Greatness On The Road  

Marriott  

Calvin Johnson's heroics vault Detroit Lions into first place

  • By Jim Reineking NFL.com
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It's tough to win on the road. It's even more difficult to do so with sole possession of first place in the division on the line. But it certainly helps when you have this guy on your side ...

Greatest on the road ...

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions

Johnson had two touchdown catches, including the game-winner with a little more than two minutes remaining in the game, to give the Lions a vital 21-19 win over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. With those two touchdowns, the player with arguably the best nickname in the NFL set a new Lions franchise record for touchdown receptions.

The victory gave the Lions sole possession of first place in the NFC North. The last time the Lions were in sole possession of first in the division in Week 10 or later was Week 10 of the 1999 season. Back then, the Lions' division was the NFC Central (in case you don't remember, it was the current inhabitants of the NFC North plus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and they made the playoffs as an 8-8 team. That had been the team's last previous playoff appearance before finally making the postseason in 2011.

Johnson, meanwhile, now has 63 career touchdown receptions, which surpasses the total posted by Herman Moore (62) from 1991-2001. Next up is Moore's franchise record of 9,174 yards receiving, which Johnson -- who needs 434 yards to match that total -- should break before you complete your holiday shopping.

A city starved for a football champion might have the pieces in place for a January run. Featuring a talented young quarterback (Matthew Stafford), dynamic running back Reggie Bush and a heaping helping of awesome from Megatron, the Lions are a threat to make a deep playoff run. That's something even more rare in Detroit.

Also considered:

Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams

Football fans in general and Rams fans in particular had been waiting for Austin -- the No. 8 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft -- to finally produce a breakthrough performance. Austin's day wasn't just breakthrough, it was legendary.

Austin's two receptions went for 138 yards and two touchdowns. He added a 98-yard punt return for a touchdown -- the second-longest in Rams history (behind Robert Bailey's 103-yarder in Week 8 of the 1994 season). Not surprisingly, the Rams went on to boatrace the Indianapolis Colts, 38-8, behind Austin's epic effort.

Austin's day at Lucas Oil Stadium puts him in some elite company. He joined Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers and Randy Moss as the only players age 22 or younger with three 50-plus-yard touchdowns in the same game. That's big-time stuff. In addition, Austin is the first player in NFL history with a 95-plus-yard punt return touchdown and two 55-plus-yard receiving touchdowns in the same game. But wait, there's more! Austin is just the seventh player since 1940 with a punt return touchdown and two receiving touchdowns in the same game (here's the list: Tommy McDonald, Eagles vs. Giants, 1959; Bob Hayes, Cowboys vs. Cardinals, 1967; Walter Stanley, Packers vs. Lions, 1986; Az-Zahir Hakim, Rams vs. Bengals, 1999; Tim Dwight, Falcons vs. 49ers, 1999; and Dez Bryant, Cowboys vs. Giants, 2010).

Austin's 314 all-purpose yards are the second most by a Rams player in a single game, behind Flipper Anderson's 336 from his single-game receiving record against the New Orleans Saints in 1989.

Riley Cooper, Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles are in the thick of the NFC East division-title race due to their penchant for winning games on the road. The Eagles are 0-4 in home games, but 5-1 on the road following a 27-13 win over the Green Bay Packers at legendary Lambeau Field.

Cooper caught two of quarterback Nick Foles' three long touchdown passes to aid the Eagles' cause and finished the game with 102 yards receiving. Cooper already has seven touchdown receptions this season (and is tied with DeSean Jackson for the team lead) after entering the season with just five career touchdown catches.

The Eagles, meanwhile, are the only NFL team since the AFL merger in 1970 to be at or above .500 through Week 10 without a win at home.

Previous Greatness on the Road winners:

» Week 1: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
» Week 2: Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
» Week 3: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
» Week 4: Tom Brady, New England Patriots
» Week 5: Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
» Week 6: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
» Week 7: A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
» Week 8: Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
» Week 9: Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles

Follow Jim Reineking on Twitter @jimreineking.

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