl.

Turnovers have been a problem for the Lions all season long, as a -1 turnover differential Thursday dropped them to -8 on the season. But a team making the playoffs despite a turnover differential that bad isn’t unprecedented by any means.

Each of the last three seasons, at least one team with a turnover differential of -8 or worse has made the playoffs, including the Indianapolis Colts last season (-12). However, none of those teams advanced past the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

Johnson comes up big in many ways

October, 27, 2013
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Calvin Johnson had an amazing game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, impressive even by the standards that he has set in his first seven seasons in the NFL.

He finished with a near-record 329 receiving yards in the Detroit Lions' 31-30 win over the Cowboys on Sunday.

What was special about that performance?

• Johnson’s 329 receiving yards were just shy of the NFL single-game record of 336 set by Flipper Anderson for the 1989 Rams.

• Johnson has five games with at least 200 receiving yards, tied with Lance Alworth for the most in NFL history.

• There are 16 teams that haven’t thrown for 329 yards in a game this season. That includes the Cardinals, who haven't done it since 2009, and the Chiefs and Redskins, who haven't done it since 2010.

• For those wondering, Jerry Rice’s single-game high was 289, Terrell Owens’ 283, and Randy Moss’ 204.

• Matthew Stafford was 14-of-18 targeting Johnson, averaging 18.3 yards per attempt. When targeting all other Lions receivers, Stafford was 19-of-30 and averaged 5.3 yards per attempt.

Stafford now has six 400-yard passing games in his first five seasons. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that is the second-most 400-yard games in a player’s first five seasons, trailing Dan Marino, who had seven. The Cowboys are the first team to allow four 400-yard passers in a season.

• Johnson had seven 20-plus-yard receptions in this game. He’s had three games with at least seven receptions of 20 or more yards in his career, which began in 2007. No other player has any in that span.

• Johnson had a pair of receptions end at the Dallas 1, including the one that set up Stafford’s winning touchdown run. Johnson has had seven receptions end at the opponent's 1 since the start of last season. No other player entered Sunday with more than four such catches in the past two seasons.

• Johnson's efforts resulted in the Cowboys blowing another double-digit fourth-quarter lead. They’ve lost four games in which they led by 10 or more points in the fourth quarter in the past three seasons. That is the most such losses in the NFL in that span.

Bryant/Johnson: What do numbers show?

October, 22, 2013
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During an appearance on 103.3 FM ESPN in Dallas on Monday, Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant made the following statement:

“I believe I can do whatever he (Calvin Johnson) can do.”

In comparing the two, you’ll see his comment is on point. Below are a handful of notes to help make his case.

• From the start of the 2010 season, Bryant’s rookie year, through Week 9 of last season, Johnson had 71 more receptions, 1,576 more yards and 12 more touchdowns than Bryant.

But since Week 10, you could argue Bryant is Johnson’s equal. Over that span, Johnson leads the league in receiving yards while Bryant leads the league in receiving touchdowns.

• On third down this season, Johnson has been targeted 19 times and has caught nine balls for 157 yards and two touchdowns.

Bryant has been targeted 18 times and has caught nine balls for 118 yards and two touchdowns.

• How about when their respective quarterbacks are pressured?

Both Bryant and Johnson have been targeted 11 times with his quarterback under pressure. Johnson has one more reception (5) than Bryant. Both have caught a touchdown, but Johnson has 58 more yards than Bryant due to being targeted further downfield.

•  Bryant has caught a higher percentage of his passes in the red zone (6-of-9) than Johnson (4-of-11) and has two more touchdowns (5) than Johnson.

•  Both receivers have been targeted eight times on throws of 20 yards or more downfield and have two catches on those throws.

Both of Johnson’s catches resulted in a touchdown and they combined for 77 yards, four of which came after the catch. Bryant has 117 yards with 47 of those yards coming after the catch.

•  When the score is within a touchdown in the second half, Bryant (21) has been targeted four more times than Johnson and has caught 14 passes for 223 yards, with 96 yards gained after the catch.

Johnson has 12 catches for 156 yards, 29 gained after the catch, and has two touchdowns.

