With some help from ESPN Stats & Information and the media relations departments of the NFL and the division teams, let's take a look back at some statistical nuggets from Sunday.
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees passed for 313 yards in a victory at Cincinnati. Brees has passed for 21,932 yards since joining the Saints in 2006. That’s the most passing yards by any quarterback in a five-season span in NFL history. It also marked the 36th game Brees has thrown for 300 yards since coming to New Orleans.
For just the third time this season, Atlanta’s defense forced an opposing quarterback out of the pocket six times or more. It was the best game of the season for the Falcons defending outside-the-pocket throws, holding Josh Freeman to zero completions on six attempts.
The Falcons were missing injured backup running backs Jason Snelling and Antone Smith, leaving Michael Turner to handle the running game. Turner, who entered the game averaging over four yards-per-carry in each direction, couldn’t get it going on runs to the left. Turner averaged just 1.4 yards per attempt on 10 rushes to the left. Turner did pass the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season.
Falcons coach Mike Smith is now the first coach in franchise history to record two seasons with at least 10 wins in his career. Atlanta’s win over Tampa Bay gave Smith his 30th career win as the Falcons improved to 30-14 with in Smith’s tenure.
Under Smith, the Falcons now are 6-3 in the month of December. Smith also improved to 5-1 against the Bucs.
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan led a fourth quarter touchdown drive to put the Falcons ahead. It was the sixth game-winning drive Ryan has led this season in the fourth quarter or overtime and the 13th of his career.
LeGarrette Blount has a chance to break the Tampa Bay record for rushing touchdowns by a rookie. He scored his fifth run of the season Sunday. The team record is seven, shared by Errict Rhett in 1994 and Lars Tate in 1988.
Speaking of Tampa Bay rookies and franchise records, Mike Williams is making plenty of noise on the receiving side. He had his seventh touchdown catch Sunday and that ties the team’s rookie record that was set by Michael Clayton in 2004. Williams moved into fourth place on the list of receptions by a rookie. He has 50. The team record is 80, also set by Clayton. Williams also ranks third in receiving yards by a rookie with 760. Clayton set the record (1,193), but Williams should end up no worse than in second place. He’s only 58 yards behind what Lawrence Dawsey did in 1991.
The Bucs played 10 rookies Sunday. That’s the eighth straight game they have played at least 10 rookies. Five of them were starters Sunday.