COMPETITIVE NATURE: Sunday marked the latest calendar day in NFL history in which six games were played between teams with winning records.
Two teams clinched division titles last week. The GREEN BAY PACKERS, who defeated Chicago 21-13, won the NFC North. The HOUSTON TEXANS, who defeated Indianapolis 29-17, clinched the AFC South.
Additionally, the BALTIMORE RAVENS and SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS secured playoff berths.
PICK SIX: Five players – Arizona’s GREG TOLER (102 yards) and RASHAD JOHNSON (53 yards), Denver’s CHRIS HARRIS (98 yards), Seattle’s EARL THOMAS (57 yards) and Minnesota’s EVERSON GRIFFEN (29 yards) – recorded interception-return touchdowns in Week 15. On Sunday, Toler, Thomas, Johnson and Griffen recorded their first INT-return touchdowns of the season.
This year, 55 NFL players have combined for 62 interception-return touchdowns. Those totals already are the most in any season since 1970.
Toler is one of 16 players all-time and the first in Cardinals history to return an interception at least 102 yards, while Harris’ 98-yard interception-return touchdown set a Broncos franchise record. Sunday marked the first day in NFL history with two 95+ yard interception-return touchdowns.
KEEPING UP WITH THE JOHNSONS (PART I): Detroit wide receiver CALVIN JOHNSON had 10 catches for 121 yards in the Lions’ loss at Arizona. Johnson has recorded at least 100 receiving yards in seven consecutive games, tied with CHARLEY HENNIGAN (1961) and Pro Football Hall of Famer MICHAEL IRVIN (1995) for the longest streak in NFL history.
Johnson, who has an NFL-best 1,667 receiving yards this season, is the first player in NFL history with at least 1,600 yards in consecutive seasons. He is also the first player since Pro Football Hall of Famer LANCE ALWORTH in 1965 with at least 1,600 receiving yards through his team’s first 14 games.
KEEPING UP WITH THE JOHNSONS (PART II): Houston wide receiver ANDRE JOHNSON had 11 catches for 151 yards and a touchdown in the Texans’ 29-17 win over Indianapolis. Johnson registered his 16th game with at least 10 receptions and 100 yards, tied with New England wide receiver WES WELKER (16) for the most all-time.
Johnson has nine career games with at least 10 receptions and 150 yards, tied with TIM BROWN for the second-most in NFL history. Pro Football Hall of Famer JERRY RICE has the most in league annals with 10 such games.
KEEPING UP WITH THE JOHNSONS (PART III): Tennessee running back CHRIS JOHNSON rushed for 122 yards on 21 carries (5.8 average) with a franchise-long 94-yard touchdown in the Titans’ 14-10 win over the New York Jets on Monday Night Football.
Johnson’s 94-yard touchdown is his sixth 80+ yard scoring run of his career and third this season, which are the most and tied for the most, respectively, in NFL history. Pro Football Hall of Fame running back BARRY SANDERS is the only other player with three such runs in one season (1997).
ALL DAY(S): Minnesota running back ADRIAN PETERSON rushed for 212 yards and a touchdown in the Vikings’ 36-22 win at St. Louis. Over the past eight games, Peterson has rushed for 1,313 yards, which are the most over any eight-game span in a single season in NFL history.
This season, Peterson leads the league with 1,812 rushing yards, the fifth-most through a team’s first 14 games. Only three running backs have rushed for more yards than Peterson through 14 games and all three are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: O.J. SIMPSON (2,003 in 1973; 1,817 in 1975), JIM BROWN (1,863 in 1963) and WALTER PAYTON (1,852 in 1977).
ROOKIES PASS EXPECTATIONS: Entering this season, the most combined wins (23), passing yards (13,060), touchdown passes (73) and completions (1,098) by rookie quarterbacks in a season all occurred in 2011. This year’s crop of rookie QBs has surpassed all of those marks with 39 wins, 18,220 passing yards, 92 touchdown passes and 1,531 completions.
In Week 15, Indianapolis’ ANDREW LUCK and Seattle’s RUSSELL WILSON closed the gap toward setting individual rookie records for passing yards and touchdown passes. Luck passed for 186 yards with two touchdowns against Houston, while Wilson recorded one touchdown pass in the Seahawks’ 50-17 win over the Bills in Toronto.
YARD WORK: Three quarterbacks – New England’s TOM BRADY, Denver’s PEYTON MANNING and Dallas’ TONY ROMO – reached the 4,000-yard mark for at least the fourth time in their careers this weekend.
Manning passed for 204 yards and a touchdown in the Broncos’ 34-17 win at Baltimore. Manning, who has 4,016 passing yards this season, extended his NFL record by recording his 12th career 4,000-yard season. Manning, in his first season with Denver, is the fifth player in NFL history to pass for 4,000 yards with two different teams. He joins DREW BLEDSOE, BRETT FAVRE, Pro Football Hall of Famer WARREN MOON and KURT WARNER.
Brady compiled 443 passing yards in the Patriots’ 41-34 loss to San Francisco on Sunday Night Football. Brady (4,276) became the fifth quarterback with at least five 4,000-yard passing seasons. Brady also joined Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO, DREW BREES and MATTHEW STAFFORD as the only players to pass for at least 4,000 yards following a 5,000-yard season.
Romo threw for 341 yards and two touchdowns in the Cowboys’ 27-24 overtime win over Pittsburgh. Romo has 4,269 passing yards this season and reached the milestone for the fourth time in his career, tying Pro Football Hall of Famer WARREN MOON and PHILIP RIVERS for the sixth-most such seasons.
Source: NFL Media