The graphics tell the story: NFL Week 5

October, 6, 2013
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A look at the early action from an NFL Sunday through the most interesting and informative graphics of the day.

Luck, Plummer comeback kings
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck joined Jake Plummer as the quarterbacks with the most fourth-quarter (or later) comebacks within the first two years of their career, in the Super Bowl era.


Brady's bad day
Not only did Tom Brady's streak of consecutive games with a touchdown end at 52, he had one of the worst passing days of his NFL career.


Lions feel the impact of Calvin Johnson's absence
With Calvin Johnson out of the lineup, the Lions could not get much going on offense.


The struggles continue for the Giants
The Giants made it five straight games allowing at least 30 points and dropped to 0-5 with their loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Key stats for opening Sunday

September, 6, 2013
9/06/13
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Getty ImagesCan Calvin Johnson (left) and Adrian Peterson (right) duplicate huge seasons in 2013?
Now that the NFL season is officially underway, we preview the top stats to know in preparation for Sunday’s action.

1. When the Atlanta Falcons visit the New Orleans Saints and the Dallas Cowboys host the New York Giants in Week 1, they'll each be looking to improve upon an NFL record. The Falcons are 6-0 all-time vs the Saints in season openers and the Cowboys are 6-0 vs the Giants in season openers.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, those are the best records against a single opponent in season openers in NFL history.

2. Adrian Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards last season, the second-most in NFL history and just eight yards short of Eric Dickerson’s single-season record of 2,105 from 1984.

Even if Peterson doesn’t get to 2,105 this year, he could set records by becoming the first player with multiple 2,000-yard rushing seasons or passing Dickerson’s mark for rushing yards in consecutive seasons. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Peterson needs 1,817 rushing yards in 2013 to break the latter record.

3. Calvin Johnson set an NFL record with 1,964 receiving yards last season. He also led the NFL in receiving yards in 2011. This year, he could join Jerry Rice from 1993-95 as the only players to lead the NFL in receiving yards in three straight seasons.

4. The Green Bay Packers visiting the San Francisco 49ers is a matchup of the only two NFC teams to win division titles in each of the last two years. Since 2011, the Packers (.813) and 49ers (.766) rank first and third in win percentage respectively.

The Packers drafted a pair of running backs in the first four rounds of April’s draft (Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin). Green Bay has gone 43 straight regular-season games without a 100-yard rusher, the longest active streak in the NFL.

5. Tom Brady leads the New England Patriots on the road to face the division-rival Buffalo Bills. Brady has performed very well against the Bills throughout his career.

Brady’s 20-2 career record against the Bills is the second-best of any quarterback against any single opponent since the 1970 merger (min. 15 starts vs team). Only Ben Roethlisberger, who is 14-1 against the Cleveland Browns, has posted a better mark. Brady has thrown 51 touchdown passes in his career vs the Bills, the most he’s had against any opponent (the Dolphins rank second with 39).

AP vs. Megatron: Battle of No. 1s in Week 1

September, 3, 2013
9/03/13
2:38
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US PresswireAdrian Peterson (left) and Calvin Johnson (right) kick off the 2013 season vs. each other on Sunday.
The 2013 NFL season kicks off Thursday, with some of the top players facing each other. ESPN.com recently ranked the top 100 players on offense and defense, and former NFL head coach and ESPN analyst Herm Edwards weighed in by ranking the top three players at every position.

This Sunday in Detroit, Edwards’ top running back (Adrian Peterson) and top outside wide receiver (Calvin Johnson) will face each other.

Peterson left no doubts about the health of his left knee last season, finishing with 2,097 yards, eight shy of Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record.

He had 27 rushes of at least 20 yards, more than the next two closest players combined. Peterson’s 1,019 yards-after-contact total was 234 more than anyone in the last four years and would have ranked 17th as a stand-alone total.

Defensively, the Detroit Lions allowed 667 rush yards after contact last season. The 1.6 yards after contact per rush ranked 14th among all teams and fourth best in the NFC.

As for Johnson, he finished the season with an NFL-record 1,964 receiving yards on 200 targets, the most for any player in the last five seasons.

