NFL Total Access, a news and analysis show on the NFL Network, recently held a poll for a segment about the top QB/WR combo in the league. There were a few quality duos listed that included Tony Romo/Dez Bryant, Jay Cutler/Brandon Marshall, and Drew Brees/Jimmy Graham. The passing combo ranked first was Matthew Stafford/Calvin Johnson.
Jaimie Dukes, one of the analysts for the segment, had a small (and fair) amount of criticism for the placement of Mega-arm/Megatron on this list. The argument against is that the stats were hollow and none of it was accomplished playing meaningful football. The Lions have only one playoff berth in the last 20 years, the 2011 season. In the NFL, ultimately, winning matters and stats only count if they help you win.
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The Stafford/Johnson combo is coming out for another season though, and any year can be ‘the year.’ The 2014 season could be a breakout year for Detroit, and this passing combo will be a big part if that is to happen. To get an idea of what to expect, let us analyze a breakdown of the last three seasons.
Calvin caught 96 of Stafford’s passes for a total of 1,681 yards, sixteen of which went for a touchdown. The Lions finished 10-6 to go to the playoffs, and Stafford joined a select group of QBs that have thrown for over 5,000 yards (5,038) and over 40 TDs (41). This is the season that cemented Calvin Johnson as the best current receiver in the league, and the season that showed Stafford could be a top-level NFL QB.
Calvin caught 122 of Stafford’s passes for a total of 1,964 yards, setting an NFL record for most receiving yards in a single season, and becoming the only player to record back-to-back 1,600 yard seasons. Only five of those catches went for a score, and Johnson did fumble the ball three times. Stafford nearly hit 5,000 yards again (4,967), but only threw 20 TD passes and one more INT than the previous year. Detroit only went 4-12 that season, drawing much of the ‘hollow stat’ criticisms.
Calvin caught 84 of Stafford’s passes for a total of 1,492 yards and twelve touchdowns. The Lions started 6-3 with a sweep of the Bears, finishing 4-2 in the division by season’s end. a 1-6 late season collapse had Detroit finishing 7-9, drawing even more criticism. Johnson started in only 14 games, and Stafford threw for only 4,650 yards with 29 TDs. The coaching staff was gutted and almost entirely replaced.
What can be expected from 2014? Both Megatron and Stafford are healthy and ready to go. As an offense, there are more weapons that must draw attention away from the big threat that is Stafford to Johnson. The run game has come to be strong, making Detroit far less pass-happy. This team has shown it can compete in the division.