Q. Johnson broke Jerry Rice’s record for receiving yards in a season. He did it on his 10th catch of the game, giving him 204 yards for the game at that point and 1,871 yards for the season. Rice set the record with 1,848 in 1995.
He finished the game with 11 catches for 225 yards, and 1,892 for the season with one game left.
Did the Lions’ loss to Atlanta, and the losing season, diminish setting the record?
A. The season is diminished on its own. It’s been a mess almost since opening day. But nothing takes away from what Megatron accomplished this year. He’s the best receiver in the game, and the best nonquarterback in the game.
Q. Could the NFL have done anything to highlight the record-breaking catch?
A. It’s wrong to ask if the NFL could have done anything, because it did absolutely nothing. Zero.
The game wasn’t stopped for even a split second. Johnson got the ball over to the sideline to give to his father, and the play clock kept running down. The Lions had to hustle to get off the next play.
The NFL prides itself on being a brilliant marketing machine, but it blew it on this one. The game could have been stopped for a moment to honor Johnson breaking the record – and to acknowledge Jerry Rice, who commented on it on the ESPN national telecast.
Commissioner Roger Goodell and his minions fumbled away an opportunity that was so obvious a second-grader could have done better.
Q. Turning point – was there really one?
A. No. Not a turning point, but a defining point. It came in the fourth quarter, when both offenses and defenses had a chance to make a statement.
And both teams did it. The Lions’ offense wasn’t good enough to score a touchdown, and their defense couldn’t keep the Falcons out of the end zone.
The Falcons had the firepower and play selection to score. The Lions’ defense couldn’t hold – again.
Q. What were the circumstances on the Lions’ possession?
A. The Lions had first and goal at the six-yard line, trailing 21-13. A touchdown and two-point conversion would have tied the game. Instead, the Lions settled for a field goal after an incomplete passing, short run and quarterback draw moved the ball only four yards to the two.
It was a win for Atlanta’s defense and a loss for the Lions’ offense.
Q. What about Atlanta’s possession after the ensuing kickoff? How was that different?
A. The difference between the two teams could not have been more apparent. Three plays after the kickoff, the Falcons had third-and-four at their 26. The offense suddenly turned it on, like it was spring-loaded.
A pass to Roddy White on third down gained 17 yards, and the Falcons were rolling. Two passes to Julio Jones gained 27 yards. After an end-around lost seven yards, Matt Ryan got 16 of them back on a scramble up the middle. Nobody was near him until he slid a yard short of the first-down marker.
Later, a 14-yard pass to White on second-and-12 put the ball on the one. The Falcons scored on the next play on a pass to backup tight end Michael Palmer. He was wide open.
Q. Ryan hot: Falcons QB Matt Ryan was nearly perfect in the first half, completing 15-of-16 passes for 184 yards and 3 TDs. Could the Lions have done anything different to stop him?
A. There’s no way to know because they didn’t do anything different. They blitzed a linebacker occasionally, but that was more of a nuisance than anything else.
As desperate as the situation has been of late, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to change things up – like a corner blitz, or a safety blitz in a situation that might not really call for it.
On the Falcons’ first possession of the second half, safety
Q. Falcons talent: Don’t the Falcons have too many good players, with experience, to blitz often?
A. Good point, but those same talented players – Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Michael Turner – are so good that you can’t beat them with your scheme. You have to give them things they haven’t seen.
Q. Punt call: In the second quarter,
A. The replay showed that Logan waved his right arm about shoulder high long before he fielded the punt and started to run. Good call by the refs. Bad decision by Logan. He shouldn’t have made any signal that early.
Q. Play-selection: The Lions had first and goal at Atlanta’s six-yard line and had to settle for their third field goal of the game. Was the play-calling questionable?
A. The only play I disagreed with was running on second-and-goal at the six, and that’s a philosophical thing.
On first down,
Running on second down was the big question. Chances are, the Lions’ aren’t going to get a six-yard TD run, and they didn’t come close.
The Lions didn’t pass, though. Stafford ran a quarterback draw and was stopped at the two. That forced kicking a field goal.
The issue with running on second down, unless it’s from one- or two-yard line, is that you’re almost always going to force yourself into an obvious passing situation on third down. So take your shot on second down.