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YANKEES LIGHT UP JOHNSON FOR 9th-INNING WIN
From Elias: The Yankees rallied for five runs off Jim Johnson in the ninth inning, to defeat the Orioles, 7-2. Johnson led the majors with 51 saves this season. There were 300 previous postseason appearances by pitchers who made at least 40 saves in the season that just ended; only one gave up four runs (Jose Valverde of the Tigers in a loss to the Rangers in the 2011 ALCS), and none gave up five or more.
PINCH-RUNNER KELLY IS THE TIGERS' UNEXPECTED HERO
From Elias: Don Kelly drove in the winning run in the Tigers' 5-4 victory over the A's with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth. During his five seasons in the majors, Kelly had batted only once before in a potential walk-off situation with the winning run in scoring position. (He drew a walk during a scoreless ninth inning against the Pirates in 2010.) Kelly has a .259 career batting average in Late-Inning Pressure Situations (21-for-81), but with only five RBI and no game-winners.
Kelly became only the third player in MLB history to deliver a walk-off RBI in a postseason game that he entered as a pinch runner. The first, memorably, was Aaron Boone for the Yankees against the Red Sox in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. The most recent was Chris Burke of the Astros in the final game of a 2005 NLDS against the Braves.
MOORE MAKES AUSPICIOUS POSTSEASON DEBUT
From Elias: Tyler Moore's two-run pinch-single in the eighth inning gave the Nationals a 3-2 win over the Cardinals. Moore was the seventh player to deliver a game-winning RBI in the seventh inning or later on the first postseason at-bat of his career. The most famous was by Dusty Rhodes of the Giants, with a three-run pinch-homer in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series against the Indians. The last before Moore was by Jeff Baker of the Rockies in the 2007 NLDS against the Phillies.
BREES BREAKS ONE OF THE OLDEST MAJOR RECORDS IN THE BOOK
From Elias: Drew Brees' 40-yard scoring pass to Devery Henderson extended his streak to 48 consecutive games with a TD pass, breaking the record that Johnny Unitas had held since 1958. During Unitas' 54-year reign as the record-holder, no player prior to Brees had come within even 10 games of his mark. Incidentally, Unitas began his 47-game TD-pass streak in the 10th game (6th start) of his NFL career.
LUCK LEADS COLTS TO COMEBACK WIN OVER RODGERS & PACKERS
From Elias: Andrew Luck rallied the Colts from a 21-3 halftime deficit to a 30-27 victory over the Packers. During the NFL's expansion era (that is, since 1960), only three other starting rookie QBs led their team to a victory after trailing by 18 or more points: John Elway (Broncos vs. Colts in 1983), Vince Young (Titans vs. Giants in 2006), and Matthew Stafford (Lions vs. Browns in 2009).
Luck is the second rookie quarterback to lead his team to a victory over Aaron Rodgers and the Packers this season. Russell Wilson also did so in the Seahawks' controversial win on Monday Night Football two weeks ago. Over the last 20 seasons, only two other rookie QBs won a game in which the opposing quarterback was the defending NFL MVP, as Rodgers currently is: Charlie Batch against Brett Favre in 1998 and Mark Sanchez over Peyton Manning in 2009.
49ERS POST LARGEST CONSECUTIVE WINS IN 51 YEARS
From Elias: The 49ers followed last week's 34-0 pounding of the Jets with a 45-3 rout of the Bills. That marked the first time in more than a half-century that San Francisco won consecutive games by at least 30 points. The Niners last did so in October 1961 with shutout wins over the Lions (49-0) and Rams (35-0). San Francisco never had back-to-back wins, both by a margin larger than 24 points, under Joe Montana.
With 311 rushing yards and 310 passing yards against the Bills, the 49ers became the first team in NFL history with at least 300 yards both ways in the same game.
BILLS POUNDED FOR 2nd STRAIGHT WEEK
From Elias: The Bills surrendered 621 yards of total offense in their loss at San Francisco one week after the Patriots gained 580 yards at Buffalo. The only other team to allow at least 550 yards in consecutive games in the same season was the New York Yanks, who suffered a three-game streak in 1950, yielding 613, 582, and 609 yards in consecutive losses to the Rams (43-35), Lions (49-14), and Giants (51-7). Incidentally, the Yanks finished the 1950 season with a 7-5 record, thanks largely to an offense that averaged 30.5 points per game and a QB, George Ratterman, who led the league in TD passes (22).
