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Week 12 Edition

Pay Dirt Return

Nov. 26, 2011

Chicago Bears wide receiver/return man Devin Hester took a punt 82 yards for a touchdown during the Bears' 37-13 Week 10 victory over the Detroit Lions. With that score Hester added to the National Football League record, which he already set earlier this season for most punt return touchdowns in a career. He now has 12 punt-return touchdowns during his six-year NFL career and 18 combined return touchdowns overall (12 punt, five kickoff and one missed field goal).

Hester has now passed Pro Football Hall of Famer Rod Woodson (17) for the second-most total return touchdowns in NFL history, and is just one shy of Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders' record of 19.

Do you remember when Woodson recorded his 17th and final touchdown return (12 on interceptions, two on punts, two on kickoffs and one on a fumble)?

Woodson saved his best return for last, on Nov. 11, 2002, when the (4-4) Oakland Raiders traveled to Denver to face the (6-2) Denver Broncos in an AFC West division showdown on Monday Night Football. The Raiders were coming off four consecutive losses and desperately needed a win to keep pace in their division with both the Broncos and the (6-2) San Diego Chargers.

Oakland jumped out to an early lead when on the first possession of the game their offense drove the field and kicker Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 47-yard field goal to put the Raiders ahead, 3-0. The Broncos then took their first offensive possession and marched the ball right down the field on 10 plays down to the Oakland 4-yard line. Facing a second-and-goal, Broncos' quarterback Brian Griese dropped back and threw a pass near the line of scrimmage intended for running back Clinton Portis. Woodson, however, was there to make a play as he intercepted the ball and returned it 98 yards for a touchdown. The return was the longest of Woodson's illustrious career and was an early back-breaking blow to Denver's chances of winning the game.

The Broncos would cut the lead to 13-7 in the second quarter, but that is as close the game would get. The Raiders took a 21-7 lead into halftime and closed the door in the second half outscoring Denver 13-3 and easily winning the game 34-10.

The game was a huge momentum boost for the Raiders and started a five-game winning streak. They closed out the final eight games of the regular season with a 7-1 record, finished the year 11-5 and won the AFC West Division title. Oakland then marched through the playoffs, captured the AFC Championship and earned a berth to play in Super Bowl XXXVII.

Week 11 Edition

Racking Up Frequent Flyer Miles

Nov. 19, 2011

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees continues to light up the National Football League with his passing statistics. He leads the NFL with 3,326 passing yards which are the most yards through the first 10 games of a season in league history. Last week Brees threw for 322 yards and two touchdowns in the Saints' 26-23 overtime victory against the Atlanta Falcons. In doing so, he registered his 51st career 300-yard passing game, which ties him with Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Fouts for the fifth-most all-time.

Do you remember when Fouts recorded the first-ever 300-yard passing game of his career?

Fouts, a third-round draft choice of the Chargers in 1973, had seen limited action early in his rookie season as he sat behind legendary QB Johnny Unitas, who was playing his first and only season with the Chargers. Fouts' time came in midseason when he took over and closed the '73 campaign by appearing in 10 games that included six starts. He carried the momentum of his promising rookie year into the 1974 season and won the starting quarterback position.

His second pro season started out rough as the Chargers went 1-6 after seven weeks of play. The losses seemed to sting even worse since five of them were by seven points or less. But then, on Nov. 3, 1974, in a Week 8 matchup against the Cleveland Browns at San Diego Stadium, Fouts found the magic that would make him a future Hall of Famer.

The Browns entered halftime with a 21-7 lead and the game seemingly in the bag. Fouts, however, led the Chargers out of the locker room and into the end zone during a second half in which he threw four touchdown passes.

Fouts aired it out as San Diego opened the third quarter scoring with a 43-yard strike to running back Don Woods, which cut the Browns lead to eight, 21-13 after Chargers' kicker Dennis Partee had his extra point blocked. Then, San Diego recovered an onside kick at their own 47-yard line. From there, Fouts drove his team down the field in eight plays and flipped the ball to running back Glen Bonner for a 1-yard touchdown pass. Once again, however, Partee's kick was no good and the Chargers still trailed 21-19. Then just as the fourth quarter began Cleveland went up by nine, 28-19, on a 6-yard touchdown run by Hugh McKinnis.

But before the final period ended it was Fouts who provided the fireworks with two huge bombs. The first was on a 70-yard touchdown pass to receiver Harrison Davis, which after a successful extra point cut the lead to two, 28-26. The Browns extended the lead back to nine points on a Brian Sipe 1-yard touchdown run. But, Fouts wasn't done. He hit Woods for his second score of the day, this one on a 75-yarder which made the score 35-33 and set up the grand finale. Shortly thereafter, a Ray Wersching 40-yard field goal with 55 seconds remaining gave San Diego its first lead of the day 36-35.

