A few more statistical stars – some of them secret statistical stars – from the 2011 NFL season:
● DE Jared Allen, Vikings – Allen’s 22 sacks were just a half-sack off the NFL record set by Michael Strahan in 2001. (And the mark might be his if the opposing quarterback had been nice enough to take a dive for him in the final game – the way Brett Favre did for Strahan that year.) Another Allen factoid: He’s racked up 105 sacks in his 20s. The only NFL player who’s had more is Reggie White (108). The Cowboy’s DeMarcus Ware is next with 99.5, followed by Derrick Thomas (98), Richard Dent (93), Simeon Rice (93) and Bruce Smith (92). Who knew Allen and Ware were so well positioned to take a run at Smith’s all-time sack record (200)?
● CB Patrick Peterson, Cardinals – As a rookie, Peterson returned four punts for touchdowns, tying the NFL record shared by the Bears’ Devin Hester (2007), Broncos great Rick Upchurch (1976) and Lions Hall of Famer Jack Christiansen (1951). He also accomplished a much less noticed feat: In Week 9 against the Rams, he ran back a punt for a touchdown and had an interception in the same game, something that has been done just three times in the last decade. (The punt return TD, a 99-yarder, came in overtime, no less.) All in all, a pretty eventful first season for the kid.
● CB Charles Woodson, Packers – Woodson has had an unusual career, you have to admit. Consider: He made the Pro Bowl his first four seasons (1998-2001), didn’t make it the next six seasons (2002-2007), but has made it all four seasons since (2008-2011). This second life has included 37 interceptions since he turned 30, more than anybody in NFL history except Rod Woodson (39). And since Charles is still “just” 35, he should pass Rod sooner or later – probably sooner. The rest of the top five on the Geriatric Interception List, by the way, are Dave Brown (37), Darrell Green (34) and Dick LeBeau (30).
● Wes Welker, Patriots, and Victor Cruz, Giants – Welker had 1,569 receiving yards this season; Cruz had 1,536. Those are the third- and fifth-highest totals of all time by wideouts who weren’t drafted. Click here to see the company they keep.
Welker also has caught 554 passes the last five seasons. Only Marvin Harrison (563, 1999-2003) has caught more in a five-year stretch. Indeed, just two other receivers have caught 500: Jerry Rice (524, 1992-96) and Cris Carter (515, 1993-97).
Cruz, meanwhile, became just the sixth NFL wideout to total 1,500 receiving yards and average 18 yards a catch (18.7 to be exact). Those who did it before him:
2000 Torry Holt, Cardinals – 1,635 yards, 19.9 average.
1986 Jerry Rice, 49ers – 1,570, 18.3.
1984 Roy Green, Cardinals – 1,555, 19.9.
1965 Lance Alworth, Chargers – 1,602, 23.2.
1961 Charley Hennigan, Houston Oilers – 1,746, 21.3.
(Not a bad neighborhood.)
● Fourteen tight ends had 750 or more receiving yards – and one of them was suspended for the last four games. (Guess who.) The Patriots had two of the 14: Rob Gronkowski (1,327, a new high for tight ends) and Aaron Hernandez (910). Heck, a decade ago, only two tight ends in the entire league had 750 receiving yards (Tony Gonzalez 917, Shannon Sharpe 811).
● Finally, the Broncos’ first-round playoff win over the Steelers produced a couple of rare performances. For starters, Tim Tebow threw for 316 yards on just 10 completions. It was the most passing yards by a quarterback with 10 or fewer completions since the Chargers’ John Hadl in 1968.
Then there’s Tebow’s main target, Demaryius Thomas. He had 204 receiving yards on a mere four catches. The only other receivers since 1960 who have gained 200 yards on that few grabs are the Eagles’ DeSean Jackson last season against the Cowboys (4/210) and the Redskins’ Gary Clark in the ‘91 Super Bowl year against the Falcons (4/203). (Gary could have had more, too, but he kept running into the end zone.)