Lions vs. Falcons: Detroit's Biggest Winners and Losers from NFL Week 16
It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.
Let there be no doubt as to who the biggest winner is in this game, as many were wondering if Johnson would be able to break the record with teams loading up to stop him (because really, who else do they have to fear?).
All Johnson did was go for 225 yards and make history a game early.
Despite Jon Gruden's best efforts to minimize the accomplishment, Johnson just topped the best season of the NFL's "greatest" receiver (best player?) of all time, and he only needed 15 games to do it.
And in doing so, he led the Lions to... a 31-18 loss.
That's the kind of season it has been for the Lions, one where the statistics don't match the outcomes.
In a game where one of the great single-season records fell, as did the team that broke it, who came up big and who needs to look over his shoulder in the offseason?
Winner: The Single-Season Receiving Yardage Record Holder
I've said a lot about Calvin Johnson already, but here's some more.
Johnson also broke the record for consecutive 100-yard receiving games (eight) and tied Michael Irvin's record for 100-yard receiving games in a season (11).
After he broke the record, he gave the ball to his father on the sideline, because that's just the kind of guy he is.
Also, Matthew Stafford passed Bobby Layne to become the Lions' all-time leader in pass completions, which should give you an idea of just how long the Lions have been quarterback-deprived. Stafford has only played in 44 career games.
Next on the docket for Johnson: He needs only 108 yards against Chicago to notch the NFL's first 2,000-yard receiving season.
That's less than half what he posted against the team that shut out the New York Giants a week earlier.
Loser: Stefan Logan
There can't be any excuses left. There just can't.
Sure, it wasn't a key play, and most likely, it didn't affect the outcome of the game or even the score.
But what kind of mental lapse does it take to make a guy down a free kick inside his own 5-yard line?
This isn't a rookie we're talking about. Rookies are allowed mental lapses here and there.
Stefan Logan is a grown man. He is 31 years old, and has been in the NFL playing special teams for six seasons.
This photo probably explains it better than I could. Because I can't explain it at all, and neither could Schwartz. Don't be shocked if Logan doesn't see Week 17 with the Lions.
At this point, it may be long overdue.
Winner: Matthew Stafford
More than any other position on the field, wide receivers are reliant on their teammates for their own personal success.
And while Matthew Stafford certainly has some kinks in his game to work out (it wouldn't hurt him to step into a throw some of the time), Johnson's record-breaking season would not have been possible without the young gunslinger tossing it to him.
I mean, 1,900-yard receiving seasons don't just happen. Johnson can't will the ball to himself.
Stafford isn't a perfect quarterback, and Matt Ryan outplayed him on the way to the win. But he deserves a ton of credit for getting Johnson to this milestone, and for tossing over 200 yards of offense to guys not named Johnson Saturday.
I mean, the guy is working mostly with scrubs. It would be nice if he pulled out some wins, yes. But if Johnson is a winner today, Stafford has to be by default.
Loser: Chris Houston (Sort Of)
Chris Houston only really had one bad half of football, but it was maybe his worst half all season.
Worse, he was very visibly beaten on routes that ended in long Falcons touchdowns.
He settled down, as did the entire Lions defense, in the second half, but that's bad film on file now. That isn't the kind of punctuation mark he wanted to put on the end of an otherwise very good season before free agency.
Winner: The Detroit Lions Organization
Maybe it's because of Calvin Johnson, maybe not.
But with the Lions at 4-10, they sold out a game on a Saturday night three days before Christmas, and the place was loud.
There was a spattering of boos here and there, but for the most part, the crowd was supportive, though the Falcons building an 18-point first-half lead didn't help matters.
Still, given how disappointing this season has been, outside of the Megatron record, the Lions organization has to take a moment to realize how good they have it.
This is a team with no record of consistent success, no season after next Sunday and a seven-game losing streak to its names.
And the fans still show up.
The Packers, Steelers, Patriots and a multitude of other teams have great fanbases, and perhaps they are even better than the Lions in terms of turnout. But those are also teams known for long-term success, a reputation the Lions do not have.
Lions fans deserve to be mentioned among the best fanbases in all of sports when it comes to loyalty through hard times, and the Lions organization should be thankful for that.
Loser: The Current Organization of the Detroit Lions
Just so we're clear, I don't expect that anybody in this image is in any danger of losing their jobs in the next 12 months.
I'm skeptical about whether any coordinator has a warm seat right now.
Whether fair or not, a multitude of injuries to the Lions receiving and secondary corps should exonerate Scott Linehan and Gunther Cunningham, respectively, for another season.
Still, just because the Lions feel well enough now to not blow up the entire team doesn't mean these guys are safe in the long term.
Jim Schwartz deserves a lot of credit for taking over and turning around an 0-16 team, but he equally deserves blame for a seven-game losing streak that has sunk the 2012 season.
Martin Mayhew's success rate in the draft is starting to look a lot lower than initially projected, as high-profile injury (Jahvid Best) and attitude-related (Titus Young) busts are starting to loom.
There is a middle ground between thinking coaches and management are doing a good job and thinking they deserve to be fired. Mayhew and Schwartz are somewhere in that middle ground.
But another disappointing season like this, and that scale may tip in 2013. This team is, plain and simply, not as good as advertised, and it's up to these guys to figure out why and fix it.
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