Sunday, January 14, 2007
Elias Says ...
By Elias Sports Bureau, Inc.
Special to ESPN Insider
A daily glance inside the numbers from the world of sports:
• The next Adam Vinatieri? How about his successor, Stephen Gostkowski, who kicked three field goals in the Patriots' 24-21 victory at San Diego, including a 31-yard game-winner with 1:10 to play. Gostkowski was the first rookie to kick a fourth-quarter game-winning field goal in a postseason game since Jim O'Brien of the Colts broke the hearts of Cowboys fans 36 years ago in Super Bowl V.
Gostkowski's 50-yard field goal to open the scoring was the second longest in NFL history by a rookie in a playoff game. The record is 51 yards by Fuad Reveiz of the Dolphins in a victory over the Browns in January 1986.
• Tom Brady improved his record as a postseason starter to 12-1 despite throwing three interceptions. Was it the most unlikely postseason victory in NFL history? Consider the following:
1. Brady had never before thrown more than two INTs in a postseason game, and the Patriots had lost all seven regular-season games in which he threw three or more.
2. Brady threw 51 passes in the Patriots' victory. Prior to New England's win, 26 teams had thrown at least 50 passes in a regulation-length postseason game and all 26 lost.
3. The Patriots' longest run was for seven yards by Kevin Faulk, snapping a 25-game losing streak by teams whose longest run in a postseason game was seven yards or less. The last team to win a playoff game under those circumstances was the Baltimore Colts in the 1959 NFL championship game against the Giants.
• The Patriots were the fourth team to overcome a deficit of more than 10 points on the road in a postseason victory over a team with the league's best regular-season record. The Chargers posted a 14-2 record during the 2006 season. The others (regular-season record in parentheses): Falcons over Vikings (15-1) in 1998; Jaguars over Broncos (13-3) in 1996; and Cowboys over Falcons (12-4) in 1980.
• Brady's first interception on Sunday snapped his streak of 147 postseason passes without an INT, dating back to Super Bowl XXXVIII in February 2004. There have been five postseason streaks of 140 or more passes without an INT, and Brady has recorded two of them.
• Brady is the first quarterback in NFL history to win 12 of his first 13 postseason starts. With Sunday's victory, Brady surpassed the record of Troy Aikman, who had an 11-1 mark before suffering his second postseason loss (against the Panthers following the 1996 season).
• Jabar Gaffney caught 10 passes for the Pats on Sunday. There have been 39 instances of a player making at least 10 pass receptions in a postseason game; Gaffney's total of 11 receptions during the preceding regular season was the lowest. Only one other player caught 10 or more passes in a playoff game following a season with fewer than 30 receptions: Jermaine Wiggins of the Patriots (14 receptions during the 2001 season, 10 in a subsequent postseason victory over the Raiders).
• LaDainian Tomlinson scored a pair of touchdowns in the Chargers' loss. They were the first postseason TDs for Tomlinson, who has scored 111 in regular-season games. That broke a record held by Marvin Harrison, who had scored 83 regular-season touchdowns before his first TD in the playoffs. Don Pardo, what lovely parting gifts do we have for our runners-up -- Bobby Mitchell (91 regular-season TDs) and Herschel Walker (84) -- who never reached the end zone in a postseason game?
• Marty Schottenheimer's sixth consecutive postseason loss, dating back to January 1994, tied the longest streak in NFL history. The other coaches to lose six straight playoff games were Steve Owen (1939-1950) and Jim Mora the Elder (1988-2000).
• Philip Rivers was the ninth different quarterback to start for Schottenheimer in the coach's 18 postseason games. That's the highest total by any coach in NFL history. The runner-up is Dennis Green, who started seven different QBs in postseason games.
• The Chargers led the Patriots 14-3 prior to New England's late first-half TD. Over his last 10 seasons as a head coach, Marty Schottenheimer's teams were 37-1 at home when they held a lead of more than 10 points (all in regular-season games). The loss was by the Chargers to the Seahawks in 2002.
• The second-longest overtime field goal in NFL postseason history gave the Bears a 27-24 win over the Seahawks, and it was set up in part by the shortest punt ever in overtime of a postseason game. Robbie Gould's 49-yard game-winner was one yard short of Gary Anderson's winning kick for the Steelers in overtime of a 1989 wild-card win against the Oilers.
Chicago took possession at its own 34-yard line after an 18-yard punt by Ryan Plackemeier. The previous shortest punt in overtime of an NFL playoff game was 26 yards, by Harry Newsome of the Steelers -- in the same 1989 victory in which Anderson kicked his 50-yard game-winning field goal.
• Gould was the seventh NFL player to kick an overtime field goal in a postseason game after closing the scoring in regulation time with a fourth-quarter FG. But Gould was the first of those kickers to do so on a pair of field goals of 40 yards or longer.
• Shaun Alexander failed on consecutive third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 runs late in the fourth quarter with the Seahawks in Bears territory. Alexander also failed on a third-and-1 to end the Seahawks' first drive of the second half. That's as many misses on third- or fourth-and-1 runs as Alexander recorded over the last two regular seasons combined (24-for-27).
• Matt Hasselbeck was also the quarterback in Seattle's wild-card loss to the Packers following the 2003 season. The only other starting QB to lose two postseason games in OT was Warren Moon, whose losses included the Oilers' famous collapse in which they blew a 35-3 lead against the Bills (Jan. 3, 1993).
• If Colts fans aren't surprised to find their team playing at the RCA Dome in next Sunday's AFC title game, they should be. Over the last 35 years, only one other team hosted a postseason game after a road playoff game the previous week. That was the Redskins in January 1988, en route to a victory in Super Bowl XXII.
• Manny Fernandez saved all three shootout attempts in the Wild's 4-3 win at Chicago on Sunday night. Fernandez is now 11-3 in shootouts over the last two seasons. The only other goaltenders at least eight games above .500 are Marty Turco (12-2) and Kari Lehtonen (10-2).
• Zach Randolph, who entered the game with an average of 23.8 points per game this season, shot 1-for-12 from the field in the Trail Blazers' 109-93 loss to the Nuggets. Over the last 10 seasons, only two other players with a year-to-date scoring average as high as Randolph's had as poor a shooting average in a game (minimum: 10 field-goal attempts). Both were during the 2006 calendar year: Ray Allen (1-for-13 on March 29) and Gilbert Arenas (1-for-12 on Nov. 24).