Some football games demand closer inspection – the Patriots’ 59-0 keelhauling of the Titans, for instance. Talk about a Statistical Extravaganza. Consider:
1. The Patriots’ Tom Brady threw five touchdown passes in the second quarter and another early in the third before exiting with more than 25 minutes left.
Which got me thinking: The five TD passes in one quarter is – as everyone knows by now – an NFL record. But could Brady, in his second quarter for the ages, also have tied the record for TD passes in a half? Has anybody ever thrown more than five? (Remember: The record for an entire game is seven.)
After poring over a stack of reference books (and availing myself of the archives at pro-football-reference.com), I was surprised to learn that the answer is yes. On Oct. 19, 1969, the Raiders’ Daryle Lamonica threw for six first-half touchdowns in a 50-21 bludgeoning of the Bills. And he nearly had a seventh, too. On the last play before halftime, he hit Drew Buie for a 37-yard gain, but Buie was driven out of bounds at the Buffalo 6.
(Why don’t I have any memory of this? Lamonica almost tied the single-game mark in a half! Unbelievable.)
To those spoilsports who would say, “That wasn’t an NFL game; it was an American Football League game,” I would reply: AFL records have been recognized by the NFL since the leagues merged. And besides, the AFL won the Super Bowl that season (Chiefs 23, Vikings 7).
2. New England finished with 426 net passing yards to Tennessee’s minus-7 – a 433-yard edge in the passing game. Could that be a record?
Nope. Not even close. In 1951, when Norm Van Brocklin set a mark that still stands by throwing for 554 yards against the Baltimore Colts, his Los Angeles Rams enjoyed a 491-yard passing edge (554 to 63). That’s 58 more than the Patriots.
3. The Pats put up 59 points in the first three quarters before sending in the clowns. Has any team ever scored more in the first 45 minutes?
Answer: Yup. But it isn’t who you’d expect. It isn’t the Bears club that beat the Redskins 73-0 in the 1940 title game. (Chicago was up “only” 54-0 heading into the final quarter.) And it isn’t the Redskins club that beat the Giants 72-41 in a 1966 regular season game. (In that one, it was Washington 48, New York 28 after three quarters.)
No, it’s the 1950 L.A. Rams, who – how quickly we forget – averaged more points per game than any team in NFL history (38.8). In a 65-24 lacing of the Lions that year, the Rams did all their scoring in the first three quarters.
4. OK, then what about this: Usually when a club racks up a big point total, there are some defensive scores in there. In the 73-0 game, the Bears ran back three interceptions for touchdowns. In the 72-41 game, the Redskins had three returns for TDs (fumble, punt, INT). The New England defense didn’t score at all. Has any club ever scored 59 points in a game without any help from its ‘D’?
Answer: As much as it pains me … yeah. In 1949, the Chicago Cardinals battered the New York Bulldogs 65-20 and didn’t have a single defensive touchdown. Their scores came on six passes, three runs and a field goal. (They missed one of their nine extra point attempts).
I don’t know about you, but I’m stunned. I was sure the Patriots’ megablowout – and Brady’s exploits – would break a fair number of records (and perhaps even a few hidden marks). But try as I might, I can’t come up with any.
So we’ll have to settle for Brady’s five TD passes in a single quarter. He threw them in a span of 9 minutes, 44 seconds, by the way, which still sounds impossible. (FYI: Lamonica, back in ’69, threw five in a 12:58 stretch of the first and second quarters.)
To put this in perspective, the great Johnny Unitas never threw that many TD passes in a game, never mind a quarter.
Neither did Roger Staubach or Otto Graham. Sonny Jurgensen’s career high was five. (The same goes for Terry Bradshaw, John Elway, Troy Aikman, Fran Tarkenton, Warren Moon, Boomer Esiason and John Brodie, among others.)
Kurt Warner’s biggest day, TD-wise: five. Donovan McNabb’s biggest: five.
It was quite the 10 minutes for Mr. Brady, all right. And I suppose I’ll leave it at that.