NFL football is the greatest reality TV program of all time. The Giants and Colts made sure of that back in 1958. Each NFL fall weekend is a completely new and original experience for every player, fan and coach alike. New stories, new personalities, new winners and new losers. And new statistics.
Here are the most important, most intriguing and most bizarre statistics from the NFL Divisonal Playoff games:
181:Rushing yards by Colin Kaepernick, the most ever by a quarterback in an NFL game
Playoff jitters? What playoff jitters? Kaepernick rose to the occasion and then some Saturday night against Green Bay in his first career playoff game, gashing the Packers for 181 yards on 16 carries (11.3 ypc) and two touchdowns in the 49ers’ 45-31 win. The second-year signal caller out of Nevada set a new rushing standard for NFL quarterbacks, breaking Michael Vick’s previous single-game record of 173 from 2002. And he did this in his first-ever playoff game! Kaepernick also did plenty of damage with his arm, as he passed for 263 yards and two scores. As a team, the 49ers piled up 579 yards of offense, the most they’ve ever gained in a playoff game, including 323 yards rushing.
17: Career postseason victories for Tom Brady, the most by a starting quarterback in NFL history
With New England’s 41-28 victory over Houston in the AFC Divisional round on Sunday, Brady passed Joe Montana for the most playoff victories by a starting quarterback. Brady upped his career postseason record to 17-6 (.739), with Montana now in second place at 16-7 (.696). Brady was his usual, solid self against the Texans, completing 25-of-40 passes for 344 yards, three touchdowns, and most importantly, zero turnovers. With a rematch against Baltimore in next Sunday’s AFC Championship game now lined up, Brady is on the verge of laying claim to every major quarterbacking postseason record. Already the record holder for career playoff completions (524 and counting), Brady is currently fourth in passing yards with 5,629, needing just 227 more to pass Peyton Manning (5,679), Montana (5,772) and Brett Favre (5,855) for the all-time lead. Brady also has 41 career postseason touchdowns, trailing only Favre (44) and Montana (45) in that category. Chances are, however, the only record Brady is concerning himself with is his 0-2 mark in the Patriots’ last two Super Bowl appearances. No doubt Brady’s focus won’t be on his own statistics, but rather on beating the Ravens to get another shot at that elusive fourth Super Bowl ring, which would tie Montana and Terry Bradshaw for the most by a starting quarterback in NFL history.
254: Career regular-season games played by Tony Gonzalez before experiencing his first playoff win
Seattle certainly didn’t make things easy, but Gonzalez and his Atlanta teammates got the job done with the Hall of Fame tight end setting up Matt Bryant’s game-winning 49-yard field goal. When Russell Wilson’s Hail Mary attempt landed in Julio Jones’ (helping out on defense for the final play) hands with no time left on the clock, sealing the Falcons’ 30-28 win, the long wait for Gonzalez was finally over. It took 254 regular-season games and five previous playoff losses in his illustrious 16-year career, but he finally was able to enjoy and experience victory in the postseason. While Gonzalez’ postseason drought was the longest among active players, four other Falcon teammates had played in 100 or more career regular-season games without a playoff victory as well. Bryant (147 games, 0-5 in postseason prior), cornerback Dunta Robinson (131, 0-2), wide receiver Roddy White (128, 0-3), and offensive lineman Tyson Clabo (100, 0-3) all had gone more than six regular seasons’ worth of games before experiencing success in the postseason. And there’s also their field general, quarterback Matt Ryan, who got his own playoff monkey off of his back (as did head coach Mike Smith) by getting his first postseason win in his five-year career. Ryan, who had been 0-3 in the playoffs, led the Falcons to a 20-0 halftime lead, only to watch helplessly as Russell Wilson and the Seahawks clawed their way back, taking their first lead of the game on a Marshawn Lynch two-yard touchdown with just 31 seconds remaining. Ryan took over from there, moving the Falcons from their own 28 into field goal territory with two completions in 18 seconds and two timeouts. Fittingly, the last completion from Ryan was a 19-yard hook up with Gonzalez, who then stepped aside for Bryant, who sent Falcons’ fans and teammates all home extremely happy, if not relieved. For what it’s worth, the player who now holds the longest active streak for most career regular-season games played without a playoff victory is Denver strong safety Mike Adams. He has played in 130 career regular-season games and got his first taste of postseason action on Saturday, and left the field on the short end of a 38-35 double overtime thriller.
