Matt Ryan and Atlanta march toward Super Bowl
Detroit Lions receiver breaks NFL record for most receiving yards in a season, but fails to prevent his team from losing to the Falcons
Atlanta's Matt Ryan threw four touchdown passes and the Falcons clinched a first-round NFL play-off bye with a 31-18 victory over the Detroit Lions.
Detroit's Calvin Johnson broke the NFL record for most receiving yards in a season in a losing cause with one game to play, earning a standing ovation from home supporters who saw the Lions, 4-11, suffer their seventh defeat in a row.
"It's a huge accomplishment," Johnson said. "Never thought it would be this special. It's a tough season but you can't take that moment away."
Johnson's feat was overshadowed by the Falcons, who improved to an NFL-best 13-2 to secure a home-field edge throughout the National Conference play-offs. They are one of only two teams unbeaten at home this season.
The Falcons, in the play-off for the fourth time in five seasons, are also at an NFL-best 33-6 at home since 2008 and playing inside their domed home gives them a big edge in the fight to reach the Super Bowl in February at New Orleans.
"It's huge," Ryan said. "It's what we aimed to do since the beginning of the season and to accomplish that was perfect."
Ryan, who completed 25 of 32 passes for 279 yards, found Johnson after the game to congratulate him on breaking the old NFL one-season reception yardage mark of 1,848 yards, set by Jerry Rice of the San Francisco 49ers in 1995.
"I'm a fan," Ryan said. "He is an unbelievable player."
Johnson made 11 catches for 225 yards, giving him an NFL record of 1,892 reception yards for the season. He hopes to push the record beyond 2,000 yards next week when the Lions close their season at home against Chicago.
"It has become very realistic," Johnson said of 2,000 yards.
"But we have a tough opponent next week. We have to do our homework."
Rice, who had hoped to crack 2,000 yards 17 years ago, said he thinks Johnson will do it.
"This guy is really amazing," Rice said. "He is a true talent."
Johnson broke the record on his 10th catch of the night, cutting left across the middle of the field and taking the throw from Matthew Stafford before turning upfield to complete a 26-yard play with 2:57 remaining.
As the crowd chanted his name, Johnson quickly ran to the sidelines and gave the ball to his father, Calvin Snr, as they shared a hug.
On the play, Johnson also set an NFL record with his fourth consecutive game with at least 10 receptions.
Johnson, nicknamed "Megatron," turned a short crossing pattern catch into a 49-yard pass play early in the first quarter to set a team mark for yardage in a season and then took aim at bigger record books.
He made a 22-yard catch with 36 seconds remaining in the second quarter for another two NFL records: an unprecedented eighth 100-yard receiving game in a row and a record-matching 11th 100-yard receiving game in a season.
Another 100-yard receiving performance next week would push Johnson into sole possession of the mark he shares with former Dallas Cowboys star Michael Irvin.
Ryan's 10 completed passes last week against the New York Giants along with his 12 completed passes against Detroit gave him the third-longest completion streak in NFL history.