Historically, players who are featured on the cover of the “Madden NFL” franchise experience significant drops in their offensive production. NFL.com is tracking the performance of Calvin Johnson and the Detroit Lions over the course of the 2012 season because we believe Johnson will debunk the Madden curse.
It’s week 16 and with the Lions officially eliminated from the playoffs, all eyes turn to Calvin Johnson and his pursuit of Jerry Rice’s all-time receiving record.
Let’s take a look at Megatron’s quest for greatness.
The Lions receive the opening kickoff, and Matthew Stafford finds Calvin Johnson on the first play for a gain of three yards. Unfortunately, the Lions weren’t able to move the ball much more after that, and punted the ball to the Falcons after a three-and-out.
After Michael Turner rumbled for a first down for Atlanta on a short pass from Matt Ryan, the Lions defense stiffened up and forced a punt.
Taking over from their own 10-yard line, facing a third and short, Stafford again finds Johnson who streaked down the sideline for a gain of 49 yards.
Unfortunately, Mikel Leshoure coughed up the football on the next play and the Falcons recovered. Turnover by the Lions.
The Falcons made the Lions pay for the error quickly, as Matt Ryan found Roddy White for a 44-yard touchdown on the fourth play of the drive.7-0, Falcons.
On the Lions ensuing drive, Stefan Logan finds a seem and bursts through the line for a gain of 15 yards.
Stafford draws the defense offsides shortly after Logan’s run, and on the free play connects with Megatron for a deep completion.
The Lions were able to capitalize on this effort by Johnson, and get a Jason Hanson field goal to cut Atlanta’s lead.
Calvin Johnson first quarter stats: 3 catches, 70 yards.
Unfortunately for the Lions, the Falcons answered right back to start the second quarter with a nine play, 80-yard drive capped by a 39-yard touchdown to Roddy White. 14-3, Falcons.
White was having a huge first half, making the Lions secondary look lost as they tried to cover him.
Not to be deterred, Stafford finds Johnson for 20 yards to kick-start the Lions next drive. The drive stalled from there, and the Lions punted back to the Falcons.
A staunch defensive stand results in a three-and-out for the Falcons, and gives Megatron a chance to get his team back into the game.
Yet again on third down, Stafford looks to Johnson, who makes the catch for a first down, but is stripped by John Abraham. The Falcons recovered the fumble, and looked to deliver an early knock-out punch to the Lions.
For the second time, Matt Ryan capitalizes on a Lions’ turnover, this time connecting with Julio Jones on a perfect pass in the back of the endzone for 16 yards.
Matthew Stafford and the Lions get the ball back deep in their own territory with just over a minute left. With Megatron on your offense, that’s plenty of time.
A quick pass to Joique Bell, and another one to Kyle Durham move the Lions out to the 34-yard line. Shortly after that, Stafford connects with Johnson for a gain of 22 yards. That pass gave Johnson over 100 yards in the first half, making him the only player in NFL history to gain 100 yards in eight consecutive games.
Two quick passes again to Bell and Durham moved the Lions within field goal range for Jason Hanson, who converts the 38 yard attempt. 21-6, Falcons.
Calvin Johnson first half stats: 6 catches, 117 yards.
Atlanta isn’t able to put the Lions away after receiving the opening kickoff, and is instead forced to punt.
The Lions take advantage, and put together a 10 play, 60-yard drive that they capped off with a 1-yard Mikel Leshoure touchdown. Calvin Johnson also recorded his eighth catch of the day to convert a crucial third down on the drive.
Roddy White made an impressive catch to gain one first down for the Falcons, but yet again the Lions defense held firm, forcing a punt and giving the offense another chance at a comeback.
Mikel Leshoure got the drive going with a few nice runs and catch from Stafford. But faced with third down again, Stafford found Johnson for 26 yards.
Two plays later, the duo hook up again, this time for 21 yards. Calvin Johnson is now 4 yards away from breaking Jerry Rice’s record.
Chants of “CALVIN, CALVIN,” are heard throughout Ford Field.
A screen pass to Mikel Leshoure picks up a first down and moves the Lions to inside the 10-yard line.
The Falcons defense holds strong, however, forcing the Lions to kick a field goal. 21-16, Falcons.
Taking over at their own 22 yard line, Matt Ryan connects with Julio Jones and Roddy White to move the ball down the field. And when that doesn’t work, he takes matters into his own hands and rushes for 15 yards.
Later on in the drive, Ryan delivered a big blow to the Lions comeback chances when he found Michael Palmer for a 1-yard touchdown. 28-16, Falcons.
On the next Lions drive, Stafford tried to force the ball to Calvin Johnson deep for a quick strike, but instead Asante Samuel was there for the interception.
Yet again taking advantage of a Lions miscue, Matt Ryan marched the Falcons right down the field for a field goal, thanks to a hard stand by the Lions defense near the goalline. 31-16, Falcons.
On the first play of next Lions drive, it finally happens. Stafford hits Johnson for a gain of 26-yards, setting a new all-time mark for receiving yards in a season. The catch also gave Johnson four straight games with 10 receptions – another NFL record.
A few passes later, Matthew Stafford sets the single-season record for completions for the Lions with a completion to Tony Scheffler.
A short pass to Joique Bell puts the Lions at the 2-yard line, but three straight incompletions gives the ball back to the Falcons.
Unable to take a knee, the Matt Ryan hands the ball off to Michael Turner, who is tackled in the endzone for a safety. 31-18, Falcons.
The game isn’t over quite yet.
However, Stefan Logan makes a tremendous mistake, by kneeling the ball at the 4-yard line after receiving the punt, leaving the Lions in an unnecessary hole.
Nevertheless, Stafford goes to work, finding a combination of Joique Bell and Calvin Johnson to move the Lions near midfield, but time eventually ran out for the Lions and the game came to an end.
Final score: 31-18, Falcons.
Despite suffering another tough loss in what is clearing a disappointing season, the Lions were able to make the most of it by making history. Calvin Johnson put together one of the most remarkable seasons by a wide receiver in NFL history, and he still has one game to play.