October 28, 2013 at 1:00 am

John Niyo

Calvin Johnson proves once again there's no other receiver like him

Detroit Theres only one Calvin Johnson.

Lets get that out of the way now, before anybody else makes the same mistake Dez Bryant either did or didnt make, depending on the day and the context.

Johnson, the Lions All-Pro receiver, is simply without peer, even in a league thats chock full of elite talent like Bryant, the Dallas Cowboys own supremely gifted wideout.

And if you didnt believe that before Sundays record-shattering, jaw-dropping performance at Ford Field, well, dont take my word for it. Just listen to what the players on the field had to say as Johnson racked up a whopping 329 receiving yards in the Lions 31-30 comeback win.

It was the second-highest receiving total in NFL history, behind only Flipper Andersons 336-yard effort for the Los Angeles Rams in an overtime game in 1989. And yet it was breathtakingly routine?

It shouldnt surprise me, but it just amazes me every time, said Dominic Raiola, the Lions veteran center who has witnessed this for more than half of his 13-year NFL career. I mean, you should hear it out there. Were in the pocket and its, Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Its crazy.

In a word, yes. Crazy. At least a half-dozen teammates offered the same description after Sundays sublime show, including Johnson himself.

From there, though, each took a different route as they tried to explain what theyd just seen. And what we all keep seeing, week after week, catch after improbable catch.

Best receiver in the history of football, running back Reggie Bush said, without the slightest hesitation.

The greatest, guard Rob Sims agreed.

Thats some Madden stuff right there, rookie Larry Warford laughed.

And, as head coach Jim Schwartz deadpanned after the game, Just wait until hes 100 percent.

One-man show

Indeed, Johnsons monster game Sunday came just a couple of weeks after he was dressed as a decoy against Cleveland, hobbling around as third-down and red-zone specialist on a sprained knee. Three weeks ago, he missed his first game in three years with that knee injury.

And yet there he was Sunday, targeted 16 times, hauling in 14 of them, and finishing with more total yards than the entire Dallas offense, along with 10 other NFL teams.

Oh, man, how many did he have? Durham asked in the postgame locker room.

When he heard the answer, Durham just shook his head in disbelief. Heck, 16 NFL teams half the league have yet to record a 329-yard passing game this season. And for Johnson, who tied Hall of Famer Lance Alworths NFL record with his fifth career 200-yard receiving game, this was the seventh time in his seven-year career hes had a game with seven or more catches of 20-plus yards. No other player has one such game in that span, according to ESPN.

Its just Calvin, Durham said. Thats him. He flips a switch and turns into Megatron and you see what happens.

Everybody sees it, of course. And truth is, plays like the one Durham made, catching a perfect rail shot from Stafford for a 40-yard gain in the final minute to set up the winning score, dont happen if not for all the attention Johnson gets.

I knew they were all gonna be kicking to C.J.s side, Stafford said of the Cowboys coverage on Durhams big catch. Pre-snap, the safety on C.J.s side is almost on the friggin sideline. Theres no chance to get him the ball.

Well, theres always a chance, as Johnson, who did commit a fumble Sunday, proved on first play of the previous fourth-quarter scoring drive, going up over two defenders to snare a 54-yarder from Stafford.

A freak-show catch, Stafford called it.

Johnsons explanation was freakishly understated, as youd expect: Shoot, Im gonna to get hit, so I might as well make the catch.

A shrug and a laugh, thats about all youre going to get with him. Especially when it comes to trash talk.

Bryant's bravado

Bryants comments earlier in the week made for good pregame fodder. Maybe even bulletin-board material, as Bryant, when asked to compare himself to Johnson, told a Dallas radio station, I believe I can do whatever he can do.

Johnson, for his part, said he didnt even know what an apologetic Bryant was texting him about earlier in the week, because I dont really pay attention to the media that much. And he insists he didnt give it a second thought Sunday.

Im just going out there doing my job, he said.

Which is exactly what his teammates find most remarkable about him, frankly.

The best thing about that dude is how humble he is and how much of a team player he is, Stafford said. I cant express it enough to you guys. I say it, but you guys dont really know it because youre not in the locker room with him. But hes a heck of a teammate and everybody respects the heck out of him.

Bryant included, just for the record. Hed already chided reporters for misrepresenting his comments this week. And after Sundays game, which included some diva-like Dez drama on the Cowboys sideline, Bryant admitted, We never had an answer for him.

The Lions didnt have enough for Bryant, either. The Lions had him doubled for most of the game and yet twice he beat them for scores once in zone coverage for a 50-yarder as Louis Delmas missed a tackle on the sideline, and once in double-man as Bryant made circus catch over Darius Slay in the corner of the end zone.

Still, its clear some of Johnsons teammates took issue with Bryants comments, including Nate Burleson, who told him so himself.

I said, Dez, youre good. Youre one of the best in the league. Had a hell of a game today. But youre not Calvin Johnson, Burleson said. Nobodys Calvin Johnson. Thats not a shot towards Dez. Thats just me being honest with him. You cant compare Calvin to mere mortals.

Nope, you cant. Right now, hes in a league of his own.

john.niyo@detroitnews.com
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Lions receiver Calvin Johnson tallied his fifth career game of 200 or more receiving yards on Sunday. / Daniel Mears / Detroit News