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Johnson breaks Rice's mark; Falcons secure No.1 seed in NFC
Detroit, MI (Sports Network) - Detroit wideout Calvin Johnson entered the record books on Saturday, breaking Jerry Rice's mark for most receiving yards in a season in NFL history.
But as has been the case for most of the season, his stellar performance came in yet another loss.
Matt Ryan threw four touchdown passes, and the Atlanta Falcons clinched the NFC's top seed with a 31-18 win over the Lions at Ford Field.
Ryan was 25-of-32 for 279 yards and tied Steve Bartkowski for the most passing touchdowns in a single season in franchise history with 31. Bartkowski set the record in 1980.
Roddy White caught two of the scores and finished with 153 yards on eight receptions for Atlanta (13-2), which produced 17 points off three Detroit turnovers.
Johnson made 11 grabs for 225 yards, upping his season total to 1,892. Rice had 1,848 yards in 1995 with San Francisco.
"It's an accomplishment that took a lot of work," Johnson said.
It wasn't the only NFL record the player known as "Megatron" broke as he became the first player to record at least 100 receiving yards in eight straight games.
Johnson surpassed a mark set by Charley Hennigan in 1961 and matched by Michael Irvin in 1995.
"I've coached for 19 years in the NFL. I've never seen a better player than Calvin Johnson," said Detroit coach Jim Schwartz.
Matthew Stafford completed 37-of-56 passes for 443 yards with one interception for the Lions (4-11), who have lost seven in a row.
Detroit was on the move at the end of the third quarter, but the drive stalled at the Atlanta 2-yard line. Much to the fans' displeasure, Jason Hanson kicked a 20-yard field goal to trim the Lions' deficit to 21-16 in the early moments of the fourth quarter.
Atlanta had registered only one first down on its two third-quarter possessions and faced a 3rd-and-4 from its 28-yard line. Ryan moved the chains by throwing off his back foot and finding White for 15 yards.
Ryan then completed passes of 12, 14, 9 and 14 before hooking up with Michael Palmer for a 1-yard touchdown.
On the brink of history, Stafford tried to hit Johnson on the first play of the ensuing drive. Asante Samuel picked off the pass, however, and Matt Bryant drilled a 20-yard field goal with 3:05 remaining.
Stafford and Johnson would try it again on first down. This time, the throw was on the mark. Johnson ran a crossing route and passed Rice on a 26-yard reception.
The Lions eventually turned the ball over on downs at the Atlanta 2. On the next play, Michael Turner was tackled in the end zone for a safety.
Needing a quick score, Stefan Logan inexplicably took a knee after receiving the free kick at his 4-yard line. And the blunder sealed the win for Atlanta.
On Detroit's second drive of the game, Johnson caught a short toss on 3rd- and-2 from the Lions' 18 and rumbled 49 yards down the right sideline.
Any momentum from the big gain was immediately wiped out when Mikel Leshoure lost a fumble on the next play.
Facing a 3rd-and-1 from the Detroit 44, the Falcons cashed in the turnover as Ryan went deep down the right sideline to White for a touchdown.
The Lions answered before the end of the first quarter with a 34-yard Hanson field goal, but Atlanta countered on its next drive.
Ryan directed a nine-play march that ended with tackle Sam Baker making a key block down the field to spring White for a 39-yard score on a screen pass.
The Falcons were opportunistic again, capitalizing on a Johnson fumble later in the second quarter. Ryan connected with Julio Jones, who did a tremendous job of dragging his right foot while making the grab in the back of the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown.
Hanson was good from 38 yards prior to halftime, and Leshoure capped Detroit's first second-half drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.
"Kind of started slow and didn't play the type of football that we'd like to in the third quarter," said Falcons coach Mike Smith.
Johnson tied Irvin's NFL record for 100-yard receiving games in a season with 11 ... White recorded his sixth straight season of 80-plus catches and at least 1,000 receiving yards. He became the sixth player at his position in NFL history to accomplish the feat ... Leshoure has eight rushing TDs in the past eight games.
12/23 01:19:32 ET