Did Cooper Kupp break the WR receiving yards record in 2021?

    How close did Los Angeles Rams WR Cooper Kupp come to breaking former Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson's single-season receiving yards record?

    In 2021, Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp challenged the single-season receiving yards record. It was a historic campaign for the fifth-year receiver. Let’s go back and look at Kupp’s phenomenal season and how close he came to breaking the single-season receiving yards record.

    Cooper Kupp’s bid for the WR receiving yards record

    In 2021, Kupp became the 12th wide receiver to win the illustrious “triple crown.” For those unfamiliar, it entails leading the NFL in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Kupp caught 145 passes (on 191 targets) for 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns this year.

    Had Kupp broken the single-season receiving yards record, it certainly would have come with a little bit of controversy. After all, this was the first season in NFL history with 17 games. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), Kupp came up just a hair short. Kupp’s 1,947 receiving yards fell just 17 yards shy of Calvin Johnson’s 1,964 receiving yards in 2012.

    There were a lot of similarities between Kupp and Calvin Johnson’s historic seasons

    By no means am I comparing Kupp to Megatron as players. No slight to Kupp, but I consider Johnson the second-greatest wide receiver of all time. He doesn’t always appear in top five lists due to his early retirement and his team’s lack of success. I just don’t care.

    You’ve probably encountered one of those tweets where someone asks, “Create your ultimate player,” using attributes from all different players at that position. When it comes to wide receiver, the answer to the question is just Calvin Johnson.

    With that said, what Kupp did in 2021 undoubtedly parallel’s what Johnson accomplished in 2012. Both receivers had 11 100-yard games and led the NFL in targets.

    Of course, the most obvious parallel is the man throwing them the ball: Matthew Stafford. For a guy that has taken a lot of criticism, Stafford will always be the QB behind the two greatest wide receiver seasons in NFL history. No one can take that away from him.

    Could Kupp have broken the single-season WR receiving yards record?

    Kupp closed out the regular season with 7 receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown. The game ultimately went to overtime. After the 49ers kicked a go-ahead field goal, Stafford and the Rams offense got the ball back with a chance to answer.

    The drive ended with Stafford throwing a pick at his own 38-yard line. Had the drive continued, it’s very plausible, if not likely, that Kupp would’ve gotten the 17 yards he needed to break the record.

    For Kupp, it almost feels like he’s glad he didn’t get there. In an interview with ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry, Kupp said, “We’re in a new age of football here. We’re playing 17 games of football a year, and a lot of the stuff that happened before that, those records hold a different weight, being that they were played in those 16 games.

    “What those guys did in 16 games, it wouldn’t seem right to, I don’t know, for those to be broken in 17 games. It wouldn’t hold the same weight to me as it does for guys that have done that in a 16-game season and the accomplishments those guys had, and the seasons they put together. Those are incredible things, incredible accomplishments. You kind of have to separate the two.”

    What is next for Kupp and the Rams?

    Kupp is more interested in besting Megatron in a different area — the postseason. Despite his Hall of Fame status, Johnson never got the opportunity to really shine in the playoffs.

    He did put up 211 yards on 12 receptions in his first career playoff game in the 2011-2012 playoffs. Unfortunately, the Lions lost that game as well as Johnson’s second and final career playoff game in the 2014-2015 postseason. If Kupp and the Rams can win a Super Bowl, I’m sure he’ll forget all about how close he came to breaking Johnson’s record.

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