Birthday Games in the NFL
Baltimore's Tandon Doss returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown in Week 3 of the 2013 NFL season, giving SI.com a reason to dust off this gallery of players active as of last year who have had the opportunity to play on their birthdays. Here's a look at how the Birthday Boys fared -- 2013 achievements listed first, then alphabetically thereafter.
The Chiefs' kicker was good on four of five field goal attempts and kicked two PATS on the day that he turned 27, helping Kansas City to a 26-16 victory over Philadelphia. In his only other Birthday Game, back in 2010, he made three field goals and one PAT in a 16-14 win over Cleveland.
David Akers is the king of Birthday Games, having played in three in his 16-year career. None had a more painful ending than in 2007, when his 57-yard field goal attempt with a second remaining bounced off the goal post in a 16-13 loss to the New York Giants. The kick would have tied a career-long and, more importantly, forced overtime. His other two Birthday Games ended in victory -- he helped Philadelphia defeat San Diego 24-14 in 2001 and San Francisco defeat Miami 27-13 in 2012.
Javier Arenas prides himself on being a return specialist -- he holds the SEC record for career punt return touchdowns with seven -- but he didn't quite live up to his reputation in his only NFL Birthday Game. Arenas lost the handle on this punt, leading to an Oakland recovery at the 11 and a touchdown three plays later as the Raiders broke a 6-6 tie and went on to win 26-16.
Ask Jonathan Babineaux (No. 95) what he remembers about his only Birthday Game and he'll tell you about running joyously down the field after this last-second, game-winning 48-yard field goal by Jason Elam in a 22-20 miracle comeback over the Bears. Chicago had scored with 11 seconds left to take a 20-19 lead, but Atlanta got a 10-yard kickoff return and 26-yard completion to set up Elam with one second left. Babineaux, who turned 28 that day, had three tackles to go with his special teams work.
LeGarrette Blount's 24th birthday marked the second time in his rookie season he ran for more than 100 yards (103 yards on 20 carries and one touchdown). He would break the century mark twice more by season's end, finishing with a rookie-leading 1,007 yards -- only the second time in NFL history that an undrafted back had 1,000 as a rookie.
In his first season with Baltimore and first time playing in the heated Ravens-Steelers rivalry, Anquan Boldin was a key figure in the 17-14 comeback victory. On his 30th birthday, Boldin amassed 68 yards on seven receptions -- two of the catches coming on the game-winning drive. The headlines that day went to T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who reeled in the game-winning touchdown with 32 seconds left, but Boldin left knowing he had done his part in his first and only Birthday Game.
Dez Bryant experienced the least productive day of his 2012 season in his only Birthday Game. Asante Samuel denied the 24-year-old birthday boy of this would-be touchdown reception in Atlanta's 19-13 victory. Bryant would finish with a season-low one catch for 15 yards in the game.
Lance Briggs witnessed two record-setting Chicago moments during his two Birthday Games. While making a team-high 11 tackles in a 38-20 win over the Giants in 2006, he had the pleasure of watching teammate Devin Hester return a missed field goal attempt 108 yards for a touchdown. But during a 10-6 loss to San Francisco in 2009, Briggs saw Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler throw a career-high five interceptions. For his part, Briggs made a team-high 12 tackles and had an interception taken away by penalty in the loss to San Francisco.
In a game in which the lawn sprinklers came on between plays in the third quarter, Dan Carpenter kick-started his 27th birthday celebration by nailing this game-winning, 43-yard field goal as time expired. It enabled the Dolphins to defeat Russell Wilson and Seattle as Miami scored 17 points in the final 8:08.
Jamaal Charles had received an early birthday present in November when the Chiefs released problematic starting running back Larry Johnson for, among other things, using a gay slur on Twitter. In Johnson's absence, Charles carried the ball 24 times for 102 yards on his 23rd birthday -- a 17-10 loss to Cincinnati. It was the third consecutive 100-yard game for Charles and set the stage for a franchise record-breaking 259-yard outing the following week.
Tashard Choice couldn't have had a more awkward 27th birthday. The Cowboys had put him on waivers 22 days earlier. Their archrival, Washington, snapped him up <italics>and</italics> had him on the field against the Cowboys on his only Birthday Game. He carried the ball six times for seven yards, and the Redskins cut him two days later. Not exactly the greatest of birthday weeks.
