ALLEN PARK, Mich. The Detroit Lions have gotten quite a return on the $132-million, eight-year investment they made in Calvin Johnson nine months ago.
Hes not trying to live up to a contract, Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said Sunday. Personal records are great, and we certainly celebrate the season that Calvin has had, but it hasnt translated to enough wins.
We need more help around him.
Thats a fact.
The Lions (4-11) have lost seven in a row, the leagues longest active skid, after reaching .500 at the midway mark of a disappointing season.
During the losing streak, Johnson has been perhaps Detroits only bright spot. He broke Jerry Rices single-season receiving yards record of 1,848 in Saturday nights 31-18 loss to Atlanta.
Its an accomplishment that took a lot of work, Johnson said. You cant take that thing away.
Schwartz said Johnson hasnt racked up yards in blowouts because Detroit hasnt had many of them in a season filled with closely contested losses. He does acknowledge that the teams record doesnt let Johnsons accomplishment ring as true as anyone would like.
Its hollow in the fact that we only have four wins, he said. Youd like for that production to translate to wins, and youd like to be able to celebrate that production with wins.
In the win, the Falcons tried to take Johnson away as an option for Matthew Stafford in the passing game, but they couldnt do it.
With 11 receptions for 225 yards against Atlanta, he also became the only player in NFL history with 100 yards receiving in eight consecutive games and with 10-plus receptions in four games in a row. He had seven receptions of 20-plus yards for the second time in his career, a feat no other player in the league has done since at least 1991, according to STATS LLC.
Johnson, who has tied another league single-season mark with 100 yards receiving in 11 games, can add to his record total of 1,892 yards receiving in Detroits finale Dec. 30 at home against Chicago and could reach the 2,000-yard mark.
Johnsons 10th catch Sunday night was for a 26-yard gain with 2 minutes, 57 seconds left in the game. After breaking the record with that catch, he jogged over to the sideline to give the football to his father, Calvin Johnson Sr., and told him not to let it go.
Not even if someone from the Pro Football Hall of Fame wants it?
Oh no, he said. Thats my ball.
Stafford has done a good job of getting the ball to Johnson despite every team trying to stunt their connections and not having to worry about other playmakers because of Detroits injury-depleted receiving corps.
Stafford threw for 443 yards against the Falcons, setting an NFL record for the most yards passing in a game without a touchdown. With 4,695 yards passing and a game to go against the Bears, he and New Orleans Drew Brees could become the first two NFL players to throw for 5,000-plus yards in consecutive seasons.
Id love to be able to be able to do it again, Stafford said. But Id love for it to come with a win.
Stafford, who has thrown the ball 685 times this season, is seven attempts away from breaking the NFL single-season record for attempts set by Drew Bledsoe with New England in 1994.
Johnson and Stafford have not been able to overcome the teams minus-12 turnover ratio this season that ranks among the NFLs worst in perhaps the statistical category that is tied most to winning and losing.
Against Atlanta, the Lions turned the ball over three times, and their defense didnt recover a fumble or make an interception.
We lose by 13, and 17 points come off turnovers, Schwartz said. We need to do a better job of taking care of the football. And also on defense, we need to come up with some.
Detroits comeback hopes definitely were dashed after getting a safety with 1:21 left to pull within 13 points only to have Stefan Logan take a knee at his 4 on a free kick.
Thats probably the first time Ive seen somebody concede a punt in the field of play, Schwartz said. It was a poor decision. Part of a returners job is to know where he is on the field. Saying I didnt know where I was. I thought I was in the end zone is not a valid excuse.
When that error was made, it made it very, very difficult for the team to come back.