Week 15: Brees closes in on record

Originally Published: December 18, 2011
ESPN.com

STUDS

Brees
Brees

Drew Brees

Quarterback, New Orleans Saints

The Vikings' ailing secondary didn't stand a chance against Brees. The Saints' QB had his best game of the season on Sunday, completing 32 of 40 passes for 412 yards and five touchdowns in New Orleans' 42-20 rout. Brees now has 4,780 passing yards for the season, putting him 304 away from Dan Marino's single-season record set in 1984 with two games to play.


Bush
Bush

Reggie Bush

Running back, Miami Dolphins

Third-down back. Gadget player. Bush has been called both. Lately, he's been proving himself worthy of the featured back title. Bush rushed for a career-best 203 yards, including a 76-yard score, in the Dolphins' 30-23 victory over Buffalo. It was Bush's third straight 100-yard game.


Johnson
Johnson

Calvin Johnson

Wide receiver, Detroit Lions

With his team fighting for a playoff berth, the man they call Megatron delivered a mega performance. Johnson caught two TD passes, including the game-winner (a 6-yarder) with 39 seconds left, to lift the Lions to a 28-27 victory at Oakland. Johnson had 10 catches for a career-high 214 yards.


Stafford
Stafford

Matthew Stafford

Quarterback, Detroit Lions

Of course, Johnson couldn't have put up such gaudy numbers without Stafford, who also delivered in the clutch for Detroit. Stafford engineered two long fourth-quarter scoring drives to lead the Lions back from a 13-point deficit. He completed 29 of 52 passes for 391 yards and four TDs without an interception.


Hernandez
Hernandez

Aaron Hernandez

Tight end, New England Patriots

Hernandez was Tom Brady's main target in the Patriots' 41-23 victory at Denver. Hernandez caught nine passes for 129 yards -- both career highs -- and one TD as New England won its sixth straight.


Seahawks

The Seahawks' defense

An opportunistic defense helped the Seahawks (7-7) stay alive in the NFC playoff race. Red Bryant and Brandon Browner each returned interceptions for touchdowns, propelling Seattle to a 38-14 victory over the Bears. Kam Chancellor (forced fumble) and Earl Thomas (fumble recovery, interception) also stood out for Seattle.


Hali
Hali

Tamba Hali

Linebacker, Kansas City Chiefs

Speaking of defense, Hali's stellar play helped the Chiefs ruin the Packers' run toward perfection. Hali sacked Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers three times and applied consistent pressure in the Chiefs' surprising 19-14 victory.


Orton
Orton

Kyle Orton

Quarterback, Kansas City Chiefs

Orton didn't throw a TD pass, but he still managed to outduel Rodgers. In his first start as a Chief, Orton completed 23 of 31 passes for 299 yards and did not turn the ball over as the Chiefs stunned Green Bay.


McCoy
McCoy

LeSean McCoy

Running back, Philadelphia Eagles

McCoy rushed for 102 yards and three TDs in the Eagles' 45-19 rout of the Jets. McCoy now has 19 TDs on the season, a franchise record.


Brown
Brown

Donald Brown

Running back, Indianapolis Colts

The Colts are winless no longer, and Brown is a big reason why. Brown's 80-yard TD run late in the fourth quarter sealed Indianapolis' 27-13 victory over the Titans. He finished with 161 yards on 16 carries.




DUDS

Giants

The Giants

With a chance to take another step toward an NFC East title, the Giants fell flat against Washington. Hakeem Nicks dropped a sure-touchdown pass early and Eli Manning threw three interceptions in a 23-10 loss. The Giants missed tackles, blew coverages and could not capitalize on two Rex Grossman interceptions.


Packers

The Packers' passing game

Playing without leading receiver Greg Jennings (knee), the Packers' passing game had its worst outing of the season. There were several drops and Rodgers (17-of-35, 235 yards) completed fewer than half of his passes for the first time this season.


Hanie
Hanie

Caleb Hanie

Quarterback, Chicago Bears

Hanie's rough relief stint continued in Week 15. Hanie, who has been playing in place of the injured Jay Cutler since Nov. 20, completed only 10 of 23 passes for 111 yards and had three interceptions in Chicago's 38-14 loss to the Seahawks. He now has nine interceptions against only three TD passes in four starts.


Ponder
Ponder

Christian Ponder

Quarterback, Minnesota Vikings

While Drew Brees shined (see above), Ponder struggled -- again. Ponder, who makes this list for a second straight week, completed 14 of 31 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns, but most of that production came in garbage time. The Saints outgained the Vikings 573-207 and Brees had his fifth TD pass before Ponder had his fifth completion.