Nate Clements has played on his birthday twice and celebrated both by coming up with an interception. In 2010, on his 31st birthday, he was one of the four 49ers who picked off Matt Hasselbeck in a 40-21 victory over Seattle. In 2004, on his 25th, he intercepted Cleveland starter Luke McCown during a 37-7 Buffalo win.
Green Bay tight end Tom Crabtree didn't catch many passes in 2012 -- just eight -- but on Nov. 4, his 27th birthday, he was on the receiving end of one of the Packers' longest plays of a season. Crabtree's 72-yard touchdown catch helped Green Bay defeat Arizona 31-17.
In his only Birthday Game, Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz had one of the most forgettable days of his 2012 season. Cruz, who turned 26, matched his age in receiving yards (26 yards on three catches) in New York's 31-13 loss to Cincinnati. Worse, he dropped what would have been a 38-yard touchdown pass.
In the only NFL game he's played on his birthday, Joe Flacco was intercepted twice and threw for only 189 yards as the Ravens lost a divisional playoff game 20-3 at Indianapolis.
This facemark infraction by Drayton Florence on his 30th birthday gave Brandon Marshall and the Dolphins a first down at the six, from which they scored two plays later. The Bills still won 17-14, giving Florence a 2-0 record in his Birthday Games -- the first was a 21-0 victory over Cleveland in 2004, when the cornerback played for the Chargers.
On the day Raider Nation turned out in force to pay tribute to the late Al Davis, free safety and birthday boy Matt Giordano fed off that emotion to make the only sack in his now eight-year career. His takedown of Colt McCoy came on the first offensive series of a game in which the Raiders won 24-17.
Cedric Griffin (No. 23, below) had a horrible 25th birthday. He and teammate Darren Sharper allowed one embarrassing touchdown when they collided in the end zone and the ball bounced into Ruvell Martin's hands. Adding insult to injury, the 34-0 loss still stands as the only time in Griffin's 89-game career that he's been on a team that was held scoreless.
Roman Harper ruined his 26th birthday by getting flagged for this interference against Devin Hester on the fifth snap of overtime. The penalty put the ball at the 15, where Robbie Gould kicked the game-winning field goal two plays later in Chicago's 24-21 victory. Harper's second Birthday Game turned out much better -- a 22-17 win over Tennessee, in which he made six tackles.
Aaron Hernandez was on his way to having a pretty good 22nd birthday until the Giants had to go and ruin things -- again. For starters, the Patriots were playing at home, where they hadn't lost in 20 regular-season games, and this five-yard Hernandez TD reception had just forged a 10-10 tie early in the fourth quarter. But similiar to Super Bowl XLII, Eli Manning threw the deciding TD pass in the final minute, this time a one-yarder to Jake Ballard with 15 seconds left, giving the Giants a 24-20 win.
Johnny Knox burned Chris Houston for this second-quarter touchdown on the cornerback's 25th birthday, but Chris got the last laugh as the Falcons won 21-14. The Bears were six yards away from a tying touchdown with 34 seconds left, but Jay Cutler threw incomplete to Desmond Clark on fourth down.
The Giants fullback known affectionately as "Hank the Tank," "Hynoceros," "Polish Hammer" and other monikers, scored the first touchdown of his career on his only Birthday Game, a 42-7 New York win over Philadelphia on the day he turned 24. Hynoski made the one-yard reception against Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, giving Eli Manning a single-game career-high five touchdown passes.
DeSean Jackson's infamous "Bruh, I am not answering those questions" video was born from the Eagles-Seahawks Thursday night game on his 25th birthday. On a night when he caught four passes for 34 yards, and watched Kam Chancellor intercept this pass, Jackson was quizzed postgame on whether he and quarterback Vince Young had a sideline spat during the loss. Upset with the line of questioning, Jackson eventually turned his back on the media.
It hurts to lose in the postseason, but it's even worse to do so on your birthday, as Vincent Jackson learned on his 24th. With the Chargers at the time, and looking to have his third straight game with a touchdown reception, Jackson caught two passes for 43 yards in a 24-21 home loss to the Patriots. San Diego had entered the divisional round game with the league's best record, 14-2.
