When the NFL announced that NFL Game Pass was going to be free for the next couple of months, my first thought was to rewatch my favorite football game ever: Lions-Cowboys, Week 8, 2013. The game will always have a special place in my heart: It was the last game I got to watch with my grandpa, the man who made a Lions fan. Also, this Lions team was talented but head coach Jim Schwartz just wasn’t able to put it all together and Jim Caldwell would come in the next year and lead them to a 10-6 record. On top of that, the Lions put themselves in a huge hole with a -4 turnover differential leading to this graphic by FOX with a minute left to go in the game:
The Lions had no business being in this game. Yet, with the Stafford to Johnson connection strong and a fake spike on the goal line that led to a Stafford rushing touchdown, the Lions somehow pulled out this game 31-30 in one of the craziest 4th quarters I have ever seen.
Calvin Johnson was also one year removed from his insane 122.8 receiving yards per game and was breaking the Madden Curse just by not only staying on the field in 2013 but also having 106.8 receiving yards per game in 2013. (The next two wide receivers to get on the Madden cover would be Odell Beckham Jr. who has to play for the Browns and Antonio Brown who has to play video games on his couch so the curse is very much alive).
To set some context, the 4-3 Cowboys were visiting the 4-3 Lions in a big NFC matchup. The week before the game, Dez Bryant went on the radio and said “I believe I can do whatever (Johnson) can do” and followed that up by stating he was “the best at what I do” implying that he thought he was better than Calvin. This fueled the fire for Calvin. Calvin ended up having 14 receptions, 329 yards and 1 touchdown. It was one of the best receiving performances ever:
And with that, let’s get into each reception from that game ranked. Starting with one of the best plays from a wide receiver I’ve ever seen:
#1 – Megatron Emerges
Early in the game, Calvin reminds Dez that he still is the best wide receiver in the NFL. It’s a simple 5 yard slant that includes Calvin breaking two tackles and having FOUR defenders chase after him until he is finally pushed out of bounds after an 87 yard reception.
#2 – “Screw it. Calvin is down there somewhere”
Down 10 with just over six minutes to go in the 4th quarter, Matthew Stafford just kind of closed his eyes and said “I’m sure Calvin is down there somewhere.” This led to Stafford chucking the ball in the air and Calvin going up between two defenders, high pointing the ball and coming down with a beautiful grab. He even maintained his balance and added some yards after the catch for a great 54 yard gain.
#3 – The Ballerina Catch
At the beginning of the route, Calvin gets pushed off his line making him almost run into his teammate (seen on the all-22 film below) but still outruns everyone down the field and makes a beautiful over-the-shoulder catch for his second straight reception and puts the Lions in prime scoring territory
#4 – Shake, Bake n Bulldoze
Calvin did only get a reception for 9 yards here but his route running (seen below on the all-22 film) is what’s impressive. He fakes on his route so hard it sends cornerback Brandon Carr stumbling backwards only for Carr to get back up and get bulldozed by Calvin. Calvin’s speed and physicality had Carr look like he was playing a game of Twister. This is the second time in this article Calvin was stopped at the goal line and it won’t be the last.
#5 – The Stiff Arm
Calvin runs 15 yards, stops on a dime to shake the defender and after he catches it, delivers a stiff arm that made Barry Church’s family disown him after the game. He gains 29 as a response to Dez Bryant’s first touchdown of the day a drive earlier.
#6 – The SOLe Touchdown
Calvin Johnson’s only touchdown of the day wasn’t flashy but it was a 4th and goal and he came up clutch. The Cowboys had the great idea of single-covering the best receiver in football in the red zone without help and that allowed him to run an easy slant for the score.
#7 – Captain Clutch
In crunch time, Calvin beats his man and receives a perfectly thrown ball from Stafford. He somehow still holds on to to the ball despite receiving a heavy blow. Calvin puts the Lions at the 1 yard-line for the 3rd time in this article and with his last catch of the day, it puts him at 329 yards. Stafford would go on to fake spike and score the go-ahead touchdown on the next play. (And yes, I kept the gif going just to see Stafford yell at his players to hurry up).
#8 – 235 Pounds and a Cloud of Dust
It should not be fair for a 235 pound man to be running that fast but he bursts off the line and when he reaches 7 yards into his route, the other Lions receivers running at full speed are only 4 or 5 yards into theirs. Calvin settles into a soft spot in the Cowboys’ zone for a 21 yard gain.
#9 – Toe Drag Swag
Calvin runs a 10 yard curl and a great ball from Stafford has him toe-tap his way along the sidelines for a gain of 9. It’s not even halftime yet Calvin is already to 100 yards receiving (Dez gets 72 the whole game).
#10 – Cutting His Way to 200 Yards
Calvin cuts hard while running full speed on a nice post route and catches a laser from Stafford to put him at 200 yard for the day going into the 4th quarter
#11 – That’s 300 but Who’s Counting?
Calvin starts out wide and runs all the way to the middle of the field to lean in and catch an absolute bullet from Stafford, otherwise known as a routine play for them. This catch puts him to over 300 yards for the day; the first time for any wide receiver since 2000.
#12 – Megatron Comes Down Hard
Calvin runs a drag close the the line of scrimmage and it takes a couple Cowboy defenders just to bring him down for a 6 yard gain.
#13 – Falling Forward Into Victory
Nothing special here, Calvin runs another 5 yard slant, gets away with a little push-off and falls forward for 3 yards. (Don’t get bored yet, we’re about to get to a Hannah Montana quote).
#14 – “Nobody’s Perfect” – Hannah Montana
I thought about being one of those propaganda channels that only showed the good things but I decided to show you guys Calvin’s worst reception of the day. Brandon Carr got bullied all day but was somehow able to make Calvin contribute to that -4 turnover differential by picking up Calvin’s fumble on what would have been a 26 yard gain. All heroes make mistakes and Calvin would go on to redeem himself for the rest of the game.
So there you have it. Here are some final stats:
Calvin Johnson – 14 receptions, 329 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 win
Dez Bryant – 3 receptions, 72 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 loss
Calvin was stopped three times by the goal line and could have easily had more than one touchdown. Now if you will excuse me, I’m going to play some Madden 13 just to know what it feels like to have Calvin Johnson in a Lions roster. Calvin if you’re reading this, prove to Dez you’re once again better than him and come out of retirement to lead the Lions to the playoffs.
Thank you so much for reading!
Personal Twitter: @Tejseth41
M-FANS Twitter: @mfbanalytics