Calvin Johnson breaks Jerry Rice's receiving record but Detroit Lions lose to Atlanta Falcons
Last Updated: 23/12/12 8:09am
The Atlanta Falcons spoiled Calvin Johnson's record breaking night by securing home field advantage for the play-offs with a 31-18 win over the Detroit Lions.
Johnson set a new NFL landmark, surpassing Jerry Rice's single season receiving record of 1,848 yards, but his efforts were not enough to stop the Falcons winning for the 13th time in 15 games.
The Lions were completely unable to deal with Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, who had one of the best games of his career with four touchdowns, the fourth sealing a game Detroit threatened to come right back into.
Ryan opened the scoring with 5:50 remaining in the first quarter, finding Roddy White for a 44-yard score.
The pair combined again early in the second quarter and Ryan linked up with Julio Jones 1:17 before half-time as Atlanta went in with a 21-6 advantage, the young wideout making a fine catch in the corner.
But the next 10 points would go to the home side, with Jason Hanson booting his third field goal of the night and Mikel Leshoure barrelling over from a yard to cut the deficit to five points.
Atlanta sealed their victory just over seven minutes from the end when Ryan picked out Michael Palmer in the endzone but there was still time for more excitement as Johnson had his moment in the limelight.
'Megatron' ended the game with 11 catches for 225 yards, but the most important came on a sideline toss from Matthew Stafford that took him past Rice's record that had stood since 1995 - Johnson went over to his father in the crowd and presented him with the ball after passing the mark.
But it was the Falcons who did most of the celebrating after the game, with Ryan saying: "It's great. Our confidence is high and our experience - good and bad - has helped us. The key is to keep the focus where it's been."
Lions coach Jim Schwartz said of Johnson: "I've been an NFL fan my whole life, dating back to watching Johnny Unitas and Raymond Berry as a kid, and I've coached in this league for 19 years. I've seen a lot of Hall of Famers but I have never seen a better player than Calvin.
"He just broke a record set by Jerry Rice, who is arguably the best player in this history of this league."