Calvin Johnson dazzled the NFL for nine seasons, turning the spectacular into the routine. He was a matchup nightmare for opponents, a 6-foot-5 security blanket for Detroit Lions quarterbacks and a consummate professional on and off the field.
Johnson retires with a ton of individual accolades and very little team success. The individual moments, though, stand out. Here are five that are of particular note:
1. Johnson sets the record: Johnson broke Jerry Rice’s single-season receiving record with a torrid second half in 2012. Although the Lions finished 4-12, Johnson had eight straight 100-yard games over the last nine, including two games over 200 yards. He set the record in Week 16 as part of a 225-yard performance in a 31-18 loss to Atlanta. Johnson finished the season with 1,964 yards -- still the NFL record for most receiving yards in a single season.
2. A magical day against Dallas: Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant set the stage during Week 8 of 2013 when he said he could do whatever Johnson did. Whether he considered it a challenge or not, Johnson finished with 14 catches for 329 yards -- an average of 23.5 yards per catch -- and a touchdown in a 31-30 win against Dallas. It is the second-most receiving yards in a single game in league history and one of five 300-yard receiving performances in NFL history.
3. A rule in his name: Before the questioning of what is a catch became a national debate that is still raging, Johnson had a rule named after him. The process rule became forever known as "The Calvin Johnson Rule" after Johnson had a game-winning touchdown taken away during the opening week of the 2010 season against Chicago. Officials ruled Johnson did not complete the process of the catch in the end zone. The Lions ended up losing to the Bears 19-14, but the catch rule -- and Johnson’s name being attached to it -- lived on. Johnson was the victim of the process rule more than once in the last five years of his career and openly wondered last season what a catch is in the NFL.
4. Triple coverage doesn’t matter, Part I: Dallas led 30-17 early in the fourth quarter in 2011 when Matthew Stafford dropped back to pass. He saw Johnson in the end zone and cared little that three Cowboys surrounded him. Stafford let the ball fly and Johnson leapt between the defenders and snatched the ball amid Mike Jenkins, Sean Lee and Barry Church for a touchdown. Johnson then unleashed a vicious spike and the Lions came from behind to beat the Cowboys 34-30. Johnson had eight catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns.
5. Triple coverage doesn’t matter, Part II: The week before he went off for more than 300 receiving yards, Johnson replicated his triple-coverage catch against Cincinnati. Johnson had run down the field and moved inside toward the post. He jumped between safeties George Iloka and Reggie Nelson along with linebacker Vontaze Burfict to grab the ball. He appeared to reach over Nelson in mid-air to do it. It was part of a nine-catch, 155-yard day with two touchdowns. But like so many other times in Johnson’s career, he lost as Cincinnati beat Detroit 27-24.