calvin record2

I’ve been told many a time how to define greatness and how it’s achieved. Usually through commercials for sports apparel, where life’s best lessons are learned. Or better, through Al Pacino saying something about clawing and digging long after his entire life is forever ruined.

But “greatness” in quotation marks is one of those vague, moving target sports radio hot take catch-all terms that can be applied liberally whenever one pleases. At its root is “great” something we see weekly. That’s why the spectacles which truly resonate have significance, the sort of significance that stretches beyond today. They make you realize immediately that what you just watched is unique, and it’s a special feat few can accomplish. It’s rare, and it’s history.

That’s what Calvin Johnson did Sunday. He made history.

When Johnson had 156 receiving yards at the half (a career high in any half) during the Lions win over the Cowboys through a last-second Matthew Stafford lunge, it was clear he would have a great game. Yes, greatness would be achieved.

Anticipating what followed wasn’t possible at that time, though, because it had only been done by one other receiver in NFL history. Johnson finished with 329 receiving yards on 14 catches with one touchdown, coming eight yards shy of breaking Flipper Anderson’s all-time single-game record of 336 yards set in 1989. Johnson now joins Anderson to become one of only two receivers to top 320 yards in a single game, and the group that’s gone over 300 yards rests at only four.

Johnson’s +300-yarder was the first such receiving game since Anderson’s nearly a quarter century ago, and he did it with a high degree of difficult. Nope, this wasn’t easy

megatron4th

That was Johnson’s 54-yard catch in the fourth quarter that led to a touchdown, pulling the Lions to within three before Stafford’s one-yard leap with just over a minute left in the game, a piece of trickery he called himself. In total, 41 points were scored in just the fourth quarter, and the Cowboys and Lions combined for only 20 points in the other three quarters combined.

Prior to that Johnson had an 87-yard catch, and seven of his catches went for at least 20 yards. In fake football, it all added up to 36 fantasy points. In reality, Johnson continues to provide the sort of shock and awe we simply haven’t seen before.

His fifth career game with +200 yards ties a record, and then we can get downright comical. Sort of like this…

Or this: Johnson had more receiving yards today than the passing total of all but three quarterbacks.

Or hey, this is fun: in one day Johnson had only six fewer receiving yards than what Carolina’s Steve Smith has on the season.

But even on this gloriously historic day, what’s unfathomable is something he didn’t do. Somehow, Johnson continued the quirky trend of being stuffed at the goal-line or near it, as he was tackled inside the Cowboys’ five-yard line four times. If half of those turn into touchdowns, Johnson is looking at nearly a 50-point fantasy day.

He did pretty alright, though. Historically alright.

Fun with numbers

  • Remember this little statistical ditty when we discuss and/or marvel about the lunacy that was the Redskins-Broncos game further below: the Broncos’ eventual win was the first game this year in which they failed to score at least 10 points in a half. Any half.
  • This will also be the subject of further observation and facepalming below. For now, know this: In the first quarter of the Chiefs-Browns game, Kansas City had already jumped out to an embarrassing advantage in offensive yardage gained, with 118 yards to the Browns’ 11. So how did those dominant Chiefs finish in that all-important yardage battle? Behind of course (340 to 331).
  • In more yardage fun, the Giants held a less than gigantic but still pretty sizable offensive advantage over the Eagles in their win, gaining 325 yards to Philly’s 201. More importantly, the Giants also had the ball offensively for just over 17 minutes longer, which is a little gigantic. Yet still despite nearly 40 minutes of possession, they could only muster five field goals, and all of zero touchdowns. So because the Giants are the Giants, when Philadelphia scored on a late-game fumble recovery, they were actually and legitimately in the game. Then Matt Barkley happened with his interception as 22 seconds remained, and we were all able to forget this game forever.
  • Speaking of forgetting football games and several hours of our lives, at Wembley today the 49ers gained 7.2 yards per play, while Jacksonville gained only 4.5. That’s nearly a difference of three yards on each play, and to put San Fran’s number in perspective, prior to Sunday the Packers led the league in yards per play with 6.5.
  • That 116 beside Tom Brady’s name in the passing yards column really happened yesterday, even though his Patriots somehow beat Miami by regaining respect for themselves in the second half. Brady didn’t drop below 200 yards in a game once all of last year, and now thtough only seven games he’s already done it three times in 2013. It’s good to have you back, Gronk.
  • Thad Lewis reverted to his undrafted backup form with the help of a Bills offensive line that often resembles a folding chair found at the very back of a dollar store. Lewis was sacked four times by the Saints during the Bills’ loss, three of which resulted in fumbles. In his three starts, Lewis has now been sacked 13 times overall, a painful average of once every 8.9 drop backs.
  • The Giants were dead last in sacks entering Week 8, recording only six due to the underwhelming performances of Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul. So of course today they sacked Vick and Barkley a combined four times, coming within reach of that season total in one game. You’re drunk, NFL.
  • Time for some Peyton manning regression numbers. Over his first four games and 156 pass attempts, Manning threw zero interceptions. Now over the last four weeks with only slightly more attempts (177), he’s thrown six picks. That includes three more today, meaning he threw as many today as he had throughout the rest of the season.
  • The most Raiders streak ever: with a win over the Steelers, the Raiders earned their first victory following a bye since 2002
  • The most Cowboys stat ever: their four losses have come by a combined 14 points.
  • Before we move onwards, let’s pause for some real talk. With a handful of very notable exceptions (so notable that we’ve noted them, and we’ll continue to note them), the eighth Sunday of this football season had a strong odor. Of the 11 games, six of them were decided by at least two touchdowns (Packers-Vikings missed my arbitrary cutoff by one point, and others exceeded it by far more). With Seahawks-Rams teed up Monday, it could get worse fast.

