For all the divas among NFL receivers, and there are plenty of them, there are just as many difference makers.
They showed themselves in impressive and, in Calvin Johnson's case, incredible form on Sunday. Megatron's meganumbers were so astounding that several Dallas defensive backs could do little more than shrug at how he dominated them in a scintillating 31-30 Lions victory.
Brandon Carr, a good cornerback who was left in single coverage on Johnson far too often in Dallas’ game plan, admitted he was “licking my wounds” after being torched all day.
“He had his way,” Carr said after Megatron mauled the Cowboys for 14 catches for 329 yards, the second most in an NFL game. “He is an incredible player with all the ability in the world. He had the hot hand and his quarterback kept feeding him. And, we couldn't find a way to keep him from rolling.”
Receivers were rolling throughout the league with some of the most impressive performances in memory. Even on the other side at Ford Field was a dynamic (and definitely a diva, unlike Johnson) wideout in Dez Bryant, who had only three catches, but for 72 yards, with two TDs. His 24-yard average was higher than Johnson's 23.5.
Bryant scored twice, including a 50-yard TD on a short pass when he broke through two attempted tackles.
Unlike Johnson, whose videos from Sunday display him leaving defenders in the dust or making spectacular grabs, Bryant's highlights centered on his angry gesticulations on the sideline when the Cowboys were in the process of blowing a late lead.
“I'm passionate about this game, and I'm passionate about winning. My passion is always positive,” Bryant said. “People who have a problem with me are the people that don't understand what is going on. The media and people who think I'm a problem — they don't know what they are seeing.”
What everyone was seeing around the league, aside from Bryant racing to the end zone — and his subsequent rants — were breakouts by Pro Bowl receivers and newcomers. They deserve some attention in an era when quarterbacks hog the spotlight.
—Green Bay's Jordy Nelson, the lone accomplished wideout still healthy for the Packers, had seven catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns in a 44-31 win over Minnesota. He played in the slot, rare for him, as well as outside.
“It worked out well,” Nelson said. “Got some good looks and open plays.”
—Cincinnati's Marvin Jones, a second-year wideout from California who previously had 16 catches this year and all of 18 in 2012, and Bengals star A.J. Green. Jones made eight catches for 122 yards and scored four touchdowns in a 49-9 rout of the Jets. The four TD catches are the most in a single game in Bengals history and the most in an NFL game since Nov. 18, 2007, when Randy Moss and Terrell Owens each had four.
Green grabbed only three throws from Andy Dalton, but gained 115 yards on them.
The Bengals have been searching for a dual-threat passing game for years, since Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh were in their primes. They've built their big AFC North lead on a brute-force defense and balanced offense. A big-time passing game could lift them to an elite level they haven't reached since the days of Ken Anderson and Boomer Esiason.
“I think people will see that now we have the players that can do it and help a superstar like A.J.,” Jones said.
What they saw from Jones: TD receptions of 9, 6, 14 and 6 yards.
What Jets coach Rex Ryan saw might have nauseated him.
“We got beat in every coverage known to man,” he said. “Five touchdown passes? I don't know how many times that's happened in my lifetime. Not very often.”
—Atlanta's Harry Douglas, who has stepped up in the absence of standouts Julio Jones and Roddy White, added 12 catches for 121 yards in a loss at Arizona to his seven catches for a career-best 149 yards the previous week in a win over Tampa Bay. Douglas is a perfect example of a third receiver flourishing when made the top target. In today's NFL, that happens more often than you might think, whether it's for wideouts or tight ends.
—Kenny Stills, a New Orleans rookie who has come on in recent weeks and had three catches for 129 yards, including touchdowns of 69 and 42 yards, in a 35-17 win over Buffalo. Stills, a fifth-round pick from Oklahoma, is just what Drew Brees and the Saints need: another game-breaker on offense.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org