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Elias Says: Nov. 21, 2016

Brady puts on a show in his long-awaited “home debut”

It’s almost inconceivable that prior to the Patriots’ 30–17 win at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday, Tom Brady had never played a road game against the 49ers. Brady, who was born and raised in San Mateo, 22 miles from the Niners’ home field, has started 229 regular-season NFL games. Only two quarterbacks started even half as many games as Brady but never started at San Francisco or at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara: Boomer Esiason (173 starts) and Mark Brunell (151).

Brady did not disappoint. He passed for 280 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. Only two other players in NFL history threw as many as four TD passes in their first road game against the Niners: Dan Fouts in 1982 (5 TDs) and Drew Brees in 2007 (4).

And then there were three: another milestone for Zeke

Ezekiel Elliott gained 97 yards on 25 carries in the Cowboys’ 27–17 win over the Ravens. Elliott’s total of 1102 rushing yards is the third highest in NFL history in a player’s first 10 games in the league, behind only Eric Dickerson (1223) and Adrian Peterson (1197).

The Cowboys gained a total of 417 yards on offense against Baltimore. It was the Cowboys’ eighth consecutive game with at least 400 yards, tying the longest single-season streaks in NFL history. The record was set by New England in 2007 and tied by Denver in 2013.

Dak and Dez finally on the same page

Dak Prescott threw three touchdown passes, including two to Dez Bryant, in the Cowboys’ win. Over the first 10 weeks of the season, Prescott completed only 22 of his 50 passes intended for Bryant (44%). That was the lowest completion percentage by any NFL quarterback to any receiver that was targeted at least 50 times.

It was the fifth consecutive game in which Prescott threw at least two touchdowns. The only other rookies with five straight games with multiple TD passes were Charlie Conerly (1948), Dan Marino (1983), and Russell Wilson (2012).

Vikings score two long TDs in win over Cardinals

Xavier Rhodes scored on a 100-yard interception return and Cordarrelle Patterson on a 104-yard kickoff return in the Vikings’ 30–24 win over the Cardinals. Minnesota was the fourth NFL team to score two touchdowns of 100 yards or longer in the same game. The Dolphins and Browns both did it in 2009, Miami on a pair of KOR-TDs by Ted Ginn, Cleveland on the same by Josh Cribbs. The first team with two length-of-the-field TDs in the same game was Dallas in 1962.

Not to be overlooked is the fact that Patterson, in only his fourth season in the NFL, became the first player in league history with four touchdowns of at least 100 yards.

A meaningful milestone for Johnson in the Cardinals’ loss

David Johnson gained 160 yards in Arizona’s loss (103 rushing, 57 receiving). Johnson became the third player in NFL history with at least 100 yards from scrimmage in each of his first 10 games of a season. The others were Larry Brown of the Redskins in 1972 and Edgerrin James of the Colts in both 2000 and 2005.

Dolphins overcome 55 minutes of futility with two late TDs

Ryan Tannehill threw a pair of touchdown passes in the final 5 minutes to rally the Dolphins to a 14–10 victory at Los Angeles. It was only the seventh time in NFL history that a team won in regulation time, overcoming a double-digit margin after not scoring in the game’s first 55 minutes. The last such win was by Washington at Dallas in 2005. On a Monday night on Week 2, Mark Brunell threw a pair of late TD passes to Santana Moss, giving Joe Gibbs a victory over Bill Parcells.

Miami goes 2–0 on SoCal trip

With victories at San Diego last week and Los Angeles on Sunday, Miami became only the third East Coast team in the last 25 seasons to win consecutive games, both in the Pacific time zone. Atlanta did it in 1997 and New England in 2008. (By “East Coast teams,” we mean those who play in the Eastern time zone.)

Cousins out-duels Rodgers in Battle of the QBs

Kirk Cousins and the Redskins won a Sunday night shootout against Aaron Rodgers, as Washington defeated Green Bay, 42–24. Both quarterbacks threw three touchdown passes, with Cousins winning the yardage battle over Rodgers, 375 to 351. It was only the seventh game in NFL history in which a QB on each team passed for at least 350 yards and three TDs with neither being intercepted. Rodgers is the only quarterback to be involved in two of those games.

Giants finding new stars in fifth straight win

The Giants defeated the Bears, 22–16 to improve to 7–3 with a fifth straight win, and in so doing the G-men threw off a few signals that they might be a team to make some noise in the playoffs.

