Elias Says: Jan. 1, 2018

Brady showing no signs of age

Tom Brady threw for 190 yards on Sunday to finish the season with 4577 passing yards, the highest total in the NFL. At 40 years old, Brady is the oldest player to lead the NFL in passing yards, breaking the mark set by Fran Tarkenton, who led the NFL at age 38 in 1978, his final season.

Only two men threw for even half as many yards as Brady at age 40. Brett Favre threw for 3962 yards spanning the 2009 and 2010 seasons, and Warren Moon threw for 2818 yards in 1997.

Garoppolo’s extraordinary December

The 49ers topped the Rams, 34–13, to cap an undefeated December with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback. Garoppolo is now 7–0 as a starter, including two wins for the Patriots, and his 5–0 mark in December for the Niners is noteworthy. Among the quarterbacks who never won five regular-season starts in one calendar month are Brett Favre, John Elway, Joe Montana, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, and Warren Moon.

Hunt needs only one carry to win NFL rushing title

Kareem Hunt ran 35 yards for a touchdown on his only carry in the Chiefs’ 27–24 win at Denver. But that was enough to pass Todd Gurley to capture the 2017 rushing title. Gurley held the league lead in rushing yards coming into Sunday’s games, but neither he nor Le’veon Bell, the leader through Week 15, played on the final week of the season.

There were only three other seasons in which three different players held the NFL lead in rushing yards after each of the last three weeks: 1943–Harry Clarke, Jack Hinkle, and Bill Paschal; 1990–Marion Butts, Thurman Thomas, and Barry Sanders; and 1991–Thurman Thomas, Barry Sanders, and Emmitt Smith.

Bryant’s 5 FGs lead Falcons into playoffs

Matt Bryant made five field goals in five attempts, all in the second half, which served as the difference-maker in the Falcons’ playoff-clinching 22–10 victory over the visiting Panthers. It had been just over 10 years since the last time that an NFL player made five field goals in the second half of a game. The last such player was Buffalo’s Rian Lindell, who booted five field goals after halftime in his team’s 17–16 road win over the Redskins on Dec. 2, 2007.

It was only the second time in Bryant’s NFL career — a career that has encompassed 221 games and 368 field goals — that he has made five field goals in one game. On Nov. 30, 2014, Bryant kicked five field goals (also in five attempts) for the Falcons in a 29–18 win over the Cardinals.

Six is all Dallas needs to win

The Cowboys blanked the Eagles on Sunday, 6–0, tying their fewest points in a regular-season win in team history. Dallas had a 6–2 win in Cleveland in December 1970 and then had a 5–0 win against Detroit in the playoffs two weeks later.

The Eagles are the seventh team in NFL history to be shut out in their final game of a season in which they had the league’s best record (either outright or tied). The only other teams to do so in the last 80 years were the 1961 San Diego Chargers and 2008 Titans.

Return of the Purple People Eaters

The Vikings held the Bears to 10 points on Sunday to finish the season with the fewest points allowed in the NFL (252, 15.8 per game). Minnesota had not allowed the fewest points in the NFL since doing so in three straight seasons, from 1969 to 1971.

Minnesota is the eighth team to make the postseason in a season in which their stadium would host the Super Bowl. The seven previous teams to do that each lost prior to the conference championship game: Miami after the 1970, 1978, 1994 and 1998 seasons; Tampa Bay after the 2000 season; Arizona after the 2014 season; and Houston last season.

Caldwell guides Lions to second straight winning season

The Lions routed the Packers, 35–11, to finish the season at 9–7 and put together their first streak of back-to-back winning seasons since Wayne Fontes’s team had a winning record each year from 1993 to 1995.

Detroit’s streak of years without consecutive winning seasons had been the third-longest active streak, behind the Browns (whose last consecutive winning seasons came in 1988 and 1989) and the Panthers (who have never had consecutive winning seasons in their history, starting in 1995).

Gore ends season with a 100-yard performance

Frank Gore ran for 100 yards on Sunday to end the season with a total of 961 rushing yards, fourth-most by a player age 34 or older. The higher totals were produced by John Riggins for Washington (1347 in 1983, 1239 in 1984) and John Henry Johnson for Pittsburgh (1048 in 1964).

