ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Detroits pro sports teams have a history of player combinations who rank with some of the greats in their sports, and the Lions could be adding to it.
Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson are building a resume as a quarterback-receiver pair that one day might have a place with Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars of the Pistons, Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell of the Tigers, and Gordie Howe and anyone who skated on his line with the Red Wings.
It is wild speculation to question whether Stafford of Johnson eventually will have Hall of Fame careers, although Johnson is on that track with recognition from his peers as the NFLs best and most dangerous wide receiver.
The man called Megatron is as versatile as any player at any position. On the final play of last weeks victory at Oakland, Johnson was on the field-goal block team to defend against Sebastian Janikowskis 65-yard attempt at a game-winning field goal. Ndamukong Suh got through to block the kick, but Johnsons feet were belt-high on his leap.
Johnson has caught passes this season, run the ball on a reverse, played deep safety late in games.
Calvin could do everything, said linebacker Stephen Tulloch, in his sixth pro season and first as a Lion. If he wanted to punt, he could punt.
Hes a talent that you dont see often. I havent seen anything like it.
Projections and individual records are far down the list of things the Lions are focusing on with two games left in the season. They can clinch a playoff berth with a victory over the Chargers at Ford Field on Saturday.
We know where they (Johnson and Stafford) are, Schwartz said. As far ahead as well look will be Saturday. You cant do anything else.
Obviously, they have a good rapport. Theyve been very productive together. You look back and chuckle, a couple years ago hearing, They have no connection, they wont talk to each other, they dont have a rapport, its a disaster.
Obviously, its not. Thats something that develops between the two of them. We look forward to a lot of future games between the two of them.
Their production this season has been undeniable, and the fact that they are so young makes it realistic to project that they will be franchise leaders at the very least if they have a long career.
Johnson, 26 and already in his fifth season, has 81 catches for 1,335 yards and 14 touchdowns. The touchdown receptions tie Herman Moore for second place for TD catches in a season by a Lions receiver. Moore had 14 in 1995. Cloyce Box set the record with 15 in 1952.
Johnsons 47 career touchdown catches rank second in franchise history behind Moores total of 62, set from 1991-2001.
Stafford, 23 and in his third season, already has set the franchise record for touchdown passes in a season with 33, one more than Scott Mitchell threw in 1995. Mitchell holds the record for yards in a season with 4,338, also in 1995.
Stafford has 4,145 yards and should surpass Mitchell sometime in Saturdays game.
But records aside, the Lions playoff drive has gotten big contributions from a core of young players who, if they remain together, should form the nucleus of a team that can be a playoff contender for an extended period.
Stafford and Johnson are arguably the most important part of the group.
The only thing right now is, they just havent played together long enough to make any predictions, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. But what Ive seen in the early level of their combo, theyre pretty special.
They came through in the clutch in last weeks 28-27 victory at Oakland. Stafford threw for 391 yards and four touchdowns. Johnson had nine catches for 214 yards and two TDs.
Stafford hit Johnson with a 6-yard pass for the game-winner with 39 seconds left.
The winning play was an example of players using their extraordinary skill at a key moment. Stafford threw the pass off his back foot as he backpedaled. He never had to set his feet. Johnson got open in the middle of the end zone to make a chin-high catch, then got both feet down in bounds to complete the play.
Earlier in the game, Stafford dropped down almost to a sidearm motion to throw through lane on a completion to Johnson.
FOX network commentator Brian Billick, the former head coach of the Ravens, complimented Stafford on his ability to adjust his motion.
I love what Im seeing, Billick said after the throw. He can throw it any way he has to.
And Johnson will likely be there to catch it.