The image of a quarterback trying to make a tackle, and then failing, after throwing an interception has been seen more than usual this season.
The pick-six has been quite the trend in 2012.
Through the first 13 weeks of the season, teams have combined to score 51 touchdowns on interception returns. In 2001, there were 43 interception-return scores through 12 weeks, which was the previous high, before the league notched 50 in the first 12 weeks this season.
Four players — Bears CB Charles Tillman, Bears LB Lance Briggs, Rams CB Janoris Jenkins and Panthers CB Captain Munnerlyn — have each scored two interception-return touchdowns. Jenkins notched two pick-sixes in the same game in Week 12, a first for a rookie since 1960.
We also saw an NFL-first this year when it comes to returning an interception for six — teammates doing it in back-to-back weeks, when Tillman and Briggs pulled off the feat in Weeks Four and Five.
The big plays by Tillman and Briggs propelled them up the all-time interception-return touchdown list. Here’s a look at the active leaders in career pick-sixes:
1. Packers SS Charles Woodson / 11 — The future Hall of Famer is one interception-return score away from tying Rod Woodson’s all-time mark of 12. Charles Woodson has not played since Week Seven because of a broken collarbone, and he has one interception this season, but was kept out of the endzone. Woodson, whose 55 career interceptions is tied for 19th all-time, returned three interceptions for scores in 2009.
2. Buccaneers FS Ronde Barber / 8 — One of the league’s ironmen — Barber has played in 235 consecutive regular-season games, one behind Redskins LB London Fletcher for the longest active streak — Barber returned a pick 78 yards to the house in Week Six. He has four interceptions on the season, giving him 47 in his career. His pick-six this season was his first since 2008.
T-3. Ravens FS Ed Reed / 7 — There were some questions about whether or not Reed would hold out this season, but he showed up to the start of training camp and got his season off to a hot start, returning an interception 34 yards for a touchdown in Week One. Reed, who has four picks in 2012, is the NFL’s all-time leader in interception-return yards with 1,541, passing Rod Woodson earlier this season. A 106-yard return touchdown in 2004 and a 107-yarder in 2008 certainly helped that stat. Reed is the NFL’s active leader in career interceptions (61).
T-3. Bears CB Charles Tillman / 7 — A two-time NFC Defensive Player of the Week, Tillman is in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation. In addition to his two interception-return touchdowns, he has seven forced fumbles. Tillman has 32 career interceptions, and has returned four of his last five for scores.
5. Falcons CB Asante Samuel / 6 — In a Week Six win over the Raiders, Samuel notched his sixth career pick-six, returning an interception 79 yards for a touchdown, marking the longest interception return of his career. Samuel, who has 47 interceptions, has returned two of his last four picks for scores, and also had interception-return scores on two of the first three interceptions of his career in 2003-04 with the Patriots.
T-6. Bears LB Lance Briggs / 5 — Briggs is in a large group of players with five career pick-sixes, and trails Derrick Brooks and Bobby Bell by one for the most ever by a non-defensive back. Briggs’ 74-yard interception-return touchdown against the Cowboys was the longest return of his career. Briggs has 15 interceptions in his 10 NFL seasons.
T-6. Bengals SS Nate Clements / 5 — Clements scored on an interception return in each of his four seasons with the Bills from 2001-04. He had a 58-yard interception-return touchdown in 2006, but that’s the last time he found the endzone off a pick. Clements, who has 36 career interceptions, has picked off 14 passes since his last pick-six.
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- Charles Tillman
- Lance Briggs
- Charles Woodson