Each major sport has their top-tier records – the ones reserved for the legends of the game.
In football, those records include career marks like rushing yards and TD passes, single-season achievements like TD receptions and passing yards, and single-game feats like sacks and TDs scored.
Among the great records are the ones that have stood the test of time, and cause fans to talk about them in terms of how unreachable they may be.
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees is one game short of tying one of those seemingly unbreakable records – one that has been secure for more than half a century.
With a TD pass on Sunday against his former team, the San Diego Chargers, the 33-year old Brees will equal the mark of TD passes in consecutive games played set by NFL legend Johnny Unitas way back in 1960.
The man known simply as “Johnny U” completed a TD pass in 47 straight games, from Dec. 9, 1956 to Dec. 4, 1960.
And now Brees has the chance to equal his streak of games with TD passes against San Diego – and perhaps break the record in Week 5 against Green Bay.
After two straight games without a TD toss early in 2009, Brees connected for 4 TDs against the New York Giants on Oct. 18. Brees then proceeded to throw at least 1 TD pass in each of the next 11 games, before sitting out the final week of the regular season to rest up for the playoffs.
GAME 1 (10/18/09): 4 TDs, O INT vs. New York Giants (J. Shockey, R. Meachem, L. Moore,
In seven of the 12 games in 2009, Brees threw multiple TD passes, including arguably the best single-game performance of his career, when he blitzed New England for 5 TDs.
His streak nearly ended before it had a chance to get out of the first season, when Brees waited until the fourth quarter of a loss to Dallas in Week 15 before throwing a scoring pass to Lance Moore with 8 minutes left in the game.
It wasn’t the last time that Brees waited until late in the game to extend his streak.
In both 2010 and 2011, Brees threw a TD pass in each of the 16 regular-season games.
Brees was limited to a single TD pass just five times in 2010, and five times he waited until the fourth quarter before throwing a scoring pass – including in back-to-back games against Cleveland and Pittsburgh.
The defending Super Bowl champion Saints were shocked by the Browns in Week 7, as Browns linebacker David Bowens intercepted Brees twice, returning both for scores. Brees threw a TD pass early in the fourth quarter, and added another one late, in Cleveland’s 30-17 win.
GAME 18 (10/24/10): 2 TDs, 4 INTs in 30-17 L vs. Cleveland Browns (D.
Thomas, M. Colston)
The following week, Brees tossed a TD pass to Marques Colston early in the fourth quarter, and added another later on, to help the Saints pull away for a home win.
In Week 16, the Saints trailed the Atlanta Falcons 14-10 in the fourth quarter before Brees led New Orleans on a 92-yard drive, capping it off by hitting tight end Jimmy Graham for a 6-yard score with 3:24 remaining in the game.
GAME 27 (1/2/11): 1 TD, 1 INT in 23-13 L vs. Tampa Bay (J. Graham)
*Ties Peyton Manning & Chris Chandler for 7th place on all-time list
GAME 31 (10/2/11): 1 TD, 2 TDs in 23-10 W vs. Jacksonville (J. Graham)
*Passes Dan Marino for 5th-longest streak
During a 2011 campaign in which he threw a career-high 46 TD passes, Brees really had just one close call – but it was a doozy.
The 5-2 Saints might not have expected much of a game from the winless St. Louis Rams in Week 8, but the Saints were in deep trouble by halftime after the Rams scored 17 points in the second quarter.
Early in the fourth, the Saints embarked on a 10-play scoring drive – calling six running plays. Brees connected with Colston for a first down at the 3, but then Pierre Thomas ran it in for a TD on the next play, leaving Brees without a TD pass with 10 minutes left.
When the Saints got the ball back with 6:28 left, trailing 24-14, Brees threw three straight incompletions. New Orleans’ next drive lasted just one play – a pick-six for the Rams' defense, boosting their lead to 17 with 2:51 left.
It was officially “garbage time” as the Saints moved down the field on their final drive. Brees dropped back to pass 11 straight times, moving the team down field despite two sacks.
