NFL Record-Breaking Moments of 2011
The Saints led by 22 late in their Week 16 game with the Falcons, but Brees, closing in on Dan Marino's single-season record of 5,084 passing yards, kept throwing. He broke the record on a nine-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles with 2:51 left and finished the season with 5,476 yards, crushing the 27-year-old mark. Brees also broke his own record for completion percentage (71.6) and Peyton Manning's year-old record for completions in a season (468).
The Raiders narrowly missed the postseason, leaving Oakland fans to wonder what could have been if the Raiders had not shot themselves in the foot so often. Oakland set an NFL record with 163 penalties for 1,358 yards in 2011. Both records had been held by the 1998 Chiefs.
Few assumed a field goal kicker would prove to be the best pickup of last year's free agency. But the 49ers' David Akers made a strong claim for that honor with a season full of breaking records. Akers set NFL records for field goals made (44) and field goals attempted (50). He also became the leading scorer in a single season in 49ers history with 166 points, breaking Jerry Rice's record of 138 set back in 1987. His season total ranks 4th in NFL history.
Plain and simple, Aaron Rodgers had one of the best seasons for a quarterback, ever. Rodgers set a new record for passer rating with a mark of 122.5. He threw for 4,643 yards, passing for 45 touchdowns and a mere six interceptions. He is the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 4,000 yards with six or fewer interceptions in a single season.
`Gronk' skipped his normal post-touchdown spike when he thought he set the record for most receiving touchdowns by a tight end on Dec. 4. One problem: His third score of the day -- on a swing pass -- was ruled a rushing score. No worries. The Patriots tight end wound up with 17 receiving touchdowns, four better than the previous record. He also set a new mark with 1,327 receiving yards -- narrowly beating out New Orleans' tight end Jimmy Graham (1,310) in topping Kellen Winslow's 31-year-old record (1,290).
Skeptics wondered how quickly the No. 1 pick would adjust to running an NFL offense, but the Panthers' rookie wasted no time in showing his ability to make plays through the air. Newton threw for 422 yards in his first game, a record for a rookie debut. He slowed some after a hot start, but he still broke Peyton Manning's rookie record with 4,051 yards passing.
The Titans' kicker set an NFL-record by making a field goal of 40 yards or more in 10 consecutive games, a streak that is still active heading into 2012. Bironas broke the previous record of eight games -- held by Morten Anderson and Jeff Wilkins -- by drilling a 51-yarder in the first quarter against the Jaguars on Dec. 24.
The speedy running back and return man excelled in his role for the Saints' record-breaking offense. Sproles finished with 2,695 all-purpose yards, five more than Titans' wide receiver Derrick Mason had in 2000. Sproles ended up with 603 rushing yards, 710 receiving yards (on 86 catches) and 10 total touchdowns.
Brady's record-breaking streak of 358 consecutive passes without an interception ended with a tipped ball that was picked off in a Week 1 win over the Dolphins. But in that game, he tied a record with a 99-yard touchdown pass to Wes Welker. Brady finished the year with 5,235 passing yards, better than Marino's previous record but short of Brees' new single-season mark.
New Orleans Saints
With Drew Brees having a record-setting individual season, it makes sense that New Orleans' offense was historically prolific as a whole. The Saints finished with 7,474 yards of offense; 5,347 yards passing; and 416 first downs, all new NFL bests.
Packers vs. Lions, Week 17
Green Bay and Detroit combined for a Week 17 shootout that set an NFL record with a combined 971 passing yards. The surprise? The Packers were piloted by backup Matt Flynn, who subbed for MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers. Flynn tossed 480 yards and six touchdowns in a 45-41 win. Detroit's Matthew Stafford passed for 520 yards and five touchdowns. The effort broke the previous mark of 906 yards set in Week 1 by the Patriots and Dolphins.
His receiving numbers dropped this season, but in Week 17, the long-time Pittsburgh receiver took a shovel pass from Ben Roethlisberger for his 1,000th career catch. Ward is the first Steelers' player and eighth NFL player to surpass the 1,000-catch mark. In 2011, Ward also samba-ed his way to the Dancing with the Stars crown.
The Steelers receiver didn't lead his team in catches, yards or touchdowns, but he did do something that had never been done in the NFL: Rack up at least 1,000 receiving yards (1,108) and 1,000 return yards (1,062) in the same year. Brown also set the franchise record for all purpose yards with 2,111, breaking the mark set by running back Barry Foster in 1992.