Chargers turn 0–4 start into 9–7 finish

Philip Rivers threw for 387 yards and three touchdown passes in the Chargers’ 30–10 victory over the Raiders. Though the Chargers didn’t reach the playoffs, their turnaround this season was inspiring. In their return to the Los Angeles area, the Chargers were one of four NFL teams that started this season with (at least) four consecutive losses, bringing the total of those teams throughout NFL history to 215. But among those 215 teams that began a season with four losses, the Chargers became only the fourth to finish the season with a winning record.

The Chargers themselves finished at 11–5 in 1992, when they became the only team in NFL history to reach the postseason after starting a season with four losses. The other teams to start at 0–4 but finish with a winning record: the 1962 Bills, finishing at 7–6–1, and the 2004 Bills, finishing at 9–7.

Wilson paces NFL in TD passes, but Seattle fails in playoff bid

The Cardinals nipped the Seahawks, 26–24, on Phil Dawson’s field goal late in the fourth quarter. Russell Wilson threw two touchdown passes for Seattle, including one in the fourth quarter. He concluded the season with a league-leading total of 34 touchdown passes, including an NFL-record total of 19 in the fourth quarter.

Early Orleans score holds up

Orleans Darkwa ran 75 yards for a touchdown 17 seconds into the Giants’ 18–10 win over Washington on Sunday. The last NFL player to score on a scrimmage play of 75 yards or longer in the first 17 seconds of a game was Jamaal Charles, who had an 80-yard TD run 12 seconds into the Chiefs’ loss to Cleveland on December 9, 2012.

JuJu redefines “scoring position”

JuJu Smith-Schuster scored on a 96-yard kickoff return on Sunday after he had a 97-yard touchdown catch against Detroit on October 29. No other player in NFL history has scored TDs of 95-plus yards on a scrimmage play and a return (of any type) in one season.

No W in DeShone Kizer

Collateral damage as the Browns finished the season with an 0–16 record: rookie DeShone Kizer became only the third quarterback in NFL history to lose 15 starts in one season. The others were Archie Manning with the Saints in 1980 and Jeff George with the Colts in 1991 (both 1–15). Kizer started every game except Cleveland’s 33–17 loss at Houston on Week 6, when Kevin Hogan started for the Browns.

Bills nab last postseason spot

The Bills are finally heading back to the postseason, earning their first berth since 1999 after defeating the Dolphins in Week 17 and watching the Bengals upset the Ravens. At 17 years, Buffalo had owned the longest active postseason drought in the Big 4 of North American sports leagues – the NFL, NBA, NHL, and Major League Baseball. The Seattle Mariners now move to the front of that list, having missed the MLB postseason in each of their last 16 seasons. The Cleveland Browns own the next longest drought at 15 years. The NBA’s longest current postseason drought belongs to the Minnesota Timberwolves (13 years), and the Carolina Hurricanes, at eight seasons, have the longest dry spell in the NHL.

Winston excels at two-minute drill versus Saints

The Buccaneers drove 95 yards in less than two minutes, capped by a 39-yard touchdown pass from Jameis Winston to rookie Chris Godwin, to clinch a 31–24 comeback victory over the Saints. Only one other team in the last 35 years drove at least 95 yards for a game-winning touchdown after taking possession in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter. On Oct. 21, 2007, the Bears trailed the Eagles by four points when Chicago took possession at their own three yard line with 1:52 remaining and no timeouts. Brian Griese led the Bears on an 11-play drive – all passes – culminating with a 15-yard TD throw to Muhsin Muhammad to put Chicago ahead to stay at Philadelphia.

Bengals’ last-minute touchdown is knockout blow for Ravens

Andy Dalton’s 49-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd in the final minute of the fourth quarter put the Bengals ahead to stay in their 31–27 victory over the Ravens, finishing off Baltimore’s chances at the postseason. In terms of yardage, Dalton’s game-winning throw was the longest go-ahead touchdown scored in the final minute of the fourth quarter in Bengals franchise history. Cincinnati’s previous longest TD of that kind occurred in the Bengals’ victory over the Oilers in November 1976. Ken Anderson’s 47-yard pass to Isaac Curtis for the game-winning score came with 42 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, capping a 31–27 win for Cincinnati over Houston.