Johnson had 806 more yards than the rest of the Lions receivers. The next-highest Lions receiver was Titus Young (383 yards).

In Detroit’s 34-24 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 10 last year, Megatron caught 12 passes for 207 yards, the fourth highest receiving total of his career.

Big numbers and big contract for Stafford

July, 11, 2013
7/11/13
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AP Photo/Carlos OsorioMatthew Stafford has put up big numbers the past two seasons, but they haven't always translated to wins for the Lions.
The three-year contract extension the Detroit Lions gave starting quarterback Matthew Stafford is worth $41.5 million in guaranteed money – that ranks seventh among current quarterback contracts.

From a statistical standpoint, Stafford has put up impressive statistics. In his first four seasons (2009-12), Stafford has averaged almost 285 yards passing per game. In NFL history, only Kurt Warner (287.5) averaged more passing yards per game in his first four seasons.

Stafford has also benefitted from an offense that has dropped back more often (67.5 percent) than any other team the past two seasons. As a result, Stafford has recorded nearly 100 more total dropbacks than the next highest quarterback.

In 2012, Stafford set and NFL single-season record with 727 pass attempts; however, he threw just 20 touchdown passes in 2012 -- 21 fewer than he did in 2011.

A big reason for that decline was Detroit’s lack of red zone production.

Last season, the Lions dropped back to pass in the red zone 61 percent of the time, which was down 8 percent from 2011. The result was 22 fewer total red-zone dropbacks for Stafford. In 2011, 29 of his 41 touchdown passes came in the red zone. In 2012, Stafford had a total of 20 touchdowns (14 of which were in the red zone).

Bad luck also played a part in Stafford’s diminished red-zone numbers.

Detroit receivers were tackled inside the 5-yard line a league-high 23 times. Calvin Johnson was tackled eight times within the 5-yard line, including five times at the 1-yard line -- both numbers were league highs. In 2011, Johnson was tackled just twice inside the 5-yard line and once at the 1-yard line.

Even though Stafford has put up big numbers, and led the Lions in 2011 to their first playoff appearance since 1999, you can assume a lot of his numbers have come in games the Lions have lost.

Overall, Stafford is 17-28 as the Lions starting QB. However, against team that finished the season with a winning record, Stafford is 1-22. That is the worst win percentage since 2009 against teams to finish the season with a winning record.

NFL combine: the long and short of things

February, 21, 2013
2/21/13
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Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY Sports Trindon Holliday was the shortest player in the NFL last season (5'5"), but he came up big in the playoffs, where he picked up a pair of return touchdowns against the Ravens.
On-field workouts at the 32nd annual National Invitational Camp, also known as the NFL Combine, will begin Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

There will be plenty of talk about heights, weights, wingspans and waistlines, but what does it all mean?

Is 6'5" really SHORT by offensive line standards? (yes)

Can a pass-rusher succeed if he's less than six feet tall? Elvis Dumervil (5'11") thinks so.

Here's everything you wanted to know about the NFL Combine:

40-YARD DASH
There's no more iconic drill at the combine than the 40-yard dash. But what does it mean when a guy has "4.3 speed"?

If a player truly runs the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds flat, he's in a small club. Since 2006, only six players have run a true 4.3-second 40-yard dash (or better), led by RB Chris Johnson (4.24).

While Johnson is a 3-time Pro Bowl selection, and only Adrian Peterson (7,508) has more rushing yards than Johnson over the last five seasons the rest of the names on this list have combined for zero Pro Bowl selections, and only Jacoby Ford, DeMarcus Van Dyke and Darrius Heyward-Bey are still active in the league.

Among QBs, it's no surprise that Robert Griffin III owns one of the best marks. The former Baylor track star ran a 4.41 at last year's combine, but since 2006, that's only the second-best time at his position.

Another QB from the Lone Star State, Texas A&M's Reggie McNeal, ran a 4.35 in 2006. McNeal finished his NFL career with just one rushing attempt for eight yards.

THE WONDERLIC TEST
The Wonderlic is a 50-question test administered to all combine participants that measures cognitive ability. The time limit is 12 minutes.

