Stats & Info: Steve Young

No one's more accurate than Alex Smith

October, 30, 2012
Ross Franklin/AP PhotoAlex Smith (right) had one of the best days by a quarterback in NFL history.

Some of the success that the San Francisco Giants pitchers had in helping their team to a World Series title rubbed off on their football counterpart.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith had the best day of his career, one that was Joe Montana and Steve Young-like in terms of statistical accomplishments.

For much of the night, it looked like Smith was playing a game of catch with his receiving teammates. Giants pitchers had what baseball folks call “swing-and-miss” stuff. Smith had can’t-miss stuff.

Let’s look some of the highlights of the 49ers easy win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Just shy of perfection
Smith was 18-for-19 on his pass attempts, setting a mark for passes thrown in a game with no more than one incompletion. The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that the previous mark of 18 was set by Fran Tarkenton in 1977 and matched by Craig Morton in 1981.

Montana’s most accurate day, with at least that many pass attempts, was an 84.4 percent success rate, when he went 27-for-32 against the Falcons in 1983.

Montana’s fewest incompletions in a game with as many attempts as Smith was three. He went 16-for-19 against the Falcons in 1989.

Young’s best was two incompletions, in an 18-for-20 game against the Detroit Lions in 1991. He also had a 15-for-16 game in 1994, as noted in the chart above.

What was the key to Smith’s performance?

Smith was 7-for-8 for 113 yards when the Cardinals sent at least five pass rushers, the only incompletion being a drop by Delanie Walker.

His level of success against that kind of pressure isn’t that surprising. Smith entered the day with the fourth-best Total QBR in the NFL against pass rushes of five or more defenders.

Milestone for Moss
49ers receiver Randy Moss looked like his old self on a 47-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter. It was Moss’ 156th career touchdown, tying Terrell Owens for fourth-most all-time.

Moss has 18 touchdowns in 19 appearances on Monday Night Football, with five of them going for at least 40 yards.

His 18 receiving touchdowns are third-most all-time, trailing Jerry Rice’s 34 and Terrell Owens’ 20.

Moss has 45 touchdown receptions that gained at least 40 yards, easily the most by anyone currently playing in the NFL. Santana Moss ranks second with 20.

The defense had a good game too
The 49ers defense held the Cardinals to three points. It marked the fourth time in the last five games that the 49ers allowed six points or fewer. San Francisco’s four such games are the most for all NFL team since the 49ers themselves had five in 2009.

Brees blows into record book

December, 27, 2011

AP Photo/Rusty Costanza
Drew Brees celebrates after breaking Dan Marino's all-time single-season passing yardage record in the fourth quarter of the Saints 45-16 win over the Falcons
With the NFC South title on the line in New Orleans, all eyes were on Drew Brees and his pursuit of Dan Marino’s 27-year old record for most passing yards in a season.

Brees broke the record with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles with 2:51 left in the fourth quarter. Three minutes later, the New Orleans Saints had clinched the NFC South title and the party was on in the French Quarter.

With one game left to play in the 2011 season, Drew Brees has thrown for 5,087 yards. That’s three yards ahead of Marino and 190 ahead of Tom Brady, who also has a chance to pass the old record this season.

Brees finished with 307 pass yards and four touchdowns through the air. He extended his NFL record for 300-yard pass games in a season with his 12th. It was his sixth straight 300-yard passing game, which pulled him even with Rich Gannon, Kurt Warner and Steve Young for the most in NFL history.

With four touchdown passes, Brees increased his season total to 41. It’s the seventh time in NFL history that a quarterback has thrown for at least 40 touchdowns in a season. With at least one TD pass in 42 straight games, Brees is five behind Johnny Unitas for the all-time NFL record.

Brees success hasn’t been limited to one type of pass this season. He has thrown for at least 1,600 yards on throws of fewer than 5 yards, 6-14 yards and 15 or more yards. He leads the NFL with 21 TD on throws of fewer than 5 yards and 15 TD on throws of 15 or more yards and also tops the league in completion percentage over both distances.

It wasn’t just a record breaking day for Brees.

Sproles ran for 67 yards to become the 2nd player in NFL history with 500 rush yards, 500 receiving yards and 1,000 combined return yards in the same season. The only other player to reach those marks in single season was Dick Christy for the 1962 New York Jets.

Both the Falcons and Saints are streaking in Monday Night Football games. The Saints have the longest active winning streak, with seven straight victories. The Falcons are heading the other way, setting a record with 10 straight road losses on Monday Night Football.

Julio Jones recorded his fifth 100-yard receiving game of the season, tying Anquan Boldin for the most 100-yard receiving games by a rookie since the NFL merger in 1970.

