Elias Says: Jan. 9, 2017

Pittsburgh’s 3 B’s deliver in rout of Dolphins

• Ben, Bell, and Brown were all that and more, just as advertised, as the Steelers defeated the Dolphins, 30–12. A look at what each player accomplished in Pittsburgh’s victory:

• Ben Roethlisberger threw touchdown passes of 50 and 62 yards to Antonio Brown in the first quarter. He completed his first 11 passes of the game, the second-longest streak by a Steelers player in a playoff game. The record is 14, set by Terry Bradshaw in a Wild Card loss to San Diego in January 1983.

• Brown was the first player in NFL history to score two TDs on plays of 50 yards or longer in the first quarter of a postseason game. (Actually no one else scored two first-quarter TDs even half that long in a playoff game.) The only player to score two TDs of any length earlier in a playoff game than Brown was LeGarrette Blount for New England against Indianapolis three years ago.

• Brown and Bell were the fifth pair of teammates with at least two touchdowns and 100 yards each—one by receiving, the other by rushing—in a postseason game. The others, with calendar years in parentheses, were Ricky Sanders and Timmy Smith of the Redskins in Super Bowl XXII (1988), Andre Reed and Thurman Thomas of the Bills (1991), Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith of the Cowboys (1996), and Michael Crabtree and Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers (2013).

• Bell set a Steelers postseason record with 167 yards on 29 carries. The previous mark was 158 by Franco Harris, set in Super Bowl IX against the Vikings.

• Bell carried the ball on every play of a 10-play touchdown drive. It was the first time in the expansion era that a team ran the ball on every play of TD drive that long, with the same player carrying the ball each time—in the postseason, that is. Honorable mention to Tim Hightower of the Cardinals, who carried the ball on all 12 plays of a drive that ended with a field goal in a second-round win over Carolina eight years ago.

Rodgers set Packers record at Lambeau Field

Aaron Rodgers passed for 362 yards and four touchdowns in the Packers’ 38–13 win over the Giants. That was a Packers postseason record for passing yards at Lambeau Field, although two opponents recorded higher totals there in playoff losses to Green Bay: Neil Lomax of the St. Louis Cardinals following the 1982 season (385 yards) and Jeff George of the Falcons in 1995 (366).

Cobb ties record set by Sharpe a generation ago

Randall Cobb is the second Packers player to catch three touchdown passes in a postseason game. Sterling Sharpe caught three TD passes from Brett Favre in a first-round 28–24 win at Detroit, 23 years ago to the day of Cobb’s big game. Sharpe’s third touchdown in that game, on a 40-yard play, is the third-longest game-winning TD pass in the final minute of an NFL postseason game.

Packers overcome slow start

• Twenty-five minutes into Sunday’s game, things didn’t look good for the Packers. To that point, Green Bay had five possessions and each ended with a punt. Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, there were 24 other playoff games in which a team punted on each of its first five drives. Those teams had a 3–21 record, and none scored as many points as the Packers did on Sunday. In fact, only one of those teams scored as many as 30 points: the Baltimore Colts, in a 37–31 double-overtime loss to Oakland in 1977.

For Eli, it’s been all or nothing

• With Sunday’s loss, Eli Manning kept a dubious distinction intact: He has never won a playoff game except in the two seasons in which he ran the postseason table to take the Giants to Super Bowl titles.

Harden 10th triple-double includes 10 turnovers

James Harden more than compensated for 10 turnovers with a 40-point, triple-double performance in the Rockets’ 129–111 win at Toronto. When Russell Westbrook turned the ball over 10 times against the Pelicans last month, he became the first player with as many as 10 turnovers in a triple-double since Jason Kidd did it with 14 giveaways in November 2000.

Sunday’s triple-double was Harden’s 10th this season, but he trails Russell Westbrook (17) by a wide margin. This is the second consecutive season in which at least two players reached double-figures in TDs. Last season, Westbrook and Draymond Green became the first players to do so since Magic Johnson and Larry Bird in 1989–90.

Cavs stars all score big in close win at Phoenix

LeBron James (28 points), Kyrie Irving (27), and Kevin Love (25) all scored big in the Cavaliers’ 120–116 win at Phoenix. It was the second time this season that James, Irving, and Love all scored at least 25 points in the same game. Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson also have two such games this season. But no trio of teammates all scored at least 25 points more than once in any of the past four seasons.

Kings shrink from offensive boards in loss to Warriors

• The Warriors defeated the Kings, 117–106, at Sacramento in a result that wasn’t a surprise. But buried in the boxscore was one particular number that was highly unusual: Sacramento pulled only one rebound off its offensive boards. During the 44 seasons for which the NBA has recorded offensive and defensive rebounds, this was the first game in which the Kings—whether representing Kansas City, Omaha, or Sacramento—had only one offensive rebound. It was their 3515th regular-season game during that time.

