Brees scores a triple-triple against the Panthers
Drew Brees passed for 376 yards and two touchdowns in the Saints’ 31–26 victory over the Panthers. Brees completed 23 of his 33 passes and was intercepted once, all of which produced a 115.2 passer rating, after Brees earned ratings of 131.4 and 106.1 in New Orleans’ two wins over Carolina during the 2017 regular season.
Only one other quarterback in NFL history started and won three games in one season against the same team—that is, two during the regular season and one in the playoffs—with a passer rating of 100 or higher in each of them. Jeff Hostetler did it for the Raiders against the Broncos in the 1993 season.
Brees and Ginn connect for long TD
One of Drew Brees’ touchdown passes was an 80-yarder to Ted Ginn Jr. But that wasn’t Brees’ longest TD pass in a playoff game. Reggie Bush scored an 88-yard touchdown on a catch-and-run from Brees against the Bears 10 years ago. The only other players with at least two TD passes of 80 yards or longer in postseason games were Daryle Lamonica, John Elway, and Brett Favre.
Ginn’s touchdown was the longest in NFL postseason history against a team for which the scorer had previously played. He broke a record that was set four years ago by Donnie Avery of the Chiefs when he caught a 79-yard touchdown pass from Alex Smith against Indianapolis.
Kudos to the kickers
A tip of the hat to the kickers in Sunday’s Saints-Panthers game. Graham Gano tied a postseason record with a 58-yard field goal for Carolina. That mark has stood since it was set by Pete Stoyanovich 27 years ago—an eternity considering the improvement in placekicking during that time. As one simple measure, there were nearly four times as many FGs of 50 yards or longer this season (107) as there were during the 1990 season (28), when Stoyanovich set the record.
Wil Lutz of the Saints kicked a 57-yard field goal on Sunday, which is now tied for the third longest in postseason history. The only other 57-yarder in the NFL playoffs was by Mike Nugent of the Bengals three years ago.
There was only one other game in NFL history in which two kickers each scored a field goal of 57 yards or longer. It was a regular-season game at Denver—where else?—in 2011. Robbie Gould of the Bears kicked a 57-yard FG, and Matt Prater of the Broncos scored from 59 yards.
Bortles manages to make an impact in Jaguars’ win
Blake Bortles gained 88 yards and six first downs on 10 carries while managing the Jaguars’ 10–3 win over the Bills. Bortles had five runs of 10 yards or longer. Since 1960, the only other quarterback with at least five double-digit runs in a postseason game was Colin Kaepernick for the 49ers against the Packers five years ago (7).
Bortles passed for 87 yards, six first downs, and a touchdown in Jacksonville’s win. But the most important numeral on his passing line was the zero under “INT.” The Jaguars had an 8–0 record during the regular season in games in which Bortles wasn’t picked off.
Of note, Bortles was only the second player in NFL postseason history to throw a touchdown pass on a 4th-and-goal play from the 1-yard line. The first was Matt Schaub to Arian Foster in Houston’s second-round loss at New England five years ago.
Marrone gains revenge on Bills
Many head coaches have faced a former team in a playoff game. One recent example was Pete Carroll when the Seahawks lost Super Bowl 49 to the Patriots three years ago. But on Sunday, Doug Marrone became only the second individual to do so in his first playoff game as an NFL head coach. Marrone, who is finishing his first full season with Jacksonville, led the Bills for two seasons (6–10 in 2013, 9–7 in 2014).
The other was Lou Saban, the first head coach of the Boston Patriots (1960–61), who was fired early in his second season with the team and then hired by Buffalo in 1962. Saban held that position for four years and in 1963, the Bills and Patriots finished the season tied for the AFL Eastern Division title.
Boston defeated Saban and the Bills, 26–8, in a playoff game at War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo. But Saban had the last laugh: He took the Bills to AFL titles in both 1964 and 1965.
Dareus beats his former team
Marcell Dareus, who started for the Jaguars on Sunday, played five games for Buffalo during the 2017 season before he was traded to Jacksonville. Dareus is the first player in NFL history to start and win a playoff game against a team for which he played during that season. Three players started for losing teams under those circumstances in the postseason: Dave Casper in 1980 (Houston vs. Oakland), Hank Poteat following the 2006 season (Jets vs. New England), and Danny Woodhead after the 2010 season (New England at the Jets).
Only Stockton stands between Nowitzki and an NBA record
Dirk Nowitzki played in his 1435th NBA game on Sunday, all for the Mavericks, exceeding the total of games that Karl Malone played for the Jazz to move into second place in NBA history for most games played with one team. The record, out of Nowitzki’s reach this season, is 1504 games, set by Malone’s longtime Jazz teammate, John Stockton.
Kanter banging the boards in first season with Knicks
Enes Kanter led all players with 18 rebounds in the Knicks’ 100–96 victory at Dallas. That raised Kanter’s average to 10.1 rebounds per game this season. Since Charles Oakley averaged 10.5 rebounds in the 1988–89 season, only two players finished their first season with the Knicks with an average of 10 or more boards per game: Zach Randolph (10.3 in 2007–08) and Earl Barron (11.0 in seven games in 2009–10).
Stop the presses … Spurs score 100 and lose
C.J. McCollum made a jumper with 5 seconds remaining to give the Trail Blazers a 111–110 win over the Spurs. If something about that score seems unusual, we can fill in the blanks for you. San Antonio had won 143 of the last 144 games regulation-time games in which it scored at least 110 points, dating back to March 2011, including 64 straight victories *heading into Sunday’s game at Portland.
