Honor the Heroes of the Game, Preserve Its History, Promote its Values & Celebrate Excellence Everywhere
Jon Kendle is Director of Archives and Football Information at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His biweekly columns tell unique and interesting stories starting from the league’s founding in downtown Canton in 1920 to the present day.
Calvin Johnson recently was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021. He became only the seventh first-ballot Hall of Fame wide receiver.
While his nine-year, 135 regular-season game career wasn’t as long as some of the other great NFL receivers, his impact on the game is undeniable. His massive size (6-5, 237 pounds), blazing speed and remarkable body control made him almost unguardable and earned him the nickname “Megatron.”
Johnson is one of only six players in NFL history who amassed 300 or more receiving yards in a game. The record-holder, Willie “Flipper” Anderson, had the help of an overtime period to reach his 336-yard total in leading the Los Angeles Rams to a victory over the New Orleans Saints in 1989.
The first player to eclipse the 300-yard mark was Jim Benton of the Cleveland Rams, who accomplished the feat on Thanksgiving Day in 1945. Benton teamed with Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Waterfield to haul in 10 passes for 303 yards, a yardage total that remains fourth in the NFL’s record book.
Benton’s performance shattered the mark set by Green Bay Packers legend Don Hutson (237 yards) two years earlier in a game against the Brooklyn Dodgers. It stood for 40 years, until the Kansas City Chiefs’ Stephone Paige broke it with 309 yards against the San Diego Chargers in the 1985 season finale.
Johnson’s mega-day propelled the Detroit Lions to an incredible comeback against the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 27, 2013. Quarterback Matthew Stafford faked a spike and hopped over the offensive line for the game-winning touchdown with 12 seconds remaining. The last-second effort was assisted by Johnson, who had two catches for 39 yards on that final drive, which included a 22-yard grab that placed the ball near the goal line to set up Stafford's winning score.
He finished the day with 14 catches for a staggering 329 yards, a total that ranks second in an NFL game and the most in regulation. The historic performance also proved to be his fifth career game with 200 yards or better, tying him with first-ballot Hall of Fame wide receiver Lance Alworth for most in the NFL all time.
Johnson’s impact on the game will forever be preserved in Canton, Ohio, at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His legacy will be honored and showcased for future generations to admire and aspire to emulate.
303 – Jim Benton, Cleveland Rams vs. Detroit Lions, Nov. 22, 1945
The first player to eclipse the 300-yard mark, Jim Benton caught 10 passes from Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Waterfield, including a 70-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter to put the Rams up for good. The Rams went on to win the game 28-21.
302 – Cloyce Box, Detroit Lions vs. Baltimore Colts, Dec. 3, 1950
Detroit Lions second-year end Cloyce Box began the scoring in style with an 82-yard touchdown reception from Hall of Fame quarterback Bobby Layne. Box then broke a 14-14 tie with a 67-yard touchdown catch from Layne and added two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter to seal the 45-21 victory. In all, Box recorded 12 receptions and four scores, barely missing the yardage record.
309 – Stephone Paige, Kansas City Chiefs vs. San Diego Chargers, Dec. 22, 1985
Four decades after Benton set the NFL record for most receiving yards in a game, Paige finally eclipsed the mark with eight catches in the 38-34 win over a division rival, with two long touchdown receptions of 56 and 84 yards. Perhaps even more impressive about Paige’s day: Kansas City produced a combined 34 receiving yards by the rest of the team.
336 – Willie “Flipper” Anderson, Los Angeles Rams vs. New Orleans Saints, Nov. 26, 1989 (OT)
Second-year wide receiver Willie “Flipper” Anderson recorded one of the greatest offensive displays in NFL history during the Rams' 20-17 overtime win. During the afternoon, Anderson caught 15 passes with a 15-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that forced overtime. Not surprisingly, it was Anderson who put the exclamation point on his amazing day when he hauled in a Jim Everett pass for a 26-yard gain that set up the game-winning field goal by kicker Mike Lansford at 6:38 of overtime.
329 – Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions vs. Dallas Cowboys, Oct. 27, 2013
Hall of Fame receiver Calvin Johnson totaled 14 catches with a short touchdown in the Lions’ 31-30 win. He recorded 87- and 54-yard receptions during the game, but his final catch, covering 22 yards with 33 seconds remaining that set up the game-winning touchdown, was the most memorable.
300 – Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons vs. Carolina Panthers, Oct. 2, 2016
Julio Jones overwhelmed a rookie cornerback from the opening minutes of the game. Matt Ryan completed passes to Jones on Atlanta's first three plays for 22, 14 and 15 yards. He finished with 12 catches and a touchdown. Ryan and Jones became the first teammates to reach 500 yards passing and 300 yards receiving in the same game.