Highlighting the most important, bizarre, strange, interesting and historic stats from this week in the NFL.
Numbers and statistics are unquestionably a huge part of the game. Any game, for that matter.
Some fall on the sabermetric side of things, while others like to keep it simple and use the ol' eyeball test. In the football world, that means total offense, total defense and points scored versus points per play and defensive efficiency ratings. Rational and logical arguments can be made for the legitimacy and relevance of both sides of the stats spectrum.
With that in mind, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from Week 15 of the NFL season:
23: Russell Wilson's record wins by a QB in his first two seasons
During the Super Bowl era, no quarterback has ever won more games in his first two seasons as a starter than Seattle's Russell Wilson. Wilson's Seahawks handled the Giants with ease in East Rutherford on Sunday 23-0, moving their NFC-best record to 12-2. After an 11-5 record in 2012, Wilson now boasts a 23-7 record as a starter in just under two full seasons as the starting quarterback in Seattle. The Seahawks are the only team in the NFC to have clinched a playoff spot. Ben Roethlisberger owned the previous NFL record with 22 wins.
9: Miami's league-leading TDs in the final two minutes of a half
In a critical win over division foe New England, Ryan Tannehill did his best Tom Brady impersonation by leading the Dolphins down the field to take the lead 24-20 with just over a minute to play. The Dolphins beat the Patriots for the first time since 2009 when Tannehill connected with Marcus Thigpen with 1:15 left in the fourth quarter. He did the same thing at the end of the first half when he found Mike Wallace for a 39-yard touchdown strike with only 32 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Miami now leads the NFL with nine touchdowns scored in the final two minutes of a half — of six of which are Tannehill touchdown passes. He also has a league-leading 17 scoring drives that began with less than five minutes left to play in a half. The win not only puts Miami in great wild card position but actually keeps it alive in the AFC East race as well.
1: Players who've scored four receiving TDs and a rushing TD in a game
Jamaal Charles and Alex Smith rolled through the Oakland Raiders 56-31 on Sunday to clinch a playoff spot in the AFC. Charles rushed just eight times for 20 yards but accomplished something no player in the NFL has ever done. He is the first player in history to catch four touchdown passes and score a rushing touchdown in the same game. His five touchdowns are tied for fourth-most in NFL history because three players — Ernie Nevers (1929), Dub Jones (1951) and Gale Sayers (1965) — own the NFL record with six touchdowns in a game.
2: Saints takeaways in the last seven games
In the first seven games of the season, the Saints had 15 takeaways and boasted a 6-1 record. After losing to the Rams 27-17 without forcing a turnover or generating a sack, the Saints dropped to 4-3 over their last seven games. New Orleans has forced just two turnovers during that span. In those three losses, the Saints have turned the ball over six times without creating a single turnover on defense. They are now tied with the Panthers at 10-4 for the NFC South lead with two games to play — including a trip to Carolina next weekend.
34-10: Green Bay outscored Dallas in the second half
The Cowboys entered halftime of a pivotal showdown with an Aaron Rodgers-less Packers in complete control up 26-3. The Packers came storming back behind the running of Eddie Lacy (141 yards) and two Tony Romo interceptions in the final five minutes to outscore the Cowboys 34-10 in the second half. Dallas ran the ball six times in the second half, allowing the Packers to make the improbable 23-point comeback. The Pack now sits a half of a game behind in the NFC North race while the Cowboys missed a chance to tie the Eagles for first place in the East.
45,873: Lowest attendance at Heinz Field
The Steelers jumped out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead over the division-leading Bengals at Heinz Field on Sunday. Pittsburgh held on to win 30-20 despite only 290 yards of offense and going 2-of-10 on third down conversions. No one seemed to notice, however, as the 45,873 in attendance was the smallest in the 13-year history of Heinz Field. Ironically, James Harrison's first game back in the building where he built a reputation as a physical force on defense ended when he left in the first quarter with a concussion.
16.5 and 108: Robert Mathis' Colts single-season and career sack records
The Colts got back on track with an impressive 25-3 home win over division foe Houston. Robert Mathis, a front-runner for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, posted 4.0 total tackles, 1.0 sacks and forced a safety in the win. The sack gave him an NFL-best 16.5 sacks on the season, breaking former teammate and friend Dwight Freeney's Colts franchise single-season and career records. Mathis now has 108 career sacks. Freeney's records were 16 and 107.5 respectively.
93: Rushing yards allowed by Chicago
The Bears welcomed back Jay Cutler and won a huge road game over the Browns by scoring 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. More importantly, however, the embattled Bears' rushing defense played much better by holding Cleveland to just 93 yards rushing. It was the lowest total by any Bears opponent since Week 5 (New Orleans, 64) and it snapped an NFL record six-game streak of allowing a 100-yard rusher. This unit had allowed 234 yards rushing per game over the last three and had allowed 204.1 yards on the ground over the last seven contests.
4-0: Arizona's record against the AFC South, Chicago's record against the AFC North
The Cardinals topped the reeling Titans 37-34 in overtime in Nashville, moving their record to a perfect 4-0 against the AFC South. Earlier on Sunday, Chicago overcame a slow start from quarterback Jay Cutler to come from behind and beat Cleveland 38-31 on the road to finish undefeated (4-0) against the AFC North. Arizona is nipping at the wild card heels of teams like Carolina, San Francisco and New Orleans (one game back), while the Bears (8-6) control their own destiny in a crowded NFC North. If either team ends up in the postseason, their fans can thank their crossover AFC schedule. This marks the first sweep by an NFC team of an AFC division since realignment in 2002.