Just how sizzling is Julio Jones?

We had one of those classic TV moments Monday night in the fourth quarter of the Packers-Falcons game. Julio Jones was tearing up the Green Bay secondary, had just gone over 200 yards, and Jon Gruden said something like, “I don’t know what the record is for receiving yards in a game, but . . . .”

I’ll stop there so you can fully appreciate the willing ignorance of those words. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t expect football analysts to be walking encyclopedias, especially former coaches. Flipper Anderson cardCoaches live such a hermetic existence that I’d surprised if many of them know the price of milk. For a guy like Gruden, it’s his grasp of X’s and O’s that matters most.

Still, this isn’t exactly a $1,000 Jeopardy! question. You’d think Jon or his partner, Mike Tirico, would at least be aware that the record was somewhere in the 300s, and that Jones was well short of it. Typically, though, they had to wait for someone on their support staff to prompt them: Flipper Anderson holds the mark with 336 for the Rams against the Saints in 1989.

To me, it’s yet another example of how little respect is paid to pro football’s past. Here you have two well-known sportscasters, both earning millions a year, and they can’t even be bothered to familiarize themselves with a few numbers — I’m sure 336 isn’t the only one — that might come in handy during the course of the evening, that might help them provide some Instant Context.

I mean, you’re covering a game. Why wouldn’t you know, off the top of your head, what the record is for receiving yards in a game? Is it really too much to ask? (Or is such “minutiae” the province of unpaid interns?)

OK, I’ve had my say. Let’s get back to Jones and the real subject of this post: hot receivers. In back-to-back games, the Falcons’ go-to guy has had 189 receiving yards against the Cardinals and 259 against the Packers – 448 total. How many receivers in NFL history have had a better two-week stretch than that?

Well, it depends on how you define “better.” In terms of yards, I’ve found five, all in the 2000s:


Year Receiver, Team First Game Second Game Yards
2013 Josh Gordon, Browns 237 vs. Steelers 261 vs. Jaguars 498
2013 Calvin Johnson, Lions 155 vs. Bengals 329 vs. Cowboys 484
2012 Andre Johnson, Texans 273 vs. Jaguars 188 vs. Lions 461
2011 Calvin Johnson, Lions 244 vs. Packers 211 vs. Saints* 455
2006 Chad Johnson, Bengals 260 vs. Chargers 190 vs. Saints 450
1989 John Taylor, 49ers 162 vs. Falcons 286 vs. Rams 448
2014 Julio Jones, Falcons 189 vs. Cardinals 259 vs. Packers 448
1995 Jerry Rice, 49ers 289 vs. Vikings 153 vs. Falcons 442
1945 Jim Benton, Rams 128 vs. Cardinals 303 vs. Lions 431
1950 Cloyce Box, Lions 123 vs. Yanks 302 vs. Colts 425


I turned it into a Top 10 so I could include the two golden oldies, Benton and Box. Can you imagine having consecutive games like that in the ’40s and ’50s? Good lord.

Benton is a borderline Hall of Famer in my book. When he retired after the 1947 season, his 288 catches for 4,801 yards and 45 touchdowns were second only to Packers great Don Hutson.

Box football cardAs for Box, he played just six seasons of pro ball because of two stints in the military — the first during World War II, the second in Korea — but he did some serious damage in those six seasons. He had two hot streaks, in particular, that were extraordinary.

Hot streak No. 1: In the two games listed in the chart, Box had seven touchdown catches (3 vs. the New York Yanks and 4 vs. the Baltimore Colts). No other NFL receiver, not even Jerry Rice, has had more than six in two games.

Hot streak No. 2: In 1952 Box had three straight three-TD games (vs. the PackersBears and Dallas Texans). Nobody else has ever done that, either. In fact, the only other receiver to catch nine scoring passes in a three-game span, near as I can tell, is Art Powell of the AFL’s Raiders in 1963.

So if you’re talking “hot,” who has ever been hotter over a two-game stretch than Box, who caught 16 passes for 425 yards and 7 touchdowns (lengths: 17, 65, 21, 82, 67, 32 and 22 yards).

For that matter, who has ever been hotter over a three-game stretch than Box? His totals for his ’52 streak were 21 receptions, 490 yards and 9 TDs — giving him an average game of 7-163-3. Amazing.

Why don’t we rework the chart to account for touchdowns? After all, the scoreboard keeps track of points, not yards. Here’s how it would look:


Year Receiver, Team Yards TD
2013 Josh Gordon, Browns 498 3
2013 Calvin Johnson, Lions 484 3
2012 Andre Johnson, Texans 461 1
2011 Calvin Johnson, Lions* 455 3
2006 Chad Johnson, Bengals 450 5
1989 John Taylor, 49ers 448 3
2014 Julio Jones, Falcons 448 2
1995 Jerry Rice, 49ers 442 3
1945 Jim Benton, Rams 431 3
1950 Cloyce Box, Lions 425 7

*includes playoff game

How do you like Box now? His seven touchdowns are more than double the total of every other receiver except Chad Johnson, who scored five.

Not that Gruden and Tirico should know any of this. They’re busy men with a lot on their plates. But it would be nice if they had a rough idea of what the record was for receiving yards in a game.

Source: pro-football-reference.com

From the Lions' 1953 media guide.

From the Lions’ 1953 media guide.