Rockets-Lakers started in 2017, almost ended in 2018!

The Rockets, who were playing on New Year's Eve for an NBA record 16th consecutive season, needed two overtimes to defeat the Lakers sending everyone home late to their parties. It was the first multiple-overtime game on New Year's Eve in NBA history.

James Harden scored 40 points and handed out 11 assists in the game. Harden has scored at least 35 points and handed out at least nine assists in each of his last three games against the Lakers, the longest such streak any player has ever had against the Lakers. As a matter of fact, the only other player to do that in two consecutive games against the Lakers was Oscar Robertson, who had five sets on consecutive 35/9 games against the Lakers.

Harden finished off 2017 with 2490 points and 805 assists. The only other player in NBA history with that many points and assists in one calendar year was Nate Archibald in 1972 (2842 points, 933 assists).

Celtics first to 30 wins

The Celtics won their 30th game of the season, beating the Nets 108–105 at TD Garden. The Celtics are the first team to reach 30 wins this season. Each of the last three times that the Celtics were the outright first team to win 30 games, they reached the Finals: 1983–84 (won NBA finals), 1984–85 (lost Finals), 2007–08 (won Finals).

Beal saves the best for last

Bradley Beal scored 17 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter and at one point, scored 15 straight points for the Wizards in that quarter, as Washington prevailed, 114–110, over the Bulls. His 17 fourth-quarter points are the most he has ever scored in the final quarter of a game, regular season or playoffs. The only other player to score 15 straight points for his team in the fourth quarter of a game this season is LeBron James, who scored 18 straight on November 22 in a Cavs’ win over the Nets.

Williams with a scoring outburst off the bench

Reserve Lou Williams put up 40 points in the Clippers’ 106–98 win over the Hornets. Over his last five games, Williams has scored 152 points, while coming off the bench in each of those games. That’s the third time Williams has scored at least 150 points over a five-game span in which he did not start in any of those games (he did so in two overlapping spans in December 2016). The only other reserve to do this over the last 25 years was Ben Gordon from December 26, 2006 to January 2, 2007 (151 points).

Towns does a bit of everything in Timberwolves’ win

Karl-Anthony Towns had 18 points, 14 rebounds, and six blocks in the Timberwolves’ victory over the Pacers on Sunday. Only two other players had that many points, rebounds, and blocks in a game this season: Joel Embiid on November 15 at Los Angeles versus the Lakers (46 points, 15 rebounds, 7 blocks) and Dwight Howard on December 8 against the Bulls in a game that needed one overtime period (25 points, 20 rebounds, 6 blocks).

Before Towns, the last time a player had at least 15 points, 10 rebounds, and five blocks on New Year’s Eve was in 2007, when Dwight Howard did so for the Magic and Chris Kaman did that for the Clippers.

Barea is Mavs’ super-sub

JJ Barea made a big contribution off the bench in the Mavericks’ 116–113 at Oklahoma City. Barea scored 12 points, dished out 11 assists, and grabbed seven boards. Only one other sub in the last two seasons scored more than ten points, dished out more than ten assists, and grabbed more than five rebounds: Tim Frazier of the Pelicans posted 14 points, 11 assists, and 11 boards against the Suns on December 11.

Barea is only the second Mavericks sub with a game of this type (exceeded ten points, ten assists, and five rebounds) in the past 30 seasons – the other was Raymond Felton, with 11 points, 14 assists and six boards in April of 2016.

Evans tied Grizzlies record

Tyreke Evans scored 26 points and handed out five assists in the Grizzlies' 114–96 win at Sacramento Sunday night. It was the sixth straight game in which Evans scored at least 20 points and handed out five or more assists, matching the longest such streak in Grizzlies' franchise history. Mike Conley had a six-game streak like that for the Grizzlies late last season.

Finally signs of progress in Philadelphia

The 76ers closed out 2017 with a 123–110 win against the Suns and finished the year with a 37–49 record for a .430 winning percentage. The Sixers broke their streak of three consecutive calendar years with winning percentages below .200, the longest such streak in NBA history (.171 in 2014, .198 in 2015 and .188 in 2016).

