(Reuters) - Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson gave the home crowd something to cheer about when he set a National Football League record for most receiving yards in a season in a 31-18 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday.
Johnson caught 11 passes from quarterback Matthew Stafford for 225 yards and a total of 1,892 yards for the season with one game remaining.
The speedy, 6ft-5in (1.96m) Johnson, serenaded by chants of “Calvin, Calvin” even while the team was falling to its seventh loss in a row, eclipsed the record of 1,848 yards set by Hall of Famer Jerry Rice in 1995 for the San Francisco 49ers.
After his 26-yard fourth-quarter reception on one of his typical catch-and-run plays across the middle moved him past Rice, the Lions receiver jogged to the sideline to hand the ball to his father as the crowd roared in appreciation.
“This is a huge accomplishment to take one of those records from the great Jerry,” said the 27-year-old Johnson, taken with the second overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft out of Georgia Tech.
”He’s amazing,“ Rice said in a phone interview during the ESPN telecast. ”Just watching him go out there and do his thing on the football field, he’s a true talent and that’s why they call him ‘Megatron’.
“You never want your record broken, but if anyone is going to do it, I prefer it’s Megatron.”
Rice said Johnson’s combination of size, strength and speed made him an exceptional threat on the gridiron.
“I just sit back and I‘m just like a fan,” said Rice, whose NFL records include most career touchdowns (208).
“He can run every route, from the slant route, to running by you with that 4.35 (seconds over 40 yards) speed. Then he can out-jump you, where he can just get up in the air and just levitate his body and make those incredible catches. This guy has all the tools.”
Lions coach Jim Schwartz said surpassing Rice was a great achievement.
“To break a record by a guy who is maybe the greatest player ever to play in the National Football League says a lot about what he accomplished,” Schwartz said, adding: “His best is yet to come.”
Johnson also set an NFL record by gaining more than 100 yards receiving for an eighth straight game.
It was Johnson’s 11th game this season with at least 100 yards receiving, matching the NFL mark achieved in 1995 by Michael Irvin of the Dallas Cowboys.
After the game, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan sought out Johnson on the field. “I congratulated him,” Ryan said. “I‘m a fan.”
Reporting by Larry Fine of New York; Editing by John O'Brien