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Is Calvin Johnson's record season not even Lion's best?

  • By Kevin Patra NFL.com
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After Calvin Johnson broke Jerry Rice's NFL single-season receiving yards record last Saturday against the Atlanta Falcons, the line of debate now is if Megatron's empty yards devalue the record.

Rice carried his 1995 San Francisco 49ers team to an 11-5 record, while Johnson has been the sole bright spot on a disappointing 4-11 Detroit Lions squad.

Lions coach Jim Schwartz disagreed that Megatron's record is hollow, regardless of the team's record.

"I think if it's late in the game and you're down multiple scores and you're doing it against prevent defense (it might be more hollow)," Schwartz said, via DetroitLions.com. "We've had very few of those where they were just willing to give up yards."

Vince Verhei of Football Outsiders, using advanced statistics (cue Detroit fans rolling their eyes after all the Miguel Cabrera-Mike Trout WAR discussions in baseball) compared Megatron's record season with the best performances of the past 21 years.

Using Defense-Adjusted Yards Above Replacement (DYAR) -- a metric that measures a play's value in terms of producing yards, first downs, turnovers and touchdowns, then adjusts for factors such as down, distance, field position, score and opponent -- Verhei concluded that Johnson's 2011 season actually was better than his 2012 record-breaking year. Megatron scored a 570 DYAR (second overall) in 2011, compared to a projected 533 this season (5th overall; Michael Irvin had the top DYAR of 599 during Rice's record-setting 1995 season).

Verhei points to Megatron's lack of touchdowns and yards per pass both being significantly down from last season. Johnson has scored just five touchdowns this year, compared to 16 last season -- he has been tackled inside the 2-yard line six times. Verhei does project Johnson to break the 2,000 yard barrier in Sunday's finale against the Chicago Bears.

Another interesting note from Verhei's statistical data: He has Rice's 1,848-yard, 15-touchdown season ranked eighth overall in the last 21 years (512 DYAR).

Statistics giveth and they taketh away.

Follow Kevin Patra on Twitter @kpatra.

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