On his 25th birthday and in Aaron Rodgers' third game as the starting quarterback for Green Bay, Greg Jennings caught a team-high eight passes for 115 yards (a 27-16 home loss to Dallas). It was a sign of good things to come as Jennings would finish the year with a career-high 80 catches and a career-high 1,292 receiving yards.
In 2012, the Titans became the first team in NFL history to score five touchdowns of 60-plus yards in the same game. Amazingly, Chris Johnson wasn't the hero on any of them in Tennessee's 44-41 overtime victory over Detroit. In fact, on his 27th birthday, it took the mercurial running back 14 attempts to amass his 24-yard total that day -- an average of 1.7 yards per carry.
On his 27th birthday and only Birthday Game, Dustin Keller helped Mark Sanchez set his career-high in passing yards (369 in a 34-24 loss to Oakland). Keller caught five balls for 87 yards that day, en route to his best season in the NFL (65 receptions, 815 yards).
Eli Manning has played on his birthday once, losing 44-7 to Brett Favre (four TD passes) and the Vikings on a day when Eli completed 17 of 23 passes for 141 yards and one interception. The Giants lost for the eighth time in 11 games and missed the playoffs. It was the worst passing yardage game of the year for Eli, who was replaced by David Carr in the second half.
Before Ben Roethlisberger was knocked unconscious in the third quarter by a helmet-to-helmet hit from Atlanta's Chauncey Davis, Heath Miller had a touchdown catch to his credit on his 24th birthday. Neither he nor the Steelers were in a celebratory mood afterwards as they lost 41-38 in overtime on a day when Michael Vick threw four TD passes and Morten Andersen booted the game winner.
Ben Obomanu has enjoyed two 100-yard receiving days in his 66-game career. The most recent just happened to be on his only Birthday Game. With Tavaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst at quarterback, Obomanu caught four balls for 107 yards in a 34-12 loss to Cincinnati. (His career-high is 159 against K.C., in '10.)
Denver had lost the four games immediately preceding Kyle Orton's lone Birthday Game, and it lost the next five after that day, too. But on the day Orton turned 28, he threw a career-high four touchdown passes in a 49-29 win over Kansas City.
In his 11 years in the NFL, Carson Palmer has had only one Birthday Game, and it was bittersweet. He threw two touchdown passes in a 17-10 victory over Kansas City that clinched a playoff spot for the Bengals for the second time in 19 years. However, the game was played only five days after the team had flown to Louisiana to bury former teammate Chris Henry, and hearts were understandably still heavy.
In his only Birthday Game, Julius Peppers (90) received one of the best presents an NFL player can wish for -- a trip to the Super Bowl. The second-year defensive end made two tackles in a 14-3 win over Philadelphia in the NFC Championship game. Carolina would go on to lose to New England in one of the best Super Bowls ever -- 32-29.
A New Year's Day birthday boy, Jason Pierre-Paul celebrated his 22nd with five tackles, including a sack of Tony Romo, as the New York Giants won the NFC East in an all-or-nothing game against Dallas, 31-14. New York would go on to win the Super Bowl that season.
Ed Reed set an NFL record on his 33rd birthday. With his two interceptions of Ben Roethlisberger, Reed became the first player whose career began in the Super Bowl era to have at least two interceptions in 12 games. That broke a tie with Ronnie Lott at 11 each. Reed's first Birthday Game was uneventful by comparison, a three-tackle performance in a 24-7 loss to the Colts in 2005.
A Baltimore win over New England on his 25th birthday would have sent Ray Rice to his first Super Bowl. He didn't exactly help matters with his meager 67 yards on 21 carries and one reception for 11 yards. Nor did Lee Evans, who dropped a pass in the end zone, nor Billy Cundiff, whose errant 32-yard field goal attempt with 15 seconds left prevented the game from going into overtime.
Aaron Rodgers got one of his favorite receivers back on his 29th birthday -- Greg Jennings returned after missing seven weeks with an injury -- and both Green Bay stars had the misfortune of watching Adrian Peterson shred the Packers defense for 210 rushing yards. But Mr. Rodgers wasn't too shabby himself in his only Birthday Game, completing 27 of 35 passes for 286 yards with one touchdown and one interception as Green Bay came out of top, 23-14.
