Twentyman: Falcons have a trio of receiving threats that would make any team envious

Posted Dec 18, 2012

Falcons' tight end Tony Gonzalez (880) and receivers Roddy White (1,156) and Julio Jones (1,071) could become just the sixth trio in NFL history to have 1,000 receiving yards in a season.

Talk about your NFL extremes from week-to-week.

The Lions faced one of the worst passing teams in the NFL last week in the Cardinals, led by rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley. Arizona's offense muddled their way to only 104 passing yards and only one completion of more than 14 yards.

They also won the game, 38-10, thanks to four Lions turnovers which they turned into 28 points, but none of those were passing scores. In fact, the Cardinals haven’t thrown a touchdown in over a month.

Fast forward one week and it's a whole different story.

This Saturday, the Lions defense will face one of the top passing teams in the league in the Falcons and quarterback Matt Ryan.

Ryan has at his disposal a trio of receiving threats that would make any quarterback jealous. It's a group that's probably keeping Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham up at night.

If tight end Tony Gonzalez (880 yards) can record 120 more yards over the Falcons' final two games (at Detroit and vs. Tampa Bay), he and receivers Roddy White (1,156) and Julio Jones (1,071) will become just the sixth trio in NFL history to have 1,000 receiving yards in a season.

“I’m lucky to have them, that’s for sure,” Ryan said in a conference call Tuesday. “I have a lot of respect for all three of those guys, the way that they work, the way they compete week-in and week-out, how consistent all three of them have been the entire year.

“It’s fun to be a part of that. The thing I love about all three of them is that all three of them would tell you that they’re not worried about statistics or anything like that, they’re just worried about winning games and that’s what is probably the most fun to be around.”

All three will certainly put a lot of pressure on a Lions secondary that’s now dealing with another injury with the recent loss of cornerback Jacob Lacey (knee).

Atlanta owns the league’s No. 5 passing offense – 287.5 yards per game – and are also seventh in points scored per game (26.5) and total yards (377.4). It’s the best passing team the Lions defense will face all season.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that deserve opportunities to touch the football on our offense and (Jones, White and Gonzalez) have done a really good job for us,” said Falcons coach Mike Smith.

“It gives our offensive coordinator and our quarterback a lot of options when we’re putting our game plan together during the week.”

The Falcons are coming off a 34-0 trouncing of the Super Bowl Champion Giants last week in which Ryan registered the second-best quarterback rating of his career, 142.6.

Ryan already is having the best season of his career (97.5 quarterback rating) and it’s no surprise with all the weapons he has at his disposal.

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford must be feeling a little bit of quarterback envy. He’s currently playing without his No. 2, 3 or 4 receivers and his top tight end because of injuries.

Don’t feel too bad, though, Stafford does have the best receiver on the planet in Calvin Johnson.

The Lions will have their work cut out dealing with all three Falcons weapons Saturday night.

The five teams in NFL history to have three players with 1,000 yards receiving in same season

2008 Arizona Cardinals
Larry Fitzgerald WR 1,434
Anquan Boldin WR 1,038
Steve Breaston WR 1,003

* Kurt Warner at QB

2004 Indianapolis Colts
Reggie Wayne WR 1,210
Marvin Harrison WR 1,113
Brandon Stokley WR 1,077

* Peyton Manning at QB

1995 Atlanta Falcons
Eric Metcalf WR 1,189
Bert Emanuel WR 1,039
Terance Mathis WR 1,039

* Jeff George at QB

1989 Washington Redskins
Art Monk WR 1,186
Gary Clark WR 1,229
Ricky Sanders WR 1,138

* Mark Rypien at QB

1980 San Diego Chargers
John Jefferson WR 1.340
Kellen Winslow TE 1,290
Charlie Joiner WR 1,132

* Dan Fouts at QB