Both teams are heading to the playoffs this season, but each has something to play for in Week 17. The Saints can claim a first-round bye with a win and a loss by the San Francisco 49ers, while the Falcons can pass the Detroit Lions for the fifth seed with a win and Detroit loss.
Less than three years after replacing future Hall-of-Famer Brett Favre in Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to a fourth Super Bowl title. His performance earned him the No. 1 spot in this week's Cross-Sport Power Rankings.

Aaron Rodgers
Since taking over in 2008, Rodgers ranks among the league leaders in passing yards (fourth), touchdown passes (fourth) and passer rating (third). More importantly, he's matched Favre in the most crucial stat of all: championships.

Is Rodgers on his way to having the best career by a player or coach who faced the tough task of replacing a legend? The Stats & Information Group has compiled a list of 10 worthy contenders for that title. Do you disagree with anyone on our list? Feel free to comment below.

10. Kevin Harvick
He replaced Dale Earnhardt for Richard Childress Racing following Earnhardt’s death in the 2001 Daytona 500. Just weeks after the tragedy, Harvick won at Atlanta in only his third career Sprint Cup start. Harvick has won 13 other NSCS races in a career that's spanned 10 seasons. In 2010, Harvick's third-place finish in the points race was the best of his career.

9. Leroy Kelly
After Jim Brown completed arguably the greatest career by a running back in NFL history in 1965, Kelly faced the nearly impossible task of replacing the Browns legend. Kelly, who had just 43 rushes in the two seasons he played alongside Brown, rushed for more than 1,100 yards in 1966, leading the league with 5.5 yards per rush. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994.

8. George Seifert
Taking over for three-time Super Bowl champion Bill Walsh in 1989, Seifert and Joe Montana led the 49ers to a Super Bowl win over the Denver Broncos, joining Don McCafferty as the only head coaches to win the Super Bowl in their first season. (Seifert added a second ring five years later with a different starting quaterback, Steve Young.) During his eight seasons in San Francisco (1989-96), the 49ers won 98 games, 13 more than any other franchise.

7. Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo
The 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year took over the storied No. 7 jersey for Manchester United in 2003, following in the footsteps of George Best, Eric Cantona and David Beckham. Ronaldo scored more than 80 goals in the Barclays Premier League and led the Red Devils to three straight league championships (2007-2009).

6. Jimmy Johnson
Dallas went 1-15 in 1989, Johnson's first season after taking over for Tom Landry, the head coach of the Cowboys for the team’s first 29 seasons. Things improved quickly for Johnson after drafting Emmitt Smith in 1990. The team won back-to-back Super Bowls following the 1992-93 seasons.

5. Sidney Crosby
The 2007 Hart Trophy winner and Stanley Cup champion benefited from playing with the man he replaced as the face of the Penguins franchise when Mario Lemieux came out of retirement in 2005. Since his one season with Lemieux, Crosby has led the league in points (2006-07) and goals (2009-10 along with Steven Stamkos). He also took the Penguins to consecutive Stanley Cup Finals, beating the Red Wings in 2009.

4. Carl Yastrzemski
Yastrzemski had more to worry about than playing left field in the shadow of the Green Monster during his 1961 rookie season with the Boston Red Sox. He was replacing Ted Williams, arguably the greatest hitter in the history of baseball. Yaz hit .266 as a rookie, but finished his 23-year career with a .285 batting average, 452 HR and more than 1,800 RBI. The Hall of Famer was a near-unanimous choice for the 1967 AL MVP Award after winning the Triple Crown, a feat no other major leaguer has accomplished since.

3. Tim Duncan
Duncan was lucky to land on a Spurs team just one season removed from seven straight playoff appearances. The Spurs also featured an established post presence in 1994-95 NBA MVP David Robinson.

Tim Ducan
They quickly formed one of the league’s best defensive duos, leading the Spurs to NBA titles in 1999 and 2003. Duncan won consecutive NBA MVP awards playing alongside Robinson in 2001-02 and 2002-03, and continued to dominate following Robinson's retirement. To date, the four-time NBA champion is one of just 13 players in league history with 21,000 points and 11,000 rebounds.

2. Mickey Mantle
Mantle replaced Joe DiMaggio in centerfield for the Yankees in 1952, the second season for the 20-year-old. That summer, Mantle earned the first of 14 straight All-Star selections. Overall, the three-time American League MVP finished his career with 536 HR, third-most in MLB history at the time of his retirement in 1968.

1. Steve Young
He finally took over as the 49ers starting quarterback in 1991, after serving as an understudy to Hall-of-Famer Joe Montana from 1987-90. In 1992, he was named the league MVP and started a stretch of seven straight Pro Bowl selections. Young added another MVP Award in 1994, guiding the 49ers to their fifth Super Bowl title.

Young was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005, and entered the 2010 season as the top-rated passer in league history among qualifiers. However, Young no longer holds that distinction, having been dislodged atop the career passer rating list by none other than Aaron Rodgers.