Excuse Antrel Rolle if he never wants another Birthday Game. He's played in two and lost both -- the first a 31-24 Arizona loss to New Orleans in 2007, in which he made six tackles, and the second a 34-0 loss to Atlanta in 2012, when the defending Super Bowl champion Giants were shutout in a regular season game for the first time since 1996. Rolle (26) was credited with one measly assisted tackle in the blowout, and whiffed on this attempted takedown of Harry Douglas.
Mark Sanchez might just as well want to forget his 22nd birthday. In his first NFL game with his former college coach on the opposite sideline, Sanchez completed only 9 of 22 passes for 124 yards with one interception, one lost fumble and no TDs as the Jets lost 24-7 to Pete Carroll's Seahawks. (<italics>We're almost certain Carroll is saying,</italics> <italics>See, I told you you weren't ready yet, son.</italics>)
Ernie Sims spent his 28th birthday dealing with concussion-like symptons for the second consecutive game. The linebacker had been helped off the field the previous week (pictured) against Pittsburgh, and came off the field early against New Orleans, too, after making a pair of tackles. The Cowboys eventually lost that contest 24-21 in overtime, but Sims was back for the season ender against Washington and has been re-signed by Dallas for the 2013 season. In Sims' first Birthday Game, back in 2007, he made five tackles in Detroit's 25-20 victory over Kansas City.
Justin Smith spent his 33rd birthday teeing off on Mark Sanchez and recovering this fumble during a 34-0 victory. The defensive end notched the first sack of his career on his first Birthday Game, a takedown of Doug Flutie in 2001.
Takeo Spikes famously posted on his Instagram account last year a photo (inset) of the $36 his mother sent him for his 36th birthday. One can only assume he received similar gifts on the week of his two Birthday Games. The first was in 2000, when Neil Rackers kicked a 27-yard field goal as time expired to give Cleveland a 17-14 victory over Jacksonville. The second was in 2006, when Spikes had six tackles for Buffalo in a 21-0 win over Miami. Of course, as has been the case with all of Spikes' birthdays during his 15-year NFL tenure, they've been followed by December disappointment. His 219 games without nary a playoff appearance tops all active players.
Seven-year veteran linebacker Darryl Tapp has been on the winning end of four shutouts in his career, including a Birthday Game 28-0 performance against Mark Bulger and the Rams. Tapp had three tackles on his 25th birthday.
On a day when Drew Brees threw five touchdown passes in a 42-20 victory over Minnesota, Pierre Thomas celebrated his birthday by scoring the Saints final TD -- a one-yard run to cap a time-consuming 19-play, 87-yard drive.
Osi Umenyiora got the first start of his NFL career in his only Birthday Game. The 22-year-old rookie out of Troy (No. 72) couldn't stop Brian Westbrook from scoring on this play, though, and was credited with only one tackle in the 28-10 loss to the Eagles.
After losing his first five games as a rookie, Brandon Weeden earned his first NFL career victory on the day that he turned 29. Weeden threw two touchdown passes in the 34-24 win over Cincinnati, helping to snap an 11-game Browns losing streak that dated to the 2011 season.
Roddy White has had the rare opportunity of having his birthday fall on a game day in consecutive years. On his 28th, he pulled in four passes for 108 yards, including this 68-yard TD in a 35-27 loss to New Orleans. On his 27th, he caught five passes for 54 yards in a 24-0 win over Oakland.
In Adriann Wilson's first Birthday Game, back in 2003, his Cardinals lost 26-18 to Baltimore. But his teammates enabled him to enjoy his 29th birthday when Sean Morey blocked this Mat McBriar punt in overtime and Monty Beisel (52) returned the ball three yards for a touchdown in the 30-24 home win over Dallas.
LaMarr Woodley (No. 56) has had one Birthday Game in his six-year career, a Monday nighter in Washington, D.C., on the eve of the presidential election. Woodley had two of Pittsburgh's seven sacks of Jason Campbell and five total tackles in the 23-6 win.
Charles Woodson went nine seasons without playing a single Birthday Game, and then played two in six years -- losing both. In the first, he coughed up one of the Packers three lost fumbles while returning a punt. That led to a field goal that tied the game at 20-20 before Chicago won 27-20. In the most recent, a 30-27 loss to Andrew Luck and the Colts, he and the Green Bay defense couldn't stop Indy from going 80 yards in 13 plays, capped by a four-yard Reggie Wayne TD reception with 39 seconds remaining.