When a child is born in Philadelphia, there are two things that are predetermined even before the doctor slaps him on his backside: he will love cheesesteaks, and he will be an Eagles fan. Years later I still remain loyal to both causes, however, the latter spawned a passion for the entire sport. I love football. And although I continue to be emotionally invested in every move the Eagles make, I take vicarious pleasure in the competition among the rest of the league.
Part of this pleasure includes records, both the setting and breaking of them. I have been fortunate enough to witness many legendary events: “The Catch”, “the Joe Theismann Incident”, “The Music City Miracle.” Hell, I was in the same bar as Frank Reich’s dad in his hometown (Lebanon, PA) while Reich was performing the greatest comeback in playoff history.
I love the history of the sport, and nothing symbolizes this history more than the concept of setting a record; a single achievement in a sport where someone does something better than every man who has done it before him. Some records sneak up on you all of the sudden. Some you see coming from a mile away. And some are just so unbelievable that you struggle to fathom how anyone could ever top it.
1. Emmitt Smith (Dallas, Arizona)
Record: Most Career Rushing Yards (18,355)
Growing up an Eagles fan, we are taught to hate all things Cowboys. But if you are true fan of the game, how can you not marvel at this achievement? He wasn’t the flashiest, strongest, or even the fastest, but for 15 years he was the most reliable. He never missed more than two games in a season with the exception of the year that he was traded to Arizona where he played 10 games. He rushed for over 1000 yards 11 years in a row. Yes Dallas had a killer front five, but this type of durability is rare in an NFL running back.
Adrian Peterson (of whom I am a big fan) has been very vocal regarding his intent to beat this record. However, with 10,115 yards in 7 seasons and coming off his second lowest yardage season of his career, I’m not convinced his body will be able to hold up for the 6-8 additional years he will need to break it.
2. Flipper Anderson (Rams)
Record: Most Receiving Yards in a Single Game (336)
In his second year with the Rams, Anderson went nuts in a game against the Saints and racked up 336 receiving yards on 15 receptions. This bested Stephone Paige’s mark of 309 yards set four years earlier. At the time, many thought this record would be untouchable. However, Megatron (Calvin Johnson) put a scare into him back in 2013 when he managed 329 yards in an unexpected Lions – Cowboys shootout, falling 7 yards short of the record.
If there is an active player in the NFL that can surpass this record, it’s Johnson. However, as more and more teams continue gearing their defenses toward limiting his production, the opportunities to do so continue to significantly dwindle.
3. Matt Prater (Denver)
Record: Longest Field Goal (64 yards)
In 1998 when Jason Elam kicked a 63 yard field goal against the Jaguars to tie Tom Dempsey’s game winning record set in 1970, I was convinced that that distance was the human limit for kicking a field goal. Furthermore, I believed that if anyone were to even attempt to come close that it would have to be done in Denver due to the thin air. I was half right. Prater bested the previous record by one yard on a sunny day with little wind at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in December of 2013.
This record is a tough one to beat not only because of the distance but also the limited circumstances in which a team would attempt such a long field goal. Because a miss would give the opposing team the ball from the spot of the kick, most teams would be reluctant to try it unless there was little to no time left on the clock.
Matt Prater Record Breaking Field Goal
4. Paul Krause (Washington, Minnesota)
Record: Most Career Interceptions (81)
Right out of the gate, Krause’s athleticism was apparent as he led the NFL with 12 interceptions during his rookie season with the Redskins. Four years later he was traded to the Vikings where he continued to be successful amassing 81 interceptions, 8 Pro Bowls and four trips to the Super Bowl. Like Smith, his durability was a key factor in his long-term success as he only missed two games in his 16 seasons due to injury.
Ed Reed, the former Ravens and current NY Jets safety is the closet active player to this mark with 64 interceptions. However, turning 36 at the beginning of the 2014 season, Reed is nearing the end of his career and is extremely injury prone.
5. Derrick Thomas (Kansas City)
Record: Most Sacks in a Single Game (7)
When Seahawks Quarterback Dave Kreig took the field against Kansas City on November 12, 1990, I’m sure he had no idea what D.T. had in store for him. 60 minutes and 7 sacks later Thomas was in the record books for the most sacks ever in a single game and on his way to a stellar career including 9 consecutive Pro Bowls. Consecutive.
Unfortunately, the memory of his spectacular career will forever be clouded by his tragic death in 2000 as a result of injuries he sustained in a car accident.
An interesting side note: Thomas almost got his 8th sack at the end of his record-setting game, only to have Kreig escape his grasp just long enough to throw the game-winning touchdown.
6. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Record: Longest Consecutive Losing Streak (26 games)
Not every record is one to be proud of. In the fall of 1976, the expansion team Bucs played and lost their very first NFL game then proceeded to lose the remaining 13 to end the season without a win. The next year continued in the same manner until they finally secured a 33-14 win at the expense of the almost equally abysmal Saints.
In the modern era of a more offensive-minded NFL, this type of ineptitude has become scarcer, although the Lions did their best to counter this argument during their 2008-2009 seasons by mounting a 19 game losing streak of their own, falling just 7 games short of the record.
7. Jerry Rice (San Francisco, Oakland)
Record: Most Career Receiving Yards (22,895)
When it comes to arguably the best receiver of all time, there are a host of records to choose from (23 to be exact.) However, this one is the most insane. Known for his work ethic and dedication to his position, Rice was able to gain just short of 23,000 yards in 20 seasons of play. The closest challenger to this record (Tony Gonzalez) just retired at 15,127, a full 7000+ yards short. In fact, with the exception of the next four closest active receivers, no current player in the NFL even has half of Rice’s total.
Rice’s single season touchdown record (22) was just as impressive when you consider the circumstances. This record stood for 20 years until Randy Moss scored 23 TDs in 2007 with the Pats. However, Rice’s performance was still better. Why? 1987 was the year of the NFL strike. Moss accomplished his feat in 16 games. Rice did it in 12.
These are my picks. Sure I could have expanded the list a bit, but I wanted to stick with the ones that I feel will continue to stand the test of time. Honorable mentions go to George Blanda (26 seasons), Brett Farve (297 consecutive starts), and Steve O’Neal (longest punt 98 yards.)This last one is my least favorite because it came very close to being broken (or at least equaled) back in 1989 by one of my favorite Eagles, Randall Cunningham.
By the way kids, he was a quarterback. Just say’n.
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