  • Establish a stronger running game? Check: Rashad Jennings gained 85 yards on 21 carries after going 15-for-87 against Cincinnati last Monday. It was only the second time in the last four seasons that a Giants player ran for at least 80 yards in each of two consecutive games. Jennings also did it last December.

  • Rediscover a pass rush? Check: Jason Pierre-Paul was credited with two-and-a-half sacks, becoming the first Giants player with more than two sacks in a game either this season or last.

  • Keep Landon Collins’ streak going? Check: Collins became the first Giants player with an interception in four straight games since Phillippi Sparks in 1995.

  • But about that kicking situation. The Giants stopped a late Bears drive that could have produced a winning touchdown because Robbie Gould missed a pair of extra points earlier in the contest. Gould was the first player to miss two PAT’s in one game against a former team since Mark Moseley of the Redskins did it against the Eagles in 1981. (Go to the head of the class if you knew that Moseley played for Philadelphia and the Houston Oilers before joining Washington in 1974.)

    Bell grinds out 146 yards, surpasses 5K from scrimmage

    Le’Veon Bell carried the ball 28 times for 146 yards and a touchdown in the Steelers’ 24–9 win at Cleveland. And he did it the hard way, gaining no more than 12 yards on any single run. Bell’s rushing-yards total was the highest in one game without a gain of more than 12 yards since 1992, when Johnny Johnson of the Cardinals gained 146 yards on 28 carries with a long run of 11 yards against the Colts. The last Steelers player with such a game was Franco Harris (32 carries for 151 yards, with a long run of 11 yards) in a 33–30 overtime victory over the Browns on November 25, 1979.

    Bell also picked up 55 yards on eight pass receptions, and he has now gained more than 5000 yards from scrimmage in just 42 games in the NFL. Only two players who debuted in the last 10 seasons reached the 5000-yard mark in fewer games than Bell: Arian Foster (40) and Chris Johnson (41).

    Finally, a big error-free game for Winston

    Jameis Winston passed for 331 yards in the Buccaneers’ 19–17 win at Kansas City. It was Winston’s first game in the NFL with at least 300 yards and no interceptions. Thirty-three other quarterbacks have had at least one such game over the last two seasons.

    Murray’s TD streak is team’s longest since Earl Campbell’s

    DeMarco Murray caught a 3-yard touchdown pass late in the first half of the Titans’ 24–17 loss at Indianapolis. That extended Murray’s TD streak to six games, the longest by any Titans player since the team moved to Tennessee in 1997. Three players scored in six straight games when the team, then known as the Oilers, played in Houston: Bill Groman (1961), Hoyle Granger (1967–68), and Earl Campbell (1983). Groman’s streak was eight games and it remains the franchise record 55 years later.

    Prosise makes some history before departing with an injury

    C.J. Prosise carried the ball only four times in Seattle’s 26–15 win over Philadelphia before leaving the game with a shoulder injury. But Prosise scored on a 72-yard run on one of those carries. Only one rookie in Seahawks history had a run that long and it was a wide receiver. Joey Galloway scored on an 86-yard run against the Jaguars in 1995, his first season in the NFL.

    Over the last 10 years, only three other players’ first career touchdown was on a rushing play of at least 70 yards: Ahmad Bradshaw of the Giants in 2007, DeMarco Murray of the Cowboys in 2011, and Jalen Richard of the Raiders earlier this season.

    Ebron’s long reception sets up his game-winning run

    Eric Ebron, who caught a 61-yard pass earlier in the drive, scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown on a one-yard run in the Lions’ 26–19 win over the Jaguars. The pass gave Ebron the longest reception in his three seasons as a pro, and the TD was on the first carry of his NFL career. He was the first player to score a fourth-quarter game-winning touchdown on his first-ever carry since QB Casey Weldon did it for the Buccaneers in 1995.

    Gillislee to the rescue for Buffalo

    With LeSean McCoy sidelined with a thumb injury in the second quarter, Mike Gillislee stepped in to gain 72 yards on 14 carries in the Bills’ 16–12 victory at Cincinnati. Gillislee has averaged 5.8 yards per carry in his two seasons with Buffalo, and that’s the highest average in team history by any running back with at least 100 carries. Two quarterbacks, Rob Johnson (6.7) and Tyrod Taylor (5.8), have higher marks.

    Butler makes history in LA

    Jimmy Butler set a season high with 40 points in the Bulls’ 118–110 win over the Lakers. But of great historical significance, that was the highest point total ever by a Bulls player in a road win against the Lakers. The previous high was 38 points by Artis Gilmore at The Forum in Inglewood on November 20, 1977.

