NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Marvin Harrison’s NFL record of 143 catches in a season was so impressive that it stood for 17 years — and no one even came within six catches of it.
Until Sunday, when New Orleans Saints receiver Michael Thomas broke Harrison’s mark with one game to spare.
Thomas caught his 143rd pass of the season with his 11th reception of the game Sunday in the fourth quarter against the Tennessee Titans.
It is the ninth time this season that “Can’t Guard Mike” has caught double-digit passes in a game.
The three-time Pro Bowler could potentially become the first receiver to get NFL MVP votes since Randy Moss in 1998 — especially since his performance didn’t drop off one bit when backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater replaced injured Saints starter Drew Brees for five-plus games early in the season.
Thomas is also a candidate to become the second receiver ever to win the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year award (Jerry Rice won it in 1987 and 1993).
However, Thomas has insisted throughout this historic season that, “I’m not really focused on that. I’m just trying to go to the Super Bowl.”
“It’s cool. I mean, it’s a blessing, I guess, to be in that category,” Thomas said of the MVP talk. “But the individual awards don’t last as much as a championship and being able to celebrate with your team and just that whole experience.
“When you play at a high level, a lot of good things come with that.”
Thomas, who was drafted in the second round out of Ohio State in 2016, briefly became the highest-paid receiver in NFL history this summer when he signed a five-year extension worth between $19.25 million and $20 million per year.
Thomas has already shattered the NFL record for most catches in the first four seasons of a career (he is now at 464 catches — 64 ahead of Cleveland’s Jarvis Landry in second place). In fact, Thomas needs just 18 more catches to pass Landry for the most catches in the first five seasons of a career.)
Thomas also passed Randy Moss on Sunday for the most receiving yards through a player’s first four seasons.
Thomas has led all NFL receivers in catch rate over the past two years, catching nearly 85 percent of the passes thrown his way.
The physical 6-foot-3, 212-pounder has a great catch radius because of his size. He also has reliable hands — as he has demonstrated with just one drop in his past 25 games.
Saints coaches and players also rave about his intensity and drive — how he treats every practice rep like it’s the Super Bowl.
“Well, Mike Thomas gets open. So that’s first and foremost,” Brees said recently. “Listen, I’ve got so much trust and confidence in him. And we’ve got a lot of time on task together. So much of our offense has nuances to it, as far as the route being run and the direction that you can go or the angle that you can take based upon how the defender is playing you or the defense or the safety or whatever it might be. And we’ve just had a lot of time together, so there’s that trust and anticipation. He knows when the ball is coming out. He knows where it’s gonna be. He knows where he needs to be.
“And I think when things are clicking, (his numbers are) the result.”
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