Phoenix turns the tables on OKC
The Suns defeated the Thunder, 114–100, on Sunday for their third consecutive victory over Oklahoma City. Prior to those three wins, two of which came late last season, Phoenix had lost 19 of 22 to OKC, dating back to 2011.
Richardson atones for poor performance with strong 10-game run
Josh Richardson capped a 14-point performance with a layup with 5 seconds remaining that gave the Heat a 103–102 victory over the Jazz. On Nov. 22, Richardson played 30 minutes and failed to score in a 104–98 home loss to the Celtics. Since then, he has averaged 19.3 points in 10 home games, scoring in double-figures in all of them.
Malkin is the man in OT
Evgeni Malkin’s second goal of the game earned the Penguins a 6–5 overtime win against the Bruins. It was Malkin’s second overtime goal this season and the 12th overtime of his NHL career, all with the Penguins. Five other players have scored at least a dozen OT goals for one NHL team: Alex Ovechkin 22 (Capitals), Patrik Elias 16 (Devils), Daniel Sedin 15 (Canucks), Mats Sundin 14 (Maple Leafs), and Sergei Fedorov 12 (Red Wings).
Prior to Sunday’s overtime goal, Malkin shared the team record at 11 with Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby.
The Penguins won the game in overtime after Boston’s Brad Marchand failed to convert a penalty shot with 1:01 remaining in the third period and the score tied 5–5. It was the first penalty shot in an NHL game with a tie score and less than 2 minutes left in regulation time since Dec. 4, 2015, when Marchand scored on a penalty shot to snap a 3–3 tie against Calgary with 66 seconds remaining in the third period.
Canadiens’ offense comes to life
The Canadiens’ broke out of their scoring slump and posted a 5–2 victory against the Canucks at Montreal. Entering play on Sunday the Canadiens had scored only five goals over their last six games and not more one goal in any of those games. That streak of six consecutive games scoring no goals or just one goal tied a Canadiens record done twice before: in January 1929 and March 1937. Montreal’s just-ended streak was the longest of its kind by an NHL team since the Hurricanes scored no more than once in each of six straight games in December 2014.
Ovechkin haunts the Blues
Alex Ovechkin tallied a goal and assist in the Capitals’ 3–2 overtime victory against the Blues. Ovechkin has scored more goals versus St. Louis in the last five seasons (12) than any other player, despite playing only nine games against them over that span. The Stars’ Jamie Benn ranks second with 11 goals in 21 games versus the Blues since 2013–14.
Gourde & Gordie
Yanni Gourde tallied two goals and one assist in the Lightning’s 5–2 win at Detroit, and he also picked up a fighting major for a first-period scrap with the Red Wings’ Tomas Tatar. This was the fourth “Gordie Howe hat trick” in Tampa Bay franchise history in which the player scored two goals. The others were by Chris Gratton (Feb. 10, 1994), Vincent Lecavalier (Oct. 18, 2002) and Ryan Craig (Nov. 22, 2006). Gourde is the third NHL player with a multi-goal “Gordie Howe hat trick” this season, after the Red Wings’ Anthony Mantha (Nov. 15) and the Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko (Nov. 21).
Couturier averaging more than a goal per game since Christmas
Sean Couturier scored two goals in the Flyers’ 4–1 win over the Sabres. Couturier, whose first goal on Sunday snapped a 1–1 tie in the second period, has tallied seven goals in the Flyers’ six games since the Christmas break. Seven goals are the most that Couturier has scored over any six-game span during his seven seasons in the NHL and the most that any Flyers player has produced over a six-game stretch in one season since Wayne Simmons did it during the 2013–14 season.
A couple of first for Aho of the Isles
Sebastian Aho scored his first NHL goal and recorded his first NHL assist to help the Islanders overcome a 4–2 third-period deficit and go on to beat the Devils in a shootout, 5–4. Aho’s first NHL point was the goal at 7:58 of the third period, which cut New Jersey’s lead to 4–3. Less than 8 minutes later he assisted on Cal Clutterbuck’s tying goal. The only other Islanders defenseman to produce his first NHL goal and assist in the same game was Vladimir Malakhov, who did it against the Rangers in 1992.
Columbus rookie fuels power play
Pierre-Luc Dubois scored one goal and assisted on another in the Blue Jackets’ 3–2 shootout win against the Panthers, with both of his points coming on Columbus power plays. The 19-year-old Dubois is the third teenager in Blue Jackets history to register a power play goal and a power play assist in the same game. Rick Nash did that three times at age 19 in the 2003–04 season and defenseman Zach Werenski was 19 when he did so against Chicago on Oct. 21, 2016.
The only teenagers besides Dubois with a power play goal and power play assist in an NHL game this season are the Devils’ Jesper Bratt (Oct. 28 vs. Arizona) and Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine (Dec. 1 vs. Vegas).
Blackhawks rookie earns third win
Anton Forsberg recorded just the third win of his 23-game NHL career with a 32-save, 4–1 victory against the Oilers. This was the first time that a rookie goaltender won a game for the Blackhawks in which he allowed no more than one goal and made at least 30 saves since Scott Darling earned three such wins in the 2014–15 season.
Dano: 2 goals, 2 game-winners
Mark Dano’s goal was the game-winner in the Jets’ 4–1 victory over the Sharks. Dano’s only other goal for Winnipeg this season, against the Oilers on New Year’s Eve, was also a game-winner. Before Dano, the only player in Thrashers/Jets history whose first two goals of a season were both game-winners was Ilya Kovalchuk for Atlanta in 2006–07. Honorable mention goes to Rich Peverley, whose first two goals for the Thrashers after he was traded to Atlanta in January 2009 were game-winning scores. But Peverley had scored two goals for Nashville that season before he was traded to the Thrashers.