Redick’s 25th game of 25 for the Clippers

• J.J. Redick led all players with 25 points in the Clippers’ 98–86 win over the Heat. It was Redick’s 25th game of 25 points since joining LA at the start of the 2013–14 season. That’s an average of one 25-point performance every 9.0 games with the Clippers. Redick scored 25 points in only seven of his 396 games with Orlando (one per 57) and none in 28 games with Milwaukee.

Sixers achieve a historic road win

• The 76ers overcame a 57–46 halftime deficit to defeat the Nets, 105–95, at Brooklyn. It was only the fourth road victory in franchise history, including 14 seasons as the Syracuse Nationals, in which the team trailed by at least 10 points at halftime and won by a double-digit margin. The first was by the Nats against the Knicks on Christmas Day in 1962 at the old Madison Square Garden; the next was at Atlanta in the first month of the 1980–81 season. The most recent was against the Nets at Brendan Byrne Arena in February 1991. Charles Barkley scored 30 points in that game.

Grizzlies contain Jazz again in low-scoring victory

• The Jazz rallied for 28 points in the fourth quarter but still came up short in an 88–79 loss at Memphis. It was the 25th consecutive game between these teams in which the Grizzlies held the Jazz below 100 points. That streak, which dates back to January 2010, is currently the longest of its type in the NBA.

A perfect night for Mozgov

Timofey Mozgov scored 15 points, shooting 7-for-7 from the field, in the Lakers’ 111–95 win over Orlando. In the days of Wilt and Kareem, a Lakers center with a perfect shooting night wasn’t a headline. But over the last six seasons, only two Lakers starting centers shot 7-for-7 or better in one game. Jordan Hill was the other (in Nov. 2014).

Bucks find life is hard without the Freak

• With Giannis Antetokounmpo sidelined by an illness, the Bucks fell to the Wizards, 107–101, at Milwaukee. How many points do you think the Greek Freak is worth to the Bucks? Because they have lost seven of the nine games that Antetokounmpo has missed in four seasons with the team, and six of those losses were by fewer than 10 points. Milwaukee has scored an average of 96.8 points in those games.

An unusual hat trick by Blackhawks rookie

Ryan Hartman recorded his first hat trick in the NHL by scoring the final three goals in Chicago’s 5–2 win over Nashville. Hartman’s first goal snapped a 2–2 tie with just over eight minutes remaining in the third period and his last two goals were both empty-netters. Hartman’s hat trick is only the second in the NHL since 1990 that included two empty-net goals. The other was by Milan Michalek for Ottawa against Tampa Bay on March 6, 2012.

Hartman is only the third Blackhawks rookie to score three consecutive goals in one game. The other Chicago rookies with “natural” hat tricks were Ed Litzenberger in February 1955 and Cliff Koroll in December 1969.

As usual, Penguins come alive in third period

Chris Kunitz, Scott Wilson, Phil Kessel, and Kris Letang each scored a third-period goal for the Penguins in their 6–2 win over the Lightning. Pittsburgh has been outscored by one goal in the first two periods of games this season (79–78), but the Penguins have outscored their opponents, 56–25, in third periods. Pittsburgh’s plus-31 third-period goal differential is far and away the best in the NHL this season. The Rangers and Canadiens are tied for the second-best mark (plus-19).

Hurricanes teen scored twice in OT win

• Rookie Sebastian Aho’s second goal of the day was the overtime winner in the Hurricanes’ victory over the Bruins. At age 19, Aho is the third-youngest player to score an overtime goal for the Whalers or Hurricanes. Their younger OT scorers were Eric Staal (Carolina) and Sylvain Cote (Hartford); both were 19, but several months younger than Aho.

Aho is the second rookie in Hartford/Carolina franchise history to produce a multiple-goal game that includes an overtime goal. The first was Erik Cole’s three-goal game against the Thrashers on Dec. 21, 2001.

Bob beats his former team again

Sergei Bobrovsky made 25 saves in a 2–1 overtime victory for the Blue Jackets against the Flyers, his original NHL team. Bobrovsky didn’t face the Flyers in his first season with Columbus, but he is 6–1–0 in seven games against them since then. The only other goaltenders with at least a half-dozen wins versus Philadelphia over the last four seasons are Henrik Lundqvist (8), Tuukka Rask (7), and Carey Price (6).

Goals from backliners are key for Minnesota

• Defensemen Matt Dumba and Jared Spurgeon scored the goals for the Wild in their 2–1 win at Anaheim. Defenseman Ryan Suter scored a goal for Minnesota when it lost its season opener at St. Louis (October 13), but the Wild have won all 15 games since then in which they had at least one goal by a defenseman. Minnesota has a 10–8–5 record this season when it doesn’t get a goal from a d-man.

A fourth three-point game for Stone

Mark Stone matched his season high for points in one game by scoring one goal and assisting on two in the Senators’ 5–3 win over the Oilers. Stone has racked up three points in a game four times this season and in all of those games he had exactly one goal and two assists. No other NHL player has produced more than three games with minimum totals of one goal and two assists this season. Stone’s teammate, Erik Karlsson, is one of several players with three such games.