The rare time when NOT having facepaint smeared up your nose looks horribly wrong

There’s no greater comedy than a face painting miscommunication…

Now that you’re sufficiently petrified, let’s discuss the rest of the players who beat the crap out of your fantasy team this Sunday.

Jamaal Charles just be chillin’, and it’s possible that the Chiefs are a litttttle too one-dimensional

Ho-hum, Jamaal Charles. Just another week with over 100 total offensive yards, his eighth straight. With 120 yards in a win over Cleveland, Charles officially hits the midway point of his season with 1,018 offensive yards, putting him on pace for 2,036 yards. While catching balls, he’s already ahead of his 2012 reception and yardage totals, so he remains very much in line to shatter personal bests.

But about the rest of his team. I’m trying desperately to avoid being that guy who takes a steaming crap over the team everyone is whispering sweet nothings about. The Chiefs didn’t make their schedule, and (*flips to page 39 of sports cliché book*) they can only beat who they play. And regardless of the opponent, having a zero in your loss column after eight weeks is a remarkable accomplishment in the NFL.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s review the quarterbacks the Chiefs have faced over the past four weeks.

  • Week 5: Ryan Fitzpatrick
  • Week 6: Terrelle Pryor
  • Week 7: Case Keenum
  • Week 8: Jason Campbell

That’s a backup, a quarterback in his first full season as a starter, an undrafted free agent in his first ever start, and a veteran journeyman. Going further, they also faced the Jaguars in Week 1, and they’re the Jaguars. The combined record of the Chiefs’ opponents thus far is 20-33.

Yesterday Kansas City struggled with that journeyman Campbell too, allowing him to throw for 293 yards with two touchdowns. Yes, we live in a world where Jason Campbell threw for more yards during a week of football than Aaron Rodgers.

But while it bent, the defense didn’t snap, and in the fourth quarter as a unit it put the Chiefs in position to win a game. The problem was the act of sustaining a drive to win that game, a task far too difficult. Instead, Kansas City punted five times in the second half, and hung on only because the Browns matched that offensive ineptitude. Devone Bess gifted the win through a muffed punt, and a crucial fourth-down drop.

Being undefeated doesn’t mean a team is flawless. Mostly, it just means the team in question hasn’t lost yet.

Matthew Stafford still enjoys throwing deep balls to Calvin Johnson

Sure, Mega’s levitation helps, as does his ability to repeatedly win intensely contested throws and say “I get one football and you two guys directly in front of me get no footballs”. Those are nice things, and they’re greatly helping Stafford’s cause. But he’s still the guy chucking those deep balls, and become the valuable fantasy commodity we all knew and loved two years ago.

With 488 more passing yards today, Stafford is now humming along at 327.1 yards per game, putting him on pace for easily a career high of 5,233 yards this season. That total would put him third on the all time single-season list, and we’d be talking about it a lot if a) the single-season passing yards record didn’t already fall three times over the past two years and b) if big brother Pey Pey wasn’t didn’t already have 2,919 yards at just midseason, putting him on pace for 5,838 by year’s end.

Dez Bryant’s hands are better than your hands

So hey, what about that Johnson vs. Dez Bryant battle? Well, it turns out they’re both just really, really good.

He may have fallen, oh, 257 yards short of Johnson’s mark, but here’s how much I care about that:           .

Bryant needed only three receptions to score twice, and finish with 72 yards.

Josh Gordon doesn’t care who he’s catching passes from

He just balls out, hard. Of Gordon’s five receptions today from his latest new quarterback, three of them went for at least 20 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown catch, and a 47-yarder. Taking that further, he’s recorded a catch of 30 yards or more in five of his six games.