    Westbrook shoot blanks in triple-double

    Russell Westbrook recorded his league-leading fifth triple-double of the season on Sunday night. But Westbrook shot 13-for-34 from the field and the Thunder lost to the Pacers, 115–111, in overtime. It was the fourth time in the last three seasons that Westbrook missed at least 20 field-goal attempts in a triple-double (three of them in OT games). No other NBA player has done that even once during that time. In fact, the only other player in NBA history with at least four triple-doubles with 20 missed FGAs is Oscar Robertson (6).

    Portland’s Sunday superstar smokes the Nets

    C.J. McCollum scored 33 points to lead the Trail Blazers to a 129–109 victory at Brooklyn. McCollum has become a Sunday superstar, with an average of 25.1 points over his last 13 games on Sundays dating back to last December. Two Sundays ago McCollum matched his career high with 37 points against Memphis.

    Slow and steady wins it for Knicks at MSG

    The Knicks defeated the Hawks, 104–94, on Sunday. Although it wasn’t a laugher, the Knicks did outscore Atlanta in all four quarters, something they had not done at Madison Square Garden previously this season or in either of the two prior seasons. Their last such win at MSG was a 108–81 rout of Utah on March 7, 2014.

    Nuggets struggle at the line in victory over Jazz

    Denver survived its worst foul shooting in more than nine years in a 105–91 victory over Utah. The Nuggets made only 13 of 30 free throws (43%). That was their lowest percentage in a game since April 18, 2007, when the Nuggets shot 5-for-16 from the line (31%) in a late-season win at San Antonio.

    An unsatisfying milestone for the King of MSG

    Henrik Lundqvist, playing in the 700th regular-season game of an NHL career spent entirely with the Rangers, lost to the Panthers in a shootout at Madison Square Garden. Lundqvist is the 25th goaltender in NHL history to reach the 700-game plateau but only the third to do so having played every game for the same team, after Martin Brodeur with the Devils and Olaf Kolzig with the Capitals. Lundqvist, a native of Sweden, is fifth goaltender born outside North America to play 700 or more games in the NHL. The others are Nikolai Khabibulin (799), Dominik Hasek (735), Olaf Kolzig (719) and Tomas Vokoun (700).

    A rare late game-winner for the Blue Jackets

    Alexander Wennberg scored a tiebreaking power play goal with 53.6 seconds to play in the third period, giving the Blue Jackets a 3–2 victory over the Capitals. This is only the fifth time in Columbus’ 16 seasons in the NHL that one of its players scored a go-ahead goal in the final minute of regulation time. Their other last-minute tiebreakers were scored by David Vyborny (2002), Rick Nash (2008), Vinny Prospal (2013), and Mark Letestu (2014).

    Hamilton goes 3-for-3 in Flames’ win

    Dougie Hamilton tied his career high for assists in one game when he assisted on all of the Flames’ goals in a 3–2 win at Detroit. Hamilton is the first NHL defenseman this season to rack up at least three assists in a game in which he had an assist on every one of his team’s goals, and he is the first Flames defenseman to do that since Dion Phaneuf in a 4–3 victory at St. Louis on Dec. 5, 2008.

    Three straight game-winners for Carter

    Jeff Carter assisted on the Kings’ first goal and scored their last two goals in a 3–2 win at Anaheim. It was the third consecutive victory for L.A. and the third straight Kings game in which Carter scored the game-winning goal. That ties the Kings’ record for consecutive team games scoring the winning goal, done six times before but only once in the last 24 seasons, by Anze Kopitar in December 2010.

    Carter is the first player on any NHL team with a three-game streak of winning goals this season. Three players did that last season: Taylor Hall (Oilers), Sidney Crosby (Penguins) and Aleksander Barkov (Panthers).

    Ward secures the defense during Carolina’s turnaround

    Cam Ward made 28 saves for the Hurricanes in their 3–1 victory over the Jets. Carolina won only three of its first 13 games this season but the Hurricanes have won all four games they have played since then, all in regulation time. Ward has been in goal for all four of those victories, and in each of those games he allowed two or fewer goals. Only twice before had a Whalers or Hurricanes goaltender won four consecutive team games in 60 minutes while giving up no more than two goals in each game, and in both cases it was Ward who pulled off that feat, first in 2008–09 and then in 2009–10.