By David Hickey
Cold, Hard Football Facts Tittle Man 

Eli Manning threw for 510 yards in a comeback victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back in Week 2.  

It was Manning’s fourth passing performance of over 400+ yards in a span of 14 regular-season games.

But that’s today’s NFL for you - in a sport where dozens of individual and league passing records were shattered last season thanks to rules that were enacted to favor the offense, big passing days are happening with ever-increasing frequency.     

For the most part, Manning’s five football field’s worth of production was greeted with a collective yawn.

Fantasy freaks probably valued Eli’s yardage total than your run-of-the mill football fan. This might be because even 500-yard passing games have become passé. Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford each had a 500-plus-yard game in 2011.

Even Giants fans had reason to be apathetic about Manning’s big day. His 510 yards was four yards short of besting the team record, set by Phil Simms in 1985 against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Simms also holds the NFL record for most yards passing in consecutive games, as he threw for 513 against the  Bengals on October 13, 1985 and 432 against the Dallas Cowboys seven days earlier, for a two-week total of 945 yards, but two losses. 

As impressive as these Big Apple aerial attacks are and were under Manning and Simms, they aren’t as tremendous as what Yelberton Abraham (Y.A.) Tittle did in a Giants uniform exactly 50 years ago today.

Tittle’s team took the field at old Yankee Stadium against the Washington Redskins on Oct. 28, 1962. By the time the game ended, the New York quarterback had replaced Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris as that venue’s most prolific bomber.

The 36-year old quarterback finished with 505 yards passing and seven touchdown passes. The 505 yards was then the second-most in NFL history (now 12th) and his seven scoring tosses are still tied for the most ever in a single pro football game with four others (Sid Luckman in 1943, Adrian Burke in 1954, George Blanda in 1961 and Joe Kapp in 1969).

 Tittle completed 27 of his 39 attempts, did not throw an interception, and somehow ended with a less-than-perfect but still fantastic passer rating of 151.4

It remains arguably the greatest day by a quarterback in NFL history.

Of course, those were the days when defensive backs could deliver punishing coverage of opposing receivers all over the field, when clothesline tackles and beatings 20 yards past the line of scrimmage were commonplace.

NFL passing rule changes in 1978, 2003 and 2010 – not to mention offenses playing on speedy turf and in domed stadiums – have made it much easier for quarterbacks to run up numbers like President Obama using a credit card paid for by American taxpayers.

To put this feat in more perspective, nobody threw for more than 500 yards for two decades after Tittle, and of the 13 games in which NFL quarterbacks have passed for 500 yards, five have happened in the last four years. Only one player has thrown for seven touchdowns in a game since Tittle’s masterpiece, and none since the AFL and NFL merged leagues.

Here’s a look at the 13 500-yard games in NFL history. Note that passing for 500 yards is not necessarily a great thing. Quarterbacks who pass for more than 500 yards are just 7-6 in those 13 games.

  • Norm Van Brocklin (1951) – 554 (W 54-14)
  • Warren Moon (1990) – 527 (W 27-10)
  • Boomer Esiason (1996) – 522 (W 37-34)
  • Dan Marino (1988) – 521 (L 30-44)
  • Matthew Stafford (2011) – 520 (L 41-45)
  • Tom Brady (2011) – 517 (W 38-24)
  • Phil Simms (1985) – 513 (L 30-35)
  • Eli Manning (2012) – 510 (W 41-34)
  • Drew Brees (2006) – 510 (L 16-31)
  • Vince Ferragamo (1982) – 509 (L 26-34)
  • Y.A. Tittle (1962) – 505 (W 49-34)
  • Elvis Grbac (2000) – 504 (L 31-49)
  • Ben Roethlisberger (2009) – 503 (W 37-36)

Despite taking his team to three straight NFL title games, Tittle was never able to lead New York to the ultimate victory.

And in the 50 years since Tittle’s Game for the Ages, the Giants won four NFL championships between Simms and Manning (Jeff Hostetler played in New York’s 1990 Super Bowl).

But don’t feel bad for old Yelberton Abraham, who was elected into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1971, largely on the strength of his three amazing seasons in Gotham.

His game on October 28, 1962, also helped cement his status as a gridiron god.