It was somewhat ironic Sunday that Stevie Johnson's own end zone display following his 18-yard touchdown reception in the 49-21 loss to the Patriots wound up overshadowing what that touchdown grab ultimately gave him in this 2011 season.
With the catch Johnson went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season making him the first receiver in Bills history to post back-to-back 1,000-receiving yard seasons.
Johnson finished the 2011 campaign with a team-leading 76 receptions for 1,004 yards as well as a team best seven touchdowns. His season-ending numbers might have come closer to his 2010 figures of 82 catches for 1,073 yards had his Happy New Year end zone display not drawn a penalty flag prompting head coach Chan Gailey to bench him in the first quarter.
Instead Johnson finished the day with four receptions for 40 yards and a touchdown, and was forced to watch his teammates carry on without him for the last three quarters of the game.
"It was hard to even stand by my guys when the offense was out there because they know I should be out there with them," he said. "They said they had my back, but inside I still felt bad for the decision I made."
Nevertheless Johnson's back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons are a surprising franchise first. Wall of Famer and all-time leading receiver Andre Reed had four 1,000-yard seasons in his illustrious career, but never posted back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns. The closest he came was between 1988 and 1992 when Reed posted 968, 1,312, 945, 1,113 and 913 receiving yards.
Right behind Andre Reed in almost every career franchise receiving category, Eric Moulds came painfully close to posting three straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons from 1998-2000. Moulds had a franchise best 1,368 receiving yards in 1998, but followed it up with a 994-yard season in 1999 before posting the second-highest receiving season in team annals with 1,326 yards in 2000.
In 2001 Moulds had a 904-yard receiving season followed by a 1,292-yard campaign in 2002.
Johnson's mark is an impressive one knowing he relies on his shiftiness and clever route running to gain separation from defenders rather than breakaway speed. He also played most of the 2011 season at less than 100 percent with persistent groin and shoulder ailments.
"That is an important milestone," said Ryan Fitzpatrick. "It's great for him to do it two years in a row. He's been very consistent with the way he's played this year."
Entering free agency the back-to-back seasons of 1,000 yards receiving serve as a valuable reminder of just what Buffalo would be losing from their passing game if Johnson is not re-signed. Buffalo's top wideout however, has been diplomatic in discussing his contract situation with the media and refused to discuss what he feels he could command in terms of monetary value.
"I'm not going to say I'm deserving of anything," he said. "Whatever happens, happens really. I'm not the guy to go out and make guarantees and say I'm worth this much or that much. You just put in work. Wherever I go I'll be on the practice field and I'm going to work hard. That's how I got here in this position I'm in by working from day one."