Welcome to Week 7 of “On the Numbers,” a weekly column which mines for statistical oddities, numerical fun facts and analytics observations from around the NFL.
Feats of Strength
The most explosive offensive display of the week came from the Dolphins, who steamrolled the Texans out of the gate and built up a 41–0 halftime lead. They scored not just often but impressively, with three touchdown passes of 50-plus yards, a pick-six and an 85-yard Lamar Miller touchdown run, all in the first half.
Miller ran for 175 yards on 14 carries, an average of 12.5 yards per rush. His 85-yard touchdown scamper obviously skews the average, but it was still a nearly unprecedented day. Miller is just the second player in NFL history ever to rush for that many yards on that few carries. The only player to top him is Maurice Jones-Drew, who ran for 177 yards on only eight carries in 2009 for the Jaguars. But Jones-Drew’s efforts came in a loss, and Miller threw in a 54-yard touchdown reception for good measure. His 236 yards from scrimmage are the most any player has racked up in a game this season. And he’s the first player with 236 yards from scrimmage along with a touchdown on the ground and through the air since Chris Johnson in 2009.
That said, Tannehill’s day did highlight some of the flaws with the quarterback rating formula. Sometimes it can be hard to determine how much credit should go to the QB and how much should go to the receiver. In Tannehill’s case, he owes a great deal of his yardage total to Miller and Jarvis Landry’s ability to run after the catch.
But Tannehill did have an efficient day, setting an NFL record for most consecutive completions along the way. He also joins Bob Griese as the only Dolphins to record a perfect QB rating in a game (minimum 10 attempts), with Dan Marino notably absent from the list. So regardless of how you feel about QB rating, we won’t knock the guy who is running the controls for the suddenly surging Dolphins, now back to 3–3 after kicking off the Dan Campbell era with two straight wins.
Leaderboard Movers frequently celebrates players climbing up various all-time leaderboards, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see Tom Brady land in this section. But this week’s commendation has nothing to do with his arm—it’s time to talk about Tom Brady, the rusher.
Brady ran four times Sunday for 15 yards (aided by one 11-yard scramble that was, uh, not graceful) and a touchdown. It’s the first time ever that he has led the Patriots in rushing, though that may say more about the Patriots’ backfield and the Jets’ defense.
Brady now has 842 career rushing yards, moving him into 684th place on the NFL’s rushing list since the merger, passing such luminaries as Brian Leonard and Ryan Moats.
More importantly, the touchdown was the 16th of Brady’s career, which helps him surpass players like Earnest Graham and Ladell Betts, pulling level with guys like Kevin Faulk and Bo Jackson. Yes, that one.
It may be hard to believe, but Brady now has as many career rushing touchdowns as the great Bo Jackson. How they’ve gone about it, of course, has been a bit different. Below is a side-by-side comparison of their 16 touchdowns, sorted from longest to shortest.
As you can see, more than half of Brady’s have been from one yard out (though oftentimes calling them a full yard is actually generous). On the other end of the spectrum, half of Jackson’s are from farther away from the end zone than Brady’s career long. In fact, Brady’s 16 touchdown runs total 35 yards, and Jackson had a handful of touchdown runs eclipse that number.
Brady’s status as maybe the best QB sneaker ever is already an underrated part of his overall skill set and legacy. And fine, he might not quite run like Bo Jackson. But they’ve run the ball into the end zone the same number of times, and it’s been yet another weapon for Brady throughout the Patriots’ run of dominance.
Great Moments in Vegas
Speaking of that Patriots–Jets game, the Patriots opened as 10-point favorites in some books, though that number was quickly bet down thanks to gamblers putting money on the Jets. The Pats were -9 in the Westgate SuperBook’s well-known SuperContest, which freezes its lines on Wednesday. So when Rob Gronkowski scored with 1:13 left to extend the Patriots’ lead to 29–20, there were plenty of people holding their breath as Stephen Gostkowski made a big extra point for a 10-point lead.
But things didn’t end there.
The line kept moving throughout the week as more bettors put money on the Jets (Jets +9 was actually the most popular pick in the SuperContest). Several books closed with the Jets at +7, and the Westgate actually closed with them as +6.5. So when the Jets trailed by 10, needing two scores and an onside kick, many people in Vegas were quite interested when they opted to kick the field goal first.
Nick Folk’s 55-yard field goal (which was pushed back five yards after a false start) with 18 seconds to go brought the game to its 30–23 final score. The Jets didn’t quite do enough to save anyone who grabbed Jets +6.5 just before kickoff, but they saved many, many gamblers who were holding numbers anywhere from Jets +7 to +10.
If you’re a fan of garbage time scoring (and sure, who isn’t?), then the Chargers put on a display for you. Through three quarters, the Raiders had dominated in building a 37–6 lead. But rarely has a team scored more points as meaninglessly as the Chargers did in winning the fourth quarter 23–0.
This was the 46th time since 1940 that a team won the fourth quarter by a shutout of at least 23 points, and it was just the third time that team still managed to lose. Here’s a breakdown of how those 46 games played out:
Took the lead to win
Extended a lead to win
Forced a tie
The last time this happened, the 2006 Giants trailed the Seahawks 42–3 going into the fourth quarter before a 27–0 final frame made the score look much closer (though according to Pro Football Reference, the Seahawks’ win probability never dropped below 99.9%).
But Philip Rivers at 350.3 yards per game is on pace to break Peyton Manning’s record of 5,477 yards, and many of his fantasy owners are very thankful today for the late outburst that included three touchdown passes.
As for the Raiders, who actually won that game, they are 3–3 and in the AFC playoff hunt. The fourth quarter run sent their point differential for the season back below zero to minus-9. The Raiders haven’t finished a season with a positive point differential since 2010, the first of back-to-back 8–8 seasons. That year was also the only time the Raiders finished with a positive point differential since their 2002 Super Bowl season. But something tells me the only number they care about is the 3–3 record.
Josh McCown completed 24 of 36 passes for 270 yards as the Browns mustered just six points in a loss to the Rams. His average dropped to 281.0 yards per game, though that is still eighth in the NFL. Here’s a partial listing of quarterbacks with fewer yards per game:
That’s an interesting list to see behind McCown, who is 1–5 as a starter and had previously never topped 230 yards per game in a season.
But while we’re [sort of] on the subject, remember to be careful with all counting stats this time of year. Fourteen out of 32 teams have had their bye week, so look at per-game averages and be wary of game broadcasts or articles listing leaders in yards, touchdowns, sacks, etc.
Be a skeptic, because somebody might try to convince you of something crazy. You know, like Tom Brady being as good a touchdown rusher as Bo Jackson.