Calvin Johnson and 7 NFL Players Who Have Carried Their Teams on Their Backs

Elyssa GutbrodContributor IDecember 24, 2011

Calvin Johnson and 7 NFL Players Who Have Carried Their Teams on Their Backs

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    There’s no getting around it: The game of football is a team effort. The success of a single individual should never take precedence over the success of the team.

    Sometimes, though, there’s something that’s simply off with a team that keeps it from functioning as a cohesive unit.

    In cases such as those, it falls upon one or two players to step up the game and take their effort to the next level to help keep their team competitive. In these cases it’s still not about the individual, but about the overall success of the team.

    Over the next seven slides, we’ll take a look at some players who have done more than just stepping up for their team this season.

    They’ve pretty much carried the team on their backs; whatever success the team has found has been due in large part to these guys and their efforts on the field.

Maurice Jones-Drew

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    Even though the Jacksonville Jaguars have been officially eliminated from playoff contention, running back Maurice Jones-Drew hasn’t let his foot off the gas.

    He has been the only member of the Jaguars’ struggling offense to show up consistently each week, running for a league-leading 1,334 yards so far this year.

    With his 10 touchdowns, Jones-Drew has been the Jaguars offense for all intents and purposes; the rest of the offense combined has scored just eight touchdowns.

    Combine his receiving and rushing yardage, and Jones-Drew is close to passing quarterback Blaine Gabbert in total yards for the season.

    He is, without a doubt, the cornerstone of the Jaguars’ offense.

Marshawn Lynch

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    Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks has struggled for the past few seasons, battling through injury after injury and struggling to be effective on the field.

    This year, though, he has tapped into so-called “Beast Mode,” which has thus far been almost unstoppable by opposing defenses.

    After a slow start to the year, Lynch got hot after a particularly rough week against the Cincinnati Bengals. Since Week 9, Lynch has averaged 107 yards on the ground and has scored at least a touchdown per game.

    He has transformed into, well, a beast of a running back.

    The timing is perfect, too. Lynch’s efforts on the field have given injured quarterback Tarvaris Jackson a chance to mend his injured shoulder, and have left the Seahawks standing poised to make a late-season playoff run.

Jared Allen

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    The Minnesota Vikings are still struggling to make sense of an unexpectedly terrible season, but the team’s defense is still to be feared, thanks in large part to Jared Allen.

    Despite his team’s losing record, Allen has brought everything to the table every week. It really shows when you look back on what he’s accomplished so far this season.

    He’s not the top of his team when it comes to tackles, but that’s because he’s off disrupting the play so other members of his team can step up to stop the ball carrier. His efforts have yielded four forced fumbles and an interception.

    Most impressive, though, is his career-high 17.5 sacks, good enough for second in the NFL (Jason Babin of the Philadelphia Eagles has 18).

Von Miller

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    There’s something special happening to the Denver Broncos, and Tim Tebow is taking all of the credit for it.

    While there is arguably a lot of good the way that Tebow has meshed with his team, it’s a little disturbing to see someone who is probably a much bigger hero to the team going mostly unrecognized.

    Von Miller has been a beast in his rookie year, stepping up to the level of play required in the NFL without missing a beat.

    He is fourth on the Denver defense in recorded tackles, and first by a wide margin in sacks. He has also contributed four interceptions and a pair of forced fumbles to a defense that has grown by leaps and bounds as the season has progressed.

Larry Fitzgerald

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    Even though the Arizona Cardinals have had a meaningful number of games split between quarterbacks for a second consecutive season, Larry Fitzgerald hasn’t missed a beat.

    He’s been a reliable force on the field, reeling in 65 passes for 1,157 yards to lead his team in both of those categories by a wide margin.

    He has also contributed seven touchdowns to the cause, second only to running back Beanie Wells.

    Most of those touchdowns came in the second part of the season, which has been a crucial factor as the Cardinals have launched into an unexpected winning streak.

Arian Foster

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    The Houston Texans have clinched their first division title in franchise history, and they are in the hunt for a first-round bye in the playoffs despite losing their starting quarterback to injury for the season. It’s all thanks in large part to the prowess of running back Arian Foster.

    Foster is another running back that defenses have found elusive and difficult to bring down. He’s pounding out yards to the tune of 1,224 so far this year despite missing two and a half games due to injury at the beginning of the season.

    Throw in another 617 yards (which makes Foster the second-leading receiver for the Texans), and you have a reliable option for the quarterback—whoever that may be this week—to dump the ball to when he’s in trouble.

    Without Foster in the lineup, the Texans would have never become the threat that they are right now in the AFC.

Calvin Johnson

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    Calvin Johnson, aka Megatron, has been a force to be reckoned with all season long. He practically is the offense for the Detroit Lions, with every other receiving option clearly playing second fiddle.

    Johnson and Matthew Stafford have developed the sort of relationship that most wide receivers only dream of.

    Johnson is clearly Stafford’s first choice almost every time he drops back to throw, and he rewards that consistency with spectacular catches and tons of yards after the catch.

    With his physical dominance over anyone the defense tries to match up with him, double coverage means practically nothing to Johnson.

    With 1,335 yards and 14 touchdowns so far this season, Johnson has already achieved career highs almost across the board.

    If the Lions are able to claw their way into their first playoff appearance in over a decade, it will be thanks in large part to Johnson’s contributions.