BRADSHAW SHAKES OFF COSTLY START FOR PERSONAL BEST
From Elias: Ahmad Bradshaw gained a career-high 200 yards on 30 carries in the Giants' 41-27 victory over the Browns, an ending that was much better than the start to Bradshaw's day. Bradshaw fumbled the ball away on the game's first play from scrimmage, leading to a quick Browns TD. He was the first player to gain 200 or more rushing yards after fumbling on his first carry since 1985, when George Rogers of the Redskins did it against the Cardinals.
GIANTS SET TEAM RECORD FOR YARDS
From Elias: The Giants have gained 1877 yards in their last four games, the highest total over any four-game span in team history. The previous high was 1698, set by Y.A. Tittle's 1963 team that won the Eastern Conference. That mark was equaled two years ago.
RICHARDSON EXTENDS FAST START TO 5 TDs IN 5 GAMES
From Elias: Cleveland rookie Trent Richardson scored the first touchdown in Sunday's loss to the Giants, giving him five TDs in five games this season. Richardson is the first Browns player to score five or more TDs in his first five games in the NFL since Dub Jones did it ... wait for it ... in the Browns' first five games after joining the NFL in 1950.
Jones wasn't a rookie. He had played four seasons in the AAFC, including the 1948 and 1949 seasons with the Browns. He might be better known to some as the father of Bert Jones, who was the NFL's MVP as the Baltimore Colts' QB in 1976.
WELKER CATCHES A BAKER'S DOZEN, SETS NFL RECORD
From Elias: Wes Welker caught 13 passes in the Patriots' 31-21 win over the Broncos. It was the fifth time that Welker made at least 13 receptions, the most such games in NFL history. He previously shared the record with Marvin Harrison.
COUSINS ECHOES GRIFFIN WITH LONG TD PASS
From Elias: Kirk Cousins, making his NFL debut in relief of injured Robert Griffin III, threw a 77-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss in the Redskins' 24-17 loss to the Falcons. Griffin threw an 88-yard TD pass in his debut last month. As we reported via @ESPNStatsInfo on Sunday, Griffin and Cousins were the first rookie teammates with TD passes of 75 yards or longer in the same season since Johnny Clement and Ray Mallouf of the Chicago Cardinals did it in 1941.
To fill in a few other data points, consider this: Prior to Griffin and Cousins, no rookie teammates had TD passes of even 40 yards in the same season since John Elway and Gary Kubiak of the Broncos and Dan Marino and Mark Clayton of the Dolphins did so in 1983. The last pair with 50-yard TD passes was Roger Staubach and Calvin Hill of the 1969 Cowboys.
CHARLES & RICE ARE BIG GAINERS IN LOW-SCORING GAME
From Elias: Jamaal Charles gained 140 rushing yards and Ray Rice ran for 102 yards, but the game was decided by a battle of field goals as the Ravens defeated the Chiefs, 9-6. It was only the third game in NFL history in which both teams had a 100-yard rusher but neither scored a TD. The others: Patriots 3, Dolphins 0 in 1982 -- the infamous "snow plow game" (Mark van Eeghen, 100 yards; Andra Franklin 107); and Vikings 6, Steelers 3 in 1992 (Terry Allen, 172; Barry Foster 118).
BEARS' DEFENSE GOES ON THE ATTACK
From Elias: Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs both scored touchdowns on 36-yard interception returns in the Bears' 41-3 win at Jacksonville. It was the largest margin of victory in NFL history in a game that was tied at halftime.
For the first time in the team's 93 seasons in the NFL, Chicago has scored at least one touchdown on an INT return in three consecutive games. The Bears also tied an NFL record with five INT-TDs in their last three games. The only other team with five over a three-game span was the Browns in December 1960.
MENDENHALL REVIVES STEELERS' GROUND GAME
From Elias: The Steelers gained 136 yards rushing, including 81 by Rashard Mendenhall in his season debut, in their 21-19 win over the Eagles. With Mendenhall sidelined, Pittsburgh's total of 195 rushing yards was its lowest after three games since 1950. The Steelers entered the game ranked 30th in the NFL with an average of 65.0 rushing yards per game and dead-last in rushing average (2.6 yards per game).
TITANS YIELD 30 FOR 5th STRAIGHT GAME
From Elias: The Vikings pounded the Titans, 30-7, making Tennessee only the second team in NFL history to allow 30 or more points in each of its first five games in a season. The first was the Chicago Cardinals in 1954, who finished with a 2-10 record despite a pair of future Hall of Famers -- Ollie Matson and Charlie Trippi -- on offense, and another on defense in Night Train Lane.