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Putting records in their place

Football statistics simply don't resonate with fans the same way baseball stats do.

Whether it's the career or single-season home run records or Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, baseball has numbers that remain in the forefront of sports fans' minds. Football has its cherished stats, but they aren't quite as easy to recite.

In Week 16, for example, Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions broke Jerry Rice's single-season receiving yardage record, but how many fans knew off the top of their head that the record stood at 1,848 yards?

On Sunday, Adrian Peterson fell nine yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards, an incredible accomplishment when you consider that Peterson blew out his knee a little over a year ago.

But where does that record rank in football history? Here's my list of the top five records in the NFL.

1. The single-season touchdown pass record: This is the record closest to those in baseball. It's the one that would draw a posse of reporters to travel with the quarterback who was close to the mark.

Miami's Dan Marino shocked the football world when he threw 48 touchdown passes in 1984, just his second year in the league. The closest Marino came to that mark the remainder of his career was 44 in 1986.

Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts broke the record with 49 touchdown passes in 2004, and
Tom Brady of the New England Patriots established the current threshold in 2007 when he threw 50 scoring passes.

Part of the record's mystique is that so many things have to go right for a quarterback to stay healthy for 16 games and average more than three touchdown passes per game.

2. The single-season rushing record: Going over 2,000 rushing yards in a season is tough. Buffalo's O.J. Simpson was the first to do it, running for 2,003 yards in a 14-game season in 1973.

Dickerson had his record season in 1984, and Barry Sanders (2,053, 1997), Terrell Davis (2,008, 1998), Jamal Lewis (2,066, 2003) and Chris Johnson (2,006, 2009) are the only other members of the 2K Club.

Peterson joined that club Sunday, but his ultimate goal is to get past Dickerson's mark. Peterson is doing it in a tough time for running backs -- very few backs in the NFL average 20 carries per game these days.

3. The single-season receiving record: Credit Johnson with making this record even more special. The thought of a 2,000-yard receiver never crossed anyone's mind until this season. Megatron needed 108 yards Sunday to become the first receiver in the 2K Club, but he finished with just 72 yards

How Johnson is doing it makes the record even more remarkable. The Lions lost their No. 2 and No. 3 wide receivers to injury, and their No. 2 tight end has been out for weeks. The running game doesn't get enough respect to draw an extra safety near the line of scrimmage. Defenses play zone coverage against the Lions and double Johnson.

4. Brett Favre's consecutive-games streak: This record is Favre's and no one else's. He started 298 in a row from 1991 to 2010. Kicker Jeff Feagles played in 352 straight, but Favre's ironman streak of consecutive starts at quarterback is football's version of Cal Ripken's record of 2,632 games played.

Reporters chronicled how Favre battled injuries to keep the streak alive. Peyton Manning has been the only true challenger to date, but he got only to 228 before his neck issues ended his streak in 2011.

This is a record that could stand the test of time.

5. Consecutive games with a touchdown pass: Johnny Unitas set the standard in 1960 when he finished off a streak of 47 straight games with at least one touchdown pass.

That mark stood for 52 years until Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints got to 54 earlier this season.

Brady is on deck, with a streak of 47 straight heading into this week's regular-season finale. The Unitas record was among the three most cherished when he set it, and Brees brought back great memories of Unitas this season.

Brady is keeping the interest going and hopes to break the mark next season.