It looks like Jimmy Graham is fine, guys

Yep, that foot — or to use the proper medical terminology, his facsia — seems just like it might be feeling OK. Graham scored twice in the Saints’ 35-17 win over Buffalo, which now brings his touchdown total on the season to eight. Reminder: he had nine touchdowns throughout all of last year.

Terrelle Pryor isn’t a patient record setter

On the first play of the Raiders’ eventual win over Pittsburgh, Terrelle Pryor ran 93 yards for a touchdown. It was both the longest run ever by a quarterback in league history, and the longest touchdown in Raiders history. On that one play he earned 15 fantasy points, greatly pleasing those who trotted Pryor out to cover Andrew Luck’s bye.

At that moment with seven games either completed or nearly completed (of the early kickoffs, only the Cowboys-Lions had a few minutes left) Pryor was Week 8′s leading rusher…on one damn carry. He’s since fallen to second behind only Andre Ellington. Behind Pryor is Eddie Lacy, who had a fine afternoon as well. But Lacy needed 29 carries to arrive at his 94 yards. Pryor? One carry = 93 yards.

Colin Kaepernick was great, but football in London wasn’t

Publicly, Roger Goodell is saying his intention with the expansion of games in London is to grow the NFL internationally. Privately, he’s dumping American garbage off overseas by pawning away a good handful of Jaguars games over the next four years.

The Jaguars’ current status as an embarrassment to this sport we all known and love is clear. Prior to today they had scored only six touchdowns over seven games (a number that now sits at seven), but at least recently their level of weekly embarrassment has been reduced from chocolate swirly to locker taping. A fair exchange, as highlighted by staying within two touchdowns of the Broncos (!!!), the Jaguars had managed to stay within three touchdowns of their opponents over the past two weeks. Progress.

Today the old, entirely inept Jaguars returned, losing 42-10 to San Francisco in a game that did all it could to kill a passionate niche audience in London. But from a fantasy perspective, it was an odd and frustrating game. There were good and great performances, but no one really went nuts, and a passing glance at the scoreboard leads to the assumption that at least one guy went boom (see: Bengals-Jets, and the Numbers associated with Marvin Jones).

That applies only to Colin Kaepernick (though Frank Gore had a fine day too with two touchdowns and 71 rushing yards) who accounted for three total touchdowns, two of the more valuable rushing variety, and 218 total yards. Kaepernick rushed only seven times to score twice, exceeding his rushing touchdown total this year prior to today (one) in just a single afternoon. It all added up to 27 fantasy points, which is much closer to the 30 points he logged way back in Week 1. Between then and now, Kaep had three single-digit point games.

Andre Ellington is still widely available

Seriously, he is, and that needs to change quickly. Ellington is currently the leading rusher this week with his 154 yards — 80 of which came on one touchdown run, and he averaged a blazing 10.3 yards per carry — and he’s owned in only 21 percent of ESPN leagues, and just over half of Yahoo leagues.

Previously, Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians has said that due to his diminutive stature, Ellington will be nurtured and on a snap count. That was before Rashard Mendenhall missed time with a toe injury, and one week of his hand being forced may chance Arians’ mind quickly.

At some point, putting the ball in the hands of an explosive player is a good idea.

Andy Dalton is looking like a real, grown up quarterback

Quarterbacks these days, man. They grow up so fast.

Including a 49-9 win over the Jets Sunday which barely meet the minimum definition of organized football, the Bengals have won four straight games. Here are Dalton’s numbers over the past three: 11 touchdown passes (five yesterday, a career single-game high), only two interceptions, 1,034 passing yards, and a pace of 9.9 yards per attempt.

When Marvin Jones catches passes, he’s usually in the end zone

No really, that’s a scientific fact. Jones caught eight of Dalton’s completions today, and he was in the end zone after four of them (a Bengals single-game record) while finishing with 122 receiving yards. Prior to this week, he had scored only four touchdowns over 18 career game appearances.

There’s a reasonably good chance that you may see some activity around Jones on the wavier wire this week, especially after he came one touchdown away from having his name alongside Jerry Rice, Ricky Watters, and Paul Hornung. Now firmly ascended to finally fill the Bengals’ No. 2 receiver hole and capitalize on the attention drawn by A.J. Green, Jones has a +40 yard catch in two straight weeks.

Elsewhere in great quarterback play: Drew Brees

With five more of his own today, the man who consults his equipment manager on all hot yoga pants washing procedures is on pace to throw 43 touchdown passes this season. But alas, Manning has ended all wickedly cool quarterback pace conversations, as Brees’ scoring clip looks tiny and not man-like next to his trajectory of 58 touchdowns.