A score of 20 is indicative of “average” intelligence and roughly equivalent to an IQ of 100. Former Bengals punter Pat McInally, who attended Harvard, is the only NFL prospect known to have scored a perfect 50 on the test.
Miguel Cabrera
Kaepernick
Among QBs drafted over the last 2 years, Andrew Luck and Colin Kaepernick each scored 37, while Jake Locker (20) and Cam Newton (21) were less successful.

Although Wonderlic scores are not released to the public, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (another Harvard alum) is reported to have scored a 48, the highest among active players.

TALES FROM THE COMBINE
The combine is full of remarkable performances, positive and negative.

Last year, DT Dontari Poe boosted his draft stock when he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.98 seconds after weighing in at 346 pounds. He also showed off his strength with 44 repetitions on the bench press.
Miguel Cabrera
Johnson
In 2007, receiver Calvin Johnson wowed scouts with a 4.35 in the 40-yard dash...wearing borrowed shoes, as he'd originally intended not to run.

On the other hand, linebacker Vontaze Burfict shocked scouts in the wrong way last year with his time of 5.09 in the 40-yard dash.

In 2009, offensive lineman Andre Smith left the combine without informing officials. It was announced inside the stadium that his whereabouts were "unknown."

It all begins again on Saturday, when more than 300 invited prospects begin on-field workouts in Indianapolis.

Analyzing the relationship of NFL couples

February, 14, 2013
2/14/13
12:50
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Today is Valentine’s Day, when the thoughts of young football fans turn to ... well ... more football.

Stats & Information looks at some NFL couples and lets you know who should stay together, who needs to rebuild their relationship and who might want to spend some time apart.

COUPLES WHO NEED TO STAY TOGETHER
• Tom Brady and Wes Welker: Free-agent-to-be Welker has 672 receptions since joining the Patriots in 2007, the most for a player over any six-year span in NFL history.

• Eli Manning and Victor Cruz: Cruz, who is slated to become a restricted free agent, has 168 receptions and 19 touchdowns over the last two seasons. Along with Hakeem Nicks, he gives Manning one of the game’s best deep threats in the league.

• Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson: Johnson set an NFL single-season record with 1,964 receiving yards in 2012, while Stafford set an NFL record with 727 pass attempts. These two need to stay together if only to torture statisticians everywhere.

COUPLES WHO NEED TO REBUILD THEIR RELATIONSHIP
• Tony Romo and Dez Bryant: Early in the season, they didn't appear to be on the same page, but Bryant caught a league-high 10 TD passes from Week 10 until the end of the season.

• Aaron Rodgers and Jermichael Finley: Finley caught a career-high 61 balls in 2012, but just two went for touchdowns. At times it appeared that Rodgers had lost confidence in his tight end and reports have appeared that the Packers might release Finley.

• Cam Newton and Steve Smith: Smith was critical of Newton's sideline demeanor last season, and he could have a point. When trailing in the fourth quarter over the last two seasons, Newton’s QBR of 35.9 is 35th among 45 qualifying quarterbacks.

COUPLES WHO MIGHT NEED TO SPEND SOME TIME APART
• Mark Sanchez and Rex Ryan: After going to a pair of AFC Championship games in their first two seasons together, the relationship hasn't worked recently. Sanchez regressed even further in 2012, and has an NFL-high 52 turnovers over the last two seasons.

• Alex Smith and Jim Harbaugh: Harbaugh has turned to the younger Colin Kaepernick. Since Kaepernick took over as the starter in Week 11, his 81.2 Total QBR is second to only Russell Wilson. Smith’s QBR of 54.1 since the start of 2011 is 19th among quarterbacks with at least 500 action plays.

• Matt Cassel and Andy Reid: The Chiefs and Reid’s Eagles were tied with the Jets for the most turnovers in the NFL last season with 37. Cassel struggled with 19 turnovers in just nine games.

Peterson didn't reach record, but others did

December, 30, 2012
12/30/12
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Andy Clayton King/Getty ImagesAdrian Peterson came close, but ends up with the second-biggest single-season rushing total of all-time.

