September 13, 2011
It's rare enough to have two different games on the "Monday Night Football" schedule — that's generally reserved for the week of the NFL's season openers. But when you have huge league records tied, one in each game … well, that's a bit beyond the pale.
Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski(notes) performed his own magic when he kicked a 63-yard field goal in the Raiders' evening game at Denver. That tied the record previously set by New Orleans' Tom Dempsey in 1970 and Denver's Jason Elam(notes) in 1998. Both Janikowski and Elam kicked their field goals in Denver's high altitude, while Dempsey kicked his with a special shoe made for his half a right foot.
As impressive as Janikowski's kick was, the big news came a few hours earlier on the East Coast.
The entertainment began with the New England Patriots putting a 38-24 whooping on the Miami Dolphins at Miami's Sun Life Stadium. The Pats were already up, 31-17, when the Dolphins failed to get a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the New England 1-yard line — for seemingly the 20th time in the game, Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne(notes) overthrew a fairly easy end zone fade route; this time, to receiver Brian Hartline(notes).
The Patriots took over on downs at their own 1-yard line, and then … well, this happened.
Tom Brady(notes) to Wes Welker(notes), 99 yards for the touchdown. It was the 13th instance of a 99-yard play in league history, and it was the crown jewel in a night that saw Brady break the franchise record for passing yards in a single game with 517. Brady was just a few plays away from breaking Norm Van Brocklin's all-time record of 554 yards in a single game in 1951, and his was the highest total since Boomer Esiason's 522 in 1996. It was the league's fifth-highest overall, and Brady is the 11th quarterback to throw for over 500 yards.
"When I saw the coverage as we lined up, I knew there was a strong possibility I could be getting the ball," Welker said after the game. "I just wanted to make the most of the opportunity."
"I only threw it 25 yards. Wes did all the work," Brady said. "When I saw him break away, that was awesome. Coach [Bill Belichick] never lets us run that route in practice."
Brady had another big number broken, but he wasn't nearly as happy about this one. In the third quarter, he targeted receiver Julian Edelman(notes) on a quick pass, but the ball was deflected by defensive back Benny Sapp(notes) into the arms of defensive lineman Jared Odrick(notes). It was Brady's first interception in 358 regular-season attempts — he hadn't been picked off since last Oct. 17.
Brady got his revenge on Sapp, who was the beaten defender on Welker's record-tying score.
For all his inaccuracy, Henne had a career night of his own — he threw for 416 yards, and the combined 906 net passing yards (gross passing yards minus negative plays) is an NFL record.
This was a faster-paced way to win than some teams prefer, but Brady insisted after the game that he really doesn't care about the method — the right result is all that matters.
"I enjoy scoring points," he said. "Whatever the hell we need to do to score points, that's what I enjoy doing. Sometimes we go fast, sometimes we go slow. It's just a matter of what the point of the drive is, what we're trying to execute, and ultimately trying to get the ball in the end zone."
At this point, scoring at that speed is almost expected when you're Tom Brady. It's only exceptional when you break -- or tie -- still more records.
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