Knowshon Moreno was beast moding (with a digression on the general insanity of the Broncos/Redskins game)

While his quarterback struggled at first, and then struggled a little more, and ten didn’t struggled at all, Knowshon Moreno was chuggin’ towards 133 total yards in the Broncos’ 42-21 win over Washington. It was his third game with 100 or more yards over the past four weeks, and it included a 35-yard touchdown catch.

And some words on the game in which he participated: it was zany, and so very Broncos.

It was a whacked game that featured 21 straight points by the Redskins to take a 21-7 lead,  followed by 38 unanswered points by the Broncos. It was a game when Von Miller made his re-appearance on the Broncos’ roster known, with a key sack and strip of Robert Griffin III deep in Redskins territory. And it was a game when the Broncos offense again showed an ability to compensate for a quarterback who, at times, looked like his arm lack its usual juice.

The logical assumption is that the Broncos’ ability to survive such a situation would be put to the ultimate test when they’re playing from far behind, something which has rarely happened this year. Today we saw that, and yet  even though Manning didn’t complete a single pass that traveled over 20 yards through the air — which is becoming more and more typical — Denver still scored those unanswered points. With its short, high percentage passes through screens and slants, this Broncos offense is designed to minimize and hide Manning’s weaknesses, even during times when those weaknesses seem to dominate for over one half of football. That’s how despite looking like he was regressing at times and looking weak at others, Manning passed for 354 yards and four touchdowns, even while throwing those three picks.

I’ll end this rant/elongated digression fueled by astonishment with this messed up stat: on the game clock the Broncos scored their first points (Manning’s six-yard touchdown pass to Wes Welker) at the 10:07 mark of the first quarter, and then they didn’t score again until the 7:57 mark of the third quarter. Yet they still scored 45 points, and they still won by 24.

Teamwork redefined

“Alright, so he’ll throw it, I’ll bat it your way, and you’ll hahaha sorry I couldn’t finish”

(via SB Nation)

That was the delicious cherry on top of a second half in New England that saw the Patriots score 24 unanswered points, knocking the piss out of the Dolphins after being down 17-3 at halftime. It was a win only a mother could love when Tom Brady had just 25 passing yards at halftime, which translated into just three points. But then through a fumble and an interception by Tannehill that handed the Patriots great field position, Brady et al scored touchdowns on five of their seven drives in the second half.

That, kids, is a lesson from your friendly Dolphins on how to disappoint a fanbase after starting out 3-0. The Dolphins have now lost four straight games, two by three points or less.

Oh, you wild and crazy heads that talk

This is the 2013 equivalent of drawing a large, um, [ABORT, and insert bad male private part pun here] on the face of that guy at the punch and pie party who dared to pass out anytime before 3 a.m.

Nobody high steps from his own 30-yard line like Dominique Rodgers Cromartie

Pictured above is Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie returning Kirk Cousins’ second interception (the highlight of a flaming fourth quarter for the Redskins that incredibly featured six turnovers, and a Robert Griffin III injury) for a 75-yard touchdown. Yes, he’s at his own 30-yard line in that still image. And yes, he’s already celebrating.

We’ve confirmed this is a new world record.

Ouch

  • Robert Griffin III left briefly after getting every clock he’s ever owned cleaned, but he was held out only as a precaution following further inspection. A slanted scoreboard gave Mike Shanahan little reason to push a hobbled quarterback.
  • Brandon Gibson is likely done for the season after tearing his patellar tendon, which is clearly crushing for a player having a productive season with three touchdowns over just his last two games after scoring only five times throughout all of last season. The rejuvenation of Mike Wallace could be upon us now in Miami, god willing, and uber flex play Charles Clay should also keep getting a significant share of Tannehill’s targets.
  • Michael Vick left after re-aggravating his hamstring injury when he was beaten repeatedly by the Cowboys’ defensive front. Not only did this viciously burn me and my marquee quarterback bye week play, but it also stabbed the football-watching public in the retina since we all had to watch more Matt Barkley. Chip Kelly said Barkley will likely start next week with both Nick Foles and now Vick out (again). So yeah, that sound was DeSean Jackson’s fantasy value hitting the deepest depths of hell.
  • This is just sad, and so horribly unlucky. Ryan Broyles has shown brief flashes of his slot ability, most memorably hauling in six receptions for 126 yards last year on Thanksgiving Day. Then he tore his ACL a year after suffering the same injury during his senior season at Oklahoma, and now he’s ruptured his Achillies. That’s three speed zapping injuries over three years, which is a career altering problem for a guy paid to be fast.
  • Julius Thomas‘ day ended early because of an ankle injury. We’ll know more sometime Monday, but he’ll get more rest with the Broncos entering their bye now. He has eight touchdowns, already putting him only three shy of Rob Gronkowski’s total that led all tight ends last year.