The Saints called their final timeout with :25 left, and the ball at the St. Louis 29. A dump-off to Darren Sproles turned into a 21-yard gain, and all of a sudden, Brees had the ball inside the 10, with a chance to find the end zone.
He did just that, with :06 showing on the clock; Brees found Moore in the end zone for a TD. It was a meaningless score in the context of the game, but it extended Brees’ streak to 35 games.
If the streak had ended there, it still would have been the fourth-longest in league history – at least until last weekend, when New England’s Tom Brady threw a TD pass in his 35th consecutive game.
Brees didn’t mess around in the final eight games of the 2011 regular season, throwing a total of 27 TD passes, with a pair of 5-TD games in the final month.
GAME 37 (11/13/11): 2 TDs, 0 INT in 26-23 W vs. Atlanta (J. Graham,
*Passes Brett Favre for second-longest streak in league history
Brees threw 3 TD passes in the team’s season-opening loss to Washington, to extend his streak to 44 games. He only threw 1 TD pass in Week 2 against Carolina, but he got it out of the way in the first quarter with a short goal-line throw to Graham. Despite the fact that New Orleans dropped to 0-3 with a loss to Kansas City last week, Brees tossed 3 more scoring passes, giving him 7 heading into Week 4.
Brees has had much success in his career against Green Bay. In four games, (three of them with the Saints), Brees has thrown 11 TDs and 2 INTs. In the 2011 opener at Lambeau, Brees tossed 3 scoring passes in a shoot-out loss. He out-did that in 2008 with a 323-yard, 4-TD performance at the Superdome.
- THE STREAK ... THE NUMBERS
Number of 1-TD games during streak – 13
Number of 2-TD games during streak – 13
Number of 3-TD games during streak – 12
Number of 4+-TD games during streak – 8
Number of times he’s thrown first TD of game in:
- 1st quarter – 20
- 2nd quarter – 14
- 3rd quarter – 4
- 4th quarter – 8
Total number of TD passes during streak – 111
Total number of INTs during streak – 50
Team W/L record during streak – 33-13 (.717)
Players who have caught TD passes from Brees during the streak:
- Marques Colston – 21
- Lance Moore – 20
- Robert Meachem – 19
- Jimmy Graham – 19
- Darren Sproles – 8
- Jeremy Shockey – 4
- Devery Henderson – 4
- Reggie Bush - 4
- Pierre Thomas – 3
- Jed Collins – 3
- David Thomas – 3
- Darnell Dinkins – 1
- Heath Evans – 1
- John Gilmore - 1
- Quick – which quarterback leads the league in TD passes?
Surprisingly, it’s Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is off to the best start of his nine-year career. Through three games, Roethlisberger has completed 68.3 percent of his passes, for 904 yards, 8 TDs and 1 INT.
- His average YPG (301.1) is significantly higher than his career average of 233.1
- His completion percentage is well above his career average of 63.1
- His QB Rating of 109.2 is second in the league; he’s recorded two seasons with a 100+ QB Rating (with a high of 104.1 in ’07)
- His career high for TD passes is 32; he averaged 2.1 TDs per game in ’07
- He’s averaging 2.7 TD passes per game so far in 2012
- His TD:INT ratio so far in 2012 blows away his career bests
- He threw 32 TDs to 11 INTs in 2007 (approximately 4:1.4 ratio)
- He threw 17 TDs to 5 INTs in 12 games in 20 (approx. 4.3:1.3 ratio)
Roethlisberger passed for 942 yards in the first three games of 2011, but also had a 3:4 TD:INT ratio.
The Steelers are a surprising 1-2 – but it’s certainly not Roethlisberger’s fault.
- Good offense not good enough
Before their 34-31 loss in Oakland on Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers had won the previous 22 games in which they had scored 30+ points.
Going back to the start of the 2000 season, the Steelers were 44-3-1 (including the postseason) when scoring at least 30 points - with one loss and the tie coming against Michael Vick and Atlanta, and a playoff loss in OT to Tennessee.