Here’s a quick runthrough of the various NFL marks reached or nearly reached on Sunday:

• Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson finished with 2,097 rushing yards, which stands as the second-best single-season total in NFL history, eight yards shy of Eric Dickerson’s record.

Peterson did become the first player in our four seasons of video-tracking to clear 1,000 yards in yards after contact. His 1,019 were 336 better than the player who had the second-most in 2012 (Doug Martin).

Peterson finished with 199 rushing yards Sunday, his seventh game with 150 or more. The Elias Sports Bureau noted that matched the most in a season, previously done by Earl Campbell in 1980.

• Peterson’s teammate Blair Walsh, in addition to kicking the field goal that put the Vikings into the NFL playoffs, extended his own record with his 10th made field goal of 50 yards or longer.

• Calvin Johnson finished his record-setting season with 1,964 receiving yards, the most in NFL history. His quarterback, Matthew Stafford, shattered Drew Bledose’s mark for pass attempts in a single season. His 727 attempts are 36 more than Bledsoe had for the New England Patriots in 1994

• Peyton Manning set the NFL record for most games with three or more touchdown passes, with his 73rd such game, passing the mark he shared with Brett Favre.

Manning finished with 37 touchdowns, the most in a season by a quarterback who was age 36 or older.

Manning also had a record of his broken and another one tied by some of the younger NFL quarterbacks. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson tied Manning’s rookie record of 26 touchdown passes. Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton surpassed his mark for most passing yards in his first two seasons.

• Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for four touchdowns in defeat, and finished his second straight season with 30 more touchdowns than interceptions. The only other quarterback with multiple plus-30s is Tom Brady.

• Brady extended his streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass to 48, passing Johnny Unitas for the second-longest streak behind Drew Brees.

Brady also became the first NFL quarterback to throw a touchdown pass in all 16 regular-season games in three straight seasons

• Brees became the first quarterback to throw 5,000 yards in a season three times in his career in the loss to the Panthers.

But on the down side, the Saints broke the record for most total yards allowed in a single season, surpassing a record held for quite some time by the 1981 Baltimore Colts.

Week 17: One for the record books

December, 27, 2012
12/27/12
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While Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson have commanded most of the attention to this point, they are not the only NFL players attempting to put a stamp on the record books in Week 17. In fact, there are several records that are much more likely to fall, both on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

Sacks: After sacks became official in 1982, Mark Gastineau established the standard with 22 in 1984. That mark stood until 2001 when New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan broke through for 22.5. Two different players enter Week 17 with a chance to take down Strahan’s record – J.J. Watt of the Houston Texas and the San Francisco 49ers’ Aldon Smith.
Watt leads the NFL with 20.5 sacks this season and needs two sacks to tie Strahan, a number he has hit in six of 15 games played this season. Statistically, his Week 17 opponent should provide him the opportunity, as he’s facing an Indianapolis Colts team against whom he registered three sacks – tied for his most in any individual game this season – in Week 15.

Watt has also disrupted a league-high 35.5 dropbacks this season, the most in the NFL over the last three seasons. Working in his favor is the fact Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has had 135 dropbacks disrupted this season, 26 more than the next-closest quarterback.

Smith, meanwhile, remains at 19.5 sacks after failing to record a sack in either of his last two weeks. Smith needs three sacks to tie Strahan’s mark, something he’s done only once in a game this season (five and a half sacks against the Chicago Bears in Week 11). He registered two sacks against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 8, and working in his favor is the fact that the Cardinals have given up more sacks this season than any team in the NFL (56).

And while he may not end up with the record, no player in the last three seasons has had more success with the standard pass rush – four or fewer rushers – than Smith, who has recorded all 19.5 sacks this way, four more than Jared Allen compiled last season.

Touchdown passes by rookie: While Luck and Robert Griffin III have received the publicity, Russell Wilson is the one who needs a single touchdown pass to tie Peyton Manning’s rookie record of 26 touchdowns set in 1998. Wilson currently stands four touchdown passes ahead of both Luck this season and Cam Newton last season, and his 25 touchdown passes ranks ninth in the NFL this season overall.