Milestone for Matthews

Auston Matthews recorded the 100th point of his NHL career when he scored the second of his two goals for the Maple Leafs in their loss to the Golden Knights. Matthews reached the century mark in points in his 112th NHL game, eighth-fewest among active players, behind Alex Ovechkin (77 games), Sidney Crosby (80), Evgeni Malkin (89), Connor McDavid (92), Paul Stastny (99), Patrick Kane (104) and Artemi Panarin (107).

First hat trick for Golden Knights goes to Karlsson

William Karlsson recorded the first hat trick of his NHL career and the first hat trick ever by a Golden Knights player when he scored three goals in Vegas’ 6–3 win over the Maple Leafs on New Year’s Eve. Karlsson scored only 18 goals in 183 games in his three seasons in the NHL before this one but he leads the Golden Knights with 20 goals in 37 games this season. He’s the first player to score 20 or more goals through the end of December for a team in its first season in the NHL since 1992–93, when Brian Bradley (28 goals) and Chris Kontos (22 goals) both did so for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Rakell keeps streaking

Rickard Rakell extended his goal streak to a career-best five games when he scored the first of his two goals for the Ducks in their 5–2 victory against the Coyotes. Rakell’s goal-scoring streak is the longest current streak in the NHL, and it’s the longest by a Ducks player since Corey Perry scored goals in seven consecutive team games in November/December 2013.

Vasilevskiy notches another shutout

Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy recorded his league-leading fifth shutout of the season with a 5–0 win against the Blue Jackets in Columbus. The only other time the Blue Jackets were shut out on home ice this season was when Vasilevskiy and the Lightning blanked them by a 2–0 score on October 19. Vasilevskiy is just the second visiting goaltender to register two shutouts in Columbus in one season, joining Patrick Roy who did that with Colorado in 2001–02.

Young Tkachuk scores twice on power play

Matthew Tkachuk scored two power play goals in the Flames’ 4–3 overtime win against the Blackhawks. Tkachuk, who turned 20 years old on December 11, is the second-youngest player in Flames franchise history to score multiple power play goals in one game. Dan Quinn was 18 years old when he scored a pair of power play goals for the Flames on March 16, 1984, also in a win versus Chicago at the Saddledome.

Nyquist joins the Century Club

Gustav Nyquist scored the 99th and 100th goals of his NHL career in the Red Wings’ 4–1 win against the Penguins. Nyquist was a fourth-round pick by Detroit in the 2008 Entry Draft. He’s the ninth player from that draft class to score at least 100 goals in the NHL but only the fourth of those nine players who wasn’t selected in the first round. The others are Derek Stepan (2nd round, 136 goals), Adam Henrique (3rd round, 126 goals) and Cam Atkinson (6th round, 127 goals).

Hellebuyck caps outstanding month with 35-save shutout

Connor Hellebuyck made 35 saves to lead the Winnipeg Jets to a 5–0 win against the Oilers in Edmonton. Hellebuyck was 8–2–2 with three shutouts in the 12 games he played in December. Hellebuyck’s eight wins are the most in one calendar month by a Jets goaltender since the Atlanta Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg in 2011. The only other goaltender in team history to rack up at least eight wins in one month is Atlanta’s Kari Lehtonen, who won nine games in March 2006 and eight in October 2006. Hellebuyck has tied the franchise record for shutouts by a goaltender in one month, set by Ondrej Pavelec with three for the Jets in April 2015 (in three consecutive games, no less).

Another deuce for Pitlick

Tyler Pitlick scored two goals as the Stars closed out the 2017 portion of their schedule with a 6–0 win against the Sharks in Dallas. Pitlick has scored only seven goals in the 38 games he’s played this season but he’s produced three two-goal games. The only other NHL player with as many as three multiple-goal games but fewer than ten total goals this season is Carolina’s Teuvo Teravainen, who’s scored nine goals and recorded three multi-goal performances.

Landeskog fuels Avs’ power play in rout of Islanders

Gabriel Landeskog scored a pair of power play goals 109 seconds apart in the second period of the Avalanche’s 6–1 win against the Islanders. Those were the fastest two power play goals by one player in an NHL game this season – the previous best was two in 2:30 by the Rangers’ Mika Zibanejad on October 5 – and the quickest by a Colorado player since Jan. 17, 2006, when Milan Hejduk tallied two PPGs in 34 seconds during a 5–3 Avs win over the Maple Leafs.