385: Yards passing for Russell Wilson, an NFL rookie and Seattle franchise record for a playoff game
One of the great careers of all-time will continue for at least one more weekend. Ray Lewis was lost for the remainder of the regular season in Week 6 to a serious left arm injury. The Ravens were 5-1 in the first six weeks before finishing the season 5-5 without their defensive leader. He returned to the field this weekend and played just as big a role on the field as he did in the locker room, finishing with 13 total tackles, one tackle for loss and a pass deflected. The Baltimore defense, which had been reeling the last month of the season, held the Colts' offense scoreless on three trips into the red zone, forced two key turnovers and didn't allow a touchdown all game long. Lewis and Company now head to the Rocky Mountains to battle long-time AFC rival Peyton Manning.
120.0: Joe Flacco’s passer rating in the playoffs
Flacco ran his career playoff record to 7-4 (.636) on the strength of his best postseason performance in leading Baltimore to a come-from-behind, heart-stopping 38-35 win in double overtime over Denver. Flacco, who threw for a career-high 3,817 yards in the regular season with an 87.7 passer rating, has taken his game to another level in the playoffs. In wins over Indianapolis and Denver, Flacco has completed 30-of-57 passes for 613 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. Against the Broncos, Flacco didn’t hesitate to throw it deep, as he connected with Torrey Smith on scoring strikes of 59 and 32 yards to set up the most improbable score of the entire game. Trailing 35-28 with 31 seconds left on the clock and no timeouts, Flacco dropped back on third-and-3 from the Ravens’ 30-yard line and found Jacoby Jones down the sideline for a game-tying 70-yard touchdown that made what had been a raucous home crowd for most of the game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High go into a stunned silence. The Ravens finished the job early in the second overtime period after picking off Peyton Manning, but wouldn’t have even been in that position had it not been for Flacco’s career performance. Next up for Flacco and the Ravens is a rematch in New England in the AFC Championship game. Last year, then-Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff missed a game-tying 32-yard field goal with 11 seconds left, as the Ravens lost 23-20 in gut-wrenching fashion.
12:12: Peyton Manning’s career touchdown-to-interception ratio in his 11 playoff losses
The future Hall of Fame quarterback suffered another crushing postseason loss on Saturday, as his interception late in the first overtime period set up Justin Tucker’s game-winning 47-yard field goal with 13:18 left in double overtime. Manning struggled with his accuracy and connecting with his receivers all game long, as he completed 28-of-43 passes for 290 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. The loss dropped Manning’s career postseason record to 9-11 (.450). Overall, Manning has thrown 32 touchdown passes and 21 interceptions in the postseason, and not surprisingly his numbers are much better in his wins (20:9 TD-to-INT ratio) than his losses (12:12). Given all that Manning overcame and accomplished in his return from missing all of last season, you certainly hope this will not be the final chapter of his postseason legacy.
248: NFL playoff record return yards by Trindon Holliday
Even though Denver lost a heartbreaker to Baltimore in double overtime, it was a game for the history books for Holliday, the Broncos’ kick returner. His first record came on Denver’s opening possession as he returned a Sam Koch punt 90 yards for the first score of the game. Then Holliday took the opening second-half kickoff 104 yards to the end zone, giving him the records for longest punt and kickoff return for touchdowns in playoff history, as well as becoming the first ever to have one of each in the same game. Holliday’s scores were also the first special teams touchdowns allowed by the Ravens all season. All told, Holliday’s 248 yards on six returns (three kickoffs, three punts) topped Desmond Howard’s 244 when he was the MVP of Super Bowl XXXI in 1997 for the most return yards in a postseason game. On another note, this also represented the first loss experienced by Holliday all season. After starting the season with Houston, who won its first five games, Holliday was released and picked up by Denver prior to the Broncos’ Week 6 contest. Denver won that game, went on bye next week and then reeled off 10 more wins, giving Holliday a 16-0 record headed into Saturday’s game against Baltimore.