Perhaps no quarterback has been as effective as Wilson over the last nine weeks, considering his Total QBR of 88.7 ranks first over that span, while he has also compiled a plus-14 touchdown-to-interception differential since the start of Week 8, second in the NFL to Tom Brady (+15). It’s not all roses, though – Wilson produced a season-low 16.8 Total QBR against the St. Louis Rams in Week 4, including three interceptions and no touchdowns.

Pass attempts: Barring an injury or an extreme shift in play calling, Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions will break Drew Bledsoe’s record for most pass attempts in a single season. Entering Week 17, Stafford needs to throw the ball just seven times to pass Bledsoe, who recorded 691 attempts for the New England Patriots in 1994.

Johnson sets record, but Ryan stands tall

December, 22, 2012
12/22/12
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Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesMatt Ryan has been on his game all season for the Falcons.
Matt Ryan was plenty at home on the road on Saturday night, and now his reward is home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

Calvin Johnson garnered most of the attention by breaking Jerry Rice’s single-season record for receiving yardage but Ryan’s near-record performance produced a very important win over the Detroit Lions.

This marked the third time that the Atlanta Falcons have won at least 13 games in a season (they also did so in 1998 and 2010) and the first time that they’ve ever won three straight games against the Lions.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers behind this game:

Ryan dominates start and finish
Ryan completed 12 straight passes to open the game. Combine that with the 10 straight completions that he had to end his last game and he wound up with a 22-completion streak, two shy of the NFL record set by Donovan McNabb in 2004.


The second of two first-half touchdowns that Ryan threw to Roddy White came on a screen pass. It was Ryan’s NFL-best sixth screen-pass touchdown this season.

Ryan tied his career-high for touchdown throws in a game with four and matched the team’s single-season record for touchdown passes (31), set by Steve Bartkowski when he threw in 1980, with his fourth-quarter touchdown throw to Michael Palmer.

Ryan has three of the top five seasons for touchdown throws in Falcons history.

The strength of Ryan’s game on Saturday was his work on play-action. He was 7-for-7 for 109 yards and three touchdowns on play-action throws. The three play-action touchdown throws was a career-best.

Ryan entered the game with a 71 percent completion rate on play-action this season, third-best in the NFL.

He only made three off-target throws (passes either underthrown or overthrown) all game.

That’s a good number for Ryan, who entered with an off-target rate of only 14 percent this season, best in the NFL. In each of the previous four seasons, he rated no higher than 16th-best.

And for those who point to Ryan as being a quarterback who is only good at home, consider this stat. He had a Total QBR of 67 or higher in all eight of his road games in 2012, including a 96.7 in this contest.

Record-tron
Rice’s record wasn’t the only mark that Johnson broke or matched in this game.

Johnson broke the NFL record for most consecutive 100-yard receiving games with his eighth straight by halftime.

He also matched Michael Irvin's 1995 record with his 11th game this season with at least 100 receiving yards.

This was Johnson’s fourth straight game with at least 10 catches. He’s the first player in NFL history with a streak that long.

Johnson finished with 225 receiving yards, the second-most he's had in any regular-season game in his career, with 100 yards (his most in the a game in the last five seasons) coming after the catch.

Johnson's four games with at least 200 receiving yards are one shy of the NFL record held by Lance Alworth.
Elias Sports Bureau Stat of the Day
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford broke an NFL record as well.

He threw for 443 yards without throwing a touchdown pass. That's the most passing yards in a touchdown-free game, surpassing the mark of 441 set by Joe Montana for the 1986 San Francisco 49ers.

Johnson's 225 receiving yards were tied with Bernie Casey (1966 49ers) for the second-most in a game without a touchdown catch. Keenan McCardell had 232 receiving yards without a touchdown for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1996.

Johnson goes deep, nears Rice's record

December, 21, 2012
12/21/12
1:16
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Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsCalvin Johnson needs 182 yards to set the NFL record for receiving yards in a season.
The Atlanta Falcons can clinch home-field advantage in the NFC with a win on Saturday night against the Detroit Lions but that probably is not the biggest storyline of the game.

With 1,667 receiving yards, Calvin Johnson needs 182 yards over his final two games to break Jerry Rice’s record for the most receiving yards in a single season.

Johnson is on a near-record pace so far. He already has the second-most receiving yards in NFL history through 14 games, behind only Charley Hennigan’s 1,746 yards in 1961.

In fact, he is well ahead of where Jerry Rice was through 14 games back in his record-setting 1995 season. Rice, however, exploded for 442 yards in his final two games, including 289 in Week 16.

What will Johnson do in Weeks 16 and 17?
Johnson simply needs to match his career averages against his final two opponents – the Falcons and Chicago Bears - to break Rice's record. Johnson has averaged a combined 184 yards per game against those opponents in 12 career games.

The Falcons haven’t let many receivers reach the century mark. Just five players have recorded at least 100 yards receiving against the Falcons. Only four teams this year have allowed fewer 100-yard receiving games than Atlanta (Steelers, Bengals, 49ers, Jets).

The Stafford effect
Helping Johnson is the fact that Matthew Stafford is throwing nearly 45 times per game and is on pace to break Drew Bledsoe’s record for most pass attempts in a single season (691 in 1994). Not surprisingly, the Lions have called for a designed pass more frequently than any other team in the league, more than two-thirds of the time.

He has gotten plenty of help from Stafford in piling up his yards. Johnson averages just 3.7 yards after catch per reception, which ranks 99th out of 136 qualified receivers. His average target depth of 13.9 yards ranks seventh in the league.

Also key to his record pace this season has been his reliability on deep passes.

Johnson has more targets and receptions on throws of more than 20 yards downfield than the rest of his teammates combined. He also has no drops on such throws compared to four by the rest of the Lions.

Despite all the yards, Johnson has only five touchdowns. He has been targeted 14 times in the end zone (only six players have more end zone targets) but has just two receptions on those targets. However, it’s not all his fault – he has only one dropped pass on a ball thrown to him in the end zone.

More records
Johnson is also chasing a few other records. He has at least 100 receiving yards in seven straight games, matching the NFL record set by Hennigan in 1961 and Michael Irvin in 1995. Johnson is also one of five players with 10 or more catches in three straight games. No player in NFL history has done it four games in a row.

Peterson joins elite company, nears record

December, 16, 2012
12/16/12
9:47
PM ET
Patrick McDermott/Getty ImagesAdrian Peterson is running his way towards the record book.
With 212 rushing yards on Sunday, Adrian Peterson is now just 188 rushing yards shy of 2,000 and 294 away from breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season record of 2,105 in 1984.

Peterson now has 75 career rushing touchdowns, tied for the fourth-most in history by a player in his first six seasons.

Peterson is one of four players with at least 8,500 rushing yards and 75 rushing touchdowns in his first six seasons, joining an elite list of running backs: LaDainian Tomlinson, Emmitt Smith and Eric Dickerson.

Peterson now has four career 200-yard rushing games. The only players with more such games in the Super Bowl era are O.J. Simpson (6) and Tiki Barber (5).

The accolades don’t stop there. Peterson has six 150-yard rushing games this season, tying him with O.J. Simpson in 1973 and Jim Brown in 1963 for the second-most games in a season in history. Only Earl Campbell’s seven 150-yard games in 1980 are more than Peterson has this season. Peterson is the first player with 150 rushing yards in three straight games since Shaun Alexander in 2004.

The Minnesota Vikings offensive line opened up holes for Peterson against the St. Louis Rams. He posted 135 yards before contact, averaging a season-high 5.6 yards before contact per rush. While most of it came on his untouched 82-yard touchdown run, Peterson had seven additional rushes of at least five yards before being contacted.

Calvin Johnson

Calvin Johnson
Johnson
Peterson isn’t the only one approaching an NFL single-season record. Calvin Johnson needs just 182 receiving yards in his final two games to break Jerry Rice’s record of 1,848 receiving yards set in 1995.

Johnson tied an NFL record with his seventh straight game with at least 100 receiving yards. Only Michael Irvin in 1995 and Charley Hennigan in 1961 have had streaks that long.

Johnson is now the first player in history with at least 1,600 receiving yards in consecutive seasons.

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