Thursday’s loss to the Texans ended any realistic hope the Lions had of returning to the playoffs this season. But it also reinforced that the Lions are getting their money’s worth out of the enormous contract they gave receiver Calvin Johnson in March.
Johnson, who had eight catches for 140 yards and a touchdown on Thursday, now has 1,257 receiving yards through 11 games this season. That puts him on pace for 1,828 yards on the season, which would top his NFL-leading total from 2011 by 147 yards.
A total of 1,828 yards would also be the second-best single-season total in NFL history, behind only Jerry Rice’s total of 1,848 yards in 1995. If Johnson picks up the pace a bit over the final five games of the season (and he’s trending in the right direction, with a whopping 619 yards in the last four games), he’ll break Rice’s record.
That would be an amazing accomplishment. Rice is generally recognized as the best receiver ever to play the game, and he was at his best in 1995, playing on an excellent offense with a Hall of Fame quarterback passing to him in Steve Young. If any receiving number would seem to be safe in the pass-happy modern NFL, it’s that one.
But Johnson has a good chance of breaking it.