Kerryon Johnson becomes Lions' first 100-yard rusher since 2013

DETROIT -- From almost the moment Kerryon Johnson was drafted this spring, he heard about the streak, how long it had been since the Detroit Lions had a 100-yard rusher in a game. Everyone in Detroit knew about the drought.

And now, they know who broke it.

Johnson rushed for 101 yards on Sunday night, snapping a 70-game drought without a 100-yard rusher dating to Thanksgiving 2013, when Reggie Bush gained 117 yards. Johnson downplayed it when he arrived in Detroit, saying he wanted to win.

It was the fourth-longest 100-yard rusher drought in NFL history, and Johnson snapped it for the Lions in his third pro game.

"I think it was probably the moment I was drafted [I heard it], I can't remember for sure," Johnson said. "I think it was probably around that time. That was the first time I heard it. Obviously it wasn't the last.

"But it was the last time I really cared about it. Like I said, I came in ready to work, ready to run. We came in ready to work. We came in ready to run. And that's how we went through the offseason, that's how we went through fall camp, and that's how we went through the regular season."

It snapped a streak that started when the Lions had Jim Schwartz as their head coach, Calvin Johnson as their top receiver and Reggie Bush as their star running back. Johnson was a junior at Madison (Ala.) Academy -- running through the Alabama state football playoffs.

After it was announced on the Ford Field scoreboard -- following a 10-yard draw on a third down late in the fourth quarter -- Johnson's fellow running backs mobbed him, and the Ford Field crowd gave one of its loudest cheers of the night.

They understood the moment. So did Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders, who tweeted his congratulations.

It took almost five full seasons, a streak sitting at 70 games entering Sunday. It lasted the full coaching tenure of Jim Caldwell and three offensive coordinators: Scott Linehan, Joe Lombardi and Jim Bob Cooter.

Seven Lions running backs had been Detroit's leading rusher in the time since the last 100-yard game, a 117-yard effort on Thanksgiving 2013: Bush, Joique Bell, Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah, Zach Zenner, Dwayne Washington and Johnson. Only Riddick -- a pass-catching specialist -- was on the team as a running back for all 70 games.

"We could tell it during the game. We were getting three-and-outs during the first half, and we were sitting down for five, six minutes," safety Glover Quin said. "You know, the offense was running the ball, moving the ball, getting first downs, going down the field.

"He was breaking big runs tonight. We was sitting on the sidelines being like, 'Man, Kerryon got to be getting close to a 100.' Then he was at 90, and it was like, 'All right, let's go get this 100.'"

It's a question the Lions won't have to answer much anymore, thanks to Johnson's effort on national television.

Detroit had come close before, with Bush rushing for 86 yards on Dec. 16, 2013, against Baltimore and Bell twice gaining 91 yards, on Dec. 22, 2013, against the Giants and on Nov. 27, 2014, against Chicago.

The most recent threat to the 100-yard barrier was Abdullah, who had 94 yards against Minnesota last season and looked primed to reach the mark until he was injured in the fourth quarter.

The Lions said they didn't think much about the streak, but it was something that was brought up every season in almost every broadcast. It was tough to avoid.

"We've heard about it plenty. I've heard about it plenty since I've been here," offensive tackle Taylor Decker said. "And that was huge. We knew we have talented guys that can make plays if we do our jobs and block the guys first-level, get the linebackers, and they can get out there and make the guys miss.

"So that's huge, and more than anything, I hope it's something we can build on. If you can establish a good run game, you know, we're going to be a hard offensive team to stop."

The Lions won plenty of games -- three winning seasons out of the four full ones without a 100-yard rusher -- but a combination of game plan, scheme, bad luck and questionable running back decisions led them to the streak, which was the longest since Washington went 72 games from 1962 to 1967 without a 100-yard back. Bobby Mitchell ended that streak with a 110-yard game on Oct. 1, 1967, against the Giants.

Detroit snapped its own streak nine games from the all-time mark in NFL history, which is still 79 games by the Chicago Cardinals from 1937 to 1945.