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Lions WR Johnson living up to $132 million deal

Lions WR Johnson living up to $132 million deal

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) The Detroit Lions have gotten quite a return on the $132 million, eight-year investment they made in Calvin Johnson nine months ago.

``He's not trying to live up to a contract,'' Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said Sunday. ``Personal records are great, and we certainly celebrate the season Calvin that has had, but it hasn't translated to enough wins.

``We need more help around him.''

That's a fact.

The Lions (4-11) have lost seven straight, the league's longest active skid, after reaching .500 at the midway mark of a disappointing season.

During the losing streak, Johnson has been perhaps Detroit's only bright spot.

He broke Jerry Rice's single-season yards receiving record of 1,848 in Saturday night's 31-18 loss to Atlanta.

``It's an accomplishment that took a lot of work,'' Johnson said. ``You can't take that thing away.''

Schwartz said Johnson hasn't racked up yards in blowouts because Detroit hasn't had many of them in a season filled with closely contested losses. He does acknowledge that the team's record doesn't let Johnson's accomplishment ring as true as anyone would like.

``It's hollow in the fact that we only have four wins,'' he said. ``You'd like for that production to translate to wins and you'd like to be able to celebrate that production with wins.''

In the win, the Falcons tried to take Johnson away as an option for Matthew Stafford in the passing game and couldn't do it.

With 11 receptions for 225 yards against Atlanta, he also became the only player in NFL history with 100 yards receiving in eight straight games and with 10-plus receptions in four games in a row. He had seven receptions of 20-plus yards for the second time in his career, a feat no other player in the league has done since at least 1991, according to STATS LLC.

Johnson, who has tied another league single-season mark with 100 yards receiving in 11 games, can add to his record total of 1,892 yards receiving in Detroit's finale Dec. 30 at home against Chicago and could reach the 2,000-yard mark.

Johnson's 10th catch Sunday night was for a 26-yard gain with 2:57 left in the game. After breaking the record with that catch, he jogged over to the sideline to give the football to his father, Calvin Johnson Sr., and told him not to let it go.

Not even if someone from the Pro Football Hall of Fame wants it?

``Oh no,'' he said. ``That's my ball.''

Stafford has done a good job of getting the ball to Johnson despite every team trying to stunt their connections and not having to worry about other playmakers because of Detroit's injury-depleted receiving corps.

Stafford threw for 443 yards against the Falcons, setting an NFL record for the most yards passing in a game without a touchdown. With 4,695 yards passing and a game to go against the Bears, he and New Orleans' Drew Brees could become the first two NFL players to throw for 5,000-plus yards in consecutive seasons.

``I'd love to be able to be able to do it again,'' Stafford said. ``But I'd love for it to come with a win.''

Stafford, who thrown the ball 685 times this season, is seven attempts away from breaking the NFL single-season record for attempts set by Drew Bledsoe with New England in 1994.

Johnson and Stafford have not been able to overcome the team's minus-12 turnover ratio this season that ranks among the NFL's worst in perhaps the statistical category that is tied most to winning and losing.

Against Atlanta, the Lions turned the ball over three times and their defense didn't recover a fumble or make an interception.

``We lose by 13 and 17 points come off turnovers,'' Schwartz said. ``We need to do a better job of taking care of the football. And also on defense, we need to come up with some.''

Detroit's comeback hopes were definitely dashed after getting a safety with 1:21 left to pull within 13 points only to have Stefan Logan take a knee at his 4 on a free kick.

``That's probably the first time I've seen somebody concede a punt in the field of play,'' Schwartz said. ``It was a poor decision. Part of a returner's job is to know where he is on the field. Saying, `I didn't know where I was. I thought I was in the end zone,' is not a valid excuse.

``When that error was made,'' Schwartz added, ``it made it very, very difficult for the team to come back.''

NOTES: The Lions are hopeful TE Brandon Pettigrew will play against Chicago after missing the last previous two games with a sprained left ankle. ... Lions DT Sammie Hill was scheduled to have a foot injury examined, Schwartz said.

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

You may think this was an ugly four-game road trip for the Caps, but with a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday, Washington managed to earn five out of a possible eight points.

Here is why the Caps beat the Sabres and managed to save the road swing.

A missed high-stick (maybe) from Ovechkin

Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game in the second period as he deflected a high-shot from Christian Djoos down past goalie Chad Johnson. But did the deflection come on a high stick? The play was reviewed and the goal was ultimately upheld. According to the NHL, it was determined that "video review supported the Referee's call on the ice that Alex Ovechkin's stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he tipped the puck into the Buffalo net."

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-SABRES

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May broke the play down during the second intermission and made his case for why the NHL actually got the call wrong.

Was that a high stick? I don't know. As compelling an argument as May made, it still looks inconclusive which means the review made the right call. What surprises me is that the referee did not disallow the goal on the initial call.

Whether the review is truly inconclusive or flat out wrong, Washington was fortunate to walk away from this sequence with the goal.

MORE CAPITALS: BIZARRE SEQUENCE LEADS TO CAPS SCORING AND GETTING PENALIZED AT THE SAME TIME

A centimeter of ice

Hockey is a game of inches and it took less than an inch to put Washington up 2-0. When an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot hit off the boards and bounced back to the front of the net, it sparked a scrum next to goalie Chad Johnson. Eventually, John Carlson was able to get a swipe on the puck sending it trickling to the goal line, but Kyle Okposo was there waiting and appeared to kick it out just before it crossed. A review triggered by the Situation Room, however, revealed that the puck had just barely managed to cross the goal line before Okposo got to it.

Here's the view the NHL released after the review:

Philipp Grubauer's third period

After dominating the first 40 minutes of the game and taking a 2-0 lead, Buffalo predictably made a late push in the third period with two goals to pull within one. Washington outshot the Sabres in the first and second periods, but Buffalo reversed that trend in a big way in the third as they outshot the Caps 17-6. Grubauer turned aside 15 of those shots and was impressive after barely being tested in the first two periods.

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3 stars of the game: Caps knockout the punchless Sabres

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3 stars of the game: Caps knockout the punchless Sabres

Coming off an ugly 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a Buffalo Sabres team missing star Jack Eichel was just what the doctor ordered for the Caps to get back on track. Washington dominated the first two periods and then survived a late surge from Buffalo for the 3-2 win.

After battling to a scoreless first, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson spotted Washington a 2-0 lead in the second. They then held on in the third period as Buffalo began to tilt the ice in their favor, with Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring the empty-netter to put this game out of reach. Evander Kane would pull Buffalo within one, but with only three seconds left it was too little, too late.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin opened up the scoring in the second period as he deflected down an innocent shot from Christian Djoos past Chad Johnson. Ovechkin also set a physical tone as he battled with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen all game long. After taking a high elbow from Ristolainen early in the game Ovechkin skated up to Ristolainen prior to the faceoff on his next shift and let him know that it was on. 

2. John Carlson: Carlson had a hand in both of Washington's goals on Monday. He recorded a secondary assist on Ovechkin's goal as he made a blue line pass to Djoos which Djoos fired on net and Ovechkin deflected. Carlson then managed to hit the puck past the goal line in a scrum next to Johnson. It looked initially like Kyle Okposo had managed to kick out the puck just before it crossed, but Carlson was awarded the goal as a review showed the puck had completely crossed the line.

3. Philipp Grubauer: A Sabres team that ranks last in the NHL in scoring and that was also without its leading scorer did not test Grubauer much in the first two periods. Facing a 2-0 deficit, however, Buffalo made a third period push to try to tie the game, but Grubauer was up to the task as he turned aside 15 of the 17 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 32 total saves on the night.