The Chargers were stunned when on the ensuing kickoff, Browns' running back Greg Pruitt returned the kick 61 yards to the Chargers' 31-yard line. Cleveland advanced to the San Diego 10-yard line with just 18 seconds left in the game. The plan was to run the clock down to three seconds and then kick the game-winning field goal. But, in a strange twist of fate Sipe, who was making his first-ever NFL start, fumbled the snap and San Diego recovered the ball to seal their second victory of the season.

In all, Fouts completed 12 of 21 passes for 333 yards and four touchdowns in the Chargers' 14-point come-from-behind win. But in just his second season out of the University of Oregon, San Diego knew the best from Fouts was yet to come.

Week 10 Edition

Getting a Return on Returns

Nov. 12, 2011

Arizona Cardinals rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson showed his worth last Sunday when he returned a punt 99 yards for the game-winning touchdown in overtime against the St. Louis Rams. Although the 19-13 victory was just Arizona's second of the season, that hasn't stopped Peterson from dazzling fans with the same athletic ability that made him the fifth pick overall in the 2011 National Football League Draft.

Peterson's return marked just the second time that an NFL overtime game ended with a punt return touchdown. The previous instance was Oct. 9, 1995 when the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Diego Chargers 29-23 on a Tamarick Vanover 86-yard punt return TD. Peterson's score also tied the longest overtime play in NFL history matching the 99-yard pass from the Philadelphia Eagles' Ron Jaworski to Mike Quick on Nov. 10, 1985. It was the second-longest punt return in NFL history behind only the 103-yard return by the Los Angeles' Rams Robert Bailey.

Do you remember when Bailey returned the one-and-only punt of his career and raced into the record books?

The play occurred on Oct. 23, 1994 in the fourth quarter of a Week 8 matchup between the Rams and their NFC Western Division rival the New Orleans Saints. Surprisingly, in a game that featured 71 points, there wasn't an offensive player who stood out above the rest as neither team posted a 100-yard rusher or receiver. This was a game where the defense and special teams stole the show.

New Orleans jumped to an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter on a 3-yard touchdown run by running back Derek Brown and a 30-yard touchdown pass from QB Jim Everett, who was making his first start against his former team, to tight end Wesley Walls. The Rams began the second quarter with a 19-yard touchdown strike from Chris Miller to Isaac Bruce which cut the lead to 14-7. Morten Andersen connected on a 21-yard field goal to put the Saints up 17-7, and then the weirdness began with a flurry of points being scored in unusual ways.

First, with nine minutes remaining in the half and up by 10 the Saints faced a second-and-goal from the Rams' 1-yard line. Fullback Lorenzo Neal took the handoff and was hit and stripped by safety Toby Wright who recovered the fumble and raced 98 yards for a L.A. touchdown. The Rams ensuing kickoff was run back 92 yards for a TD by Tyrone Hughes to put New Orleans back on top by 10, 24-14. The Rams and Saints then traded field goals before the half ended.

New Orleans struck first in the second half with an Andersen field goal to give his team a 13-point lead, 30-17. L.A. answered with a field goal of their own, but once again their coverage teams let them down. On the ensuing kickoff Hughes returned his second kick, this one 98 yards for a touchdown to put the Saints on top, 37-20 as the third quarter came to a close.

The Rams continued to fight back through the fourth quarter. They scored cut their deficit back to 37-27, on a 7-yard Johnny Bailey touchdown run with just over eight minutes remaining in the game. Then on the Saints' next possession as they tried to run the clock out to ice the game they were forced to punt with four minutes remaining.

Punter Tommy Barnhardt booted the ball into the end zone for what seemed to be a touchback. The rules, however, stated at the time that a ball punted into the end zone wasn't considered a touchback until it was downed by the punting team. The ball looked as if it was going to bounce out of the back of the end zone, but instead it leaped forward and rested three yards behind the goal line. With both teams thinking the ball was dead and the play over, the Rams offense and the Saints defense began to make their way onto the field. Robert Bailey, however never heard the whistle blow and alertly scooped up the ball and returned the punt uncontested 103 yards for a touchdown that placed his name in the NFL record book.

Unfortunately, for the Rams time ran out on their comeback and the game ended with the final score 37-34. But his game remains unforgettable. Aside from Bailey's bizarre return, Hughes set records for most kickoff return yards in a game with 304 and combined return yards in a game with 347. All of these records still stand today.

Week 9 Edition

Winning is the Only Thing

Nov. 5, 2011

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger passed for 365 yards and two touchdowns during the Steelers' 25-17 victory over the New