Was Calvin Johnson’s game the best NFL performance of all-time?

October 31, 2013

Calvin Johnson makes a catch against two Dallas defenders at a key moment late in his 329-yard receiving game. (Rick Osentoski/Associated Press)
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Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson put in the best single-game performance of the season last week when he compiled 329 receiving yards on 14 catches in Detroit’s 31-30 comeback win against the Cowboys.

Aside from keeping the NFC East “competitive” for another week, Johnson’s big day got people talking about the immortal Flipper Anderson again, as Johnson fell seven yards shy of Anderson’s single-game receiving record set in 1989.

What most people failed to note, though, was Anderson’s total came in an overtime game and included 40 yards in the extra period, so Johnson actually set the record for the most receiving yards in a four-quarter game.

This got me thinking about whether we just witnessed the best single-game performance of all-time at any position.

After considering the circumstances, I’m inclined to say no.

The Cowboys’ pass defense is the worst in the league, allowing 315.4 yards per game. It had already allowed three 400-yard passers before Matthew Stafford threw for 488 yards on Sunday.

The Lions threw 48 times as they tried to mount a second-half comeback, and after the game, Johnson marveled at how much single coverage he saw against the Cowboys’ secondary, a major reason why he got 16 targets.

So, while Johnson made some incredible plays and made people debate whether he’s better than Jerry Rice, his astronomical yardage was in large part aided by his opponent and the game situation.

Rather than go through every single-game record here, I’ll offer one that is even more impressive than what Johnson accomplished on Sunday: Adrian Peterson’s record 296 yards rushing in a 2007 win against San Diego.

In that game, only the eighth of Peterson’s career, Minnesota faced a Chargers run defense that finished the season ranked 16th in the league. In the other 15 games, San Diego allowed 88.9 rushing yards per game, an average that would have been third-best in the league.

Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson got hurt during the game, so Peterson ran for nearly 300 yards against a formidable defense that keyed on him and dared Jackson and backup Brooks Bollinger to beat them.

Peterson got heavy carries in the fourth quarter, but it was a one-possession game until there were less than eight minutes left, so his workload wasn’t a gimmick.

That’s just one candidate for the best game ever.

What do you remember as the best single-game performance of all-time? How about the best Redskins performance ever? Comments are welcome below.

Greg Schimmel is an editor who contributes his NFL insights to Opening Kick on Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter at @Greg_Schimmel.

From the Post:

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Around the Web:

● In a teaser for an ESPN The Magazine story coming out this week, ESPN revealed Wednesday that former Raiders linebacker Rolando McClain retired at age 23 earlier this year because he “felt like Aaron Hernandez, like I just wanted to kill somebody.” McClain said he aims to finish earning his degree from Alabama.

● After the trade deadline passed Tuesday with little action, Grantland.com’s Bill Barnwell wrote a list of NFL trades that should have happened. He says the Redskins should have traded Fred Davis for a conditional seventh-round draft pick just to get him off the roster.

● Fox Sports’s Jay Glazer reported that Dolphins tackle Jonathan Martin left the team facility after he was a victim of a prank in the team’s cafeteria. Martin apparently “smashed his food tray on the ground” and left.

What’s ahead:

● The Redskins practice at 1 p.m. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett talks with reporters before practice, and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan afterward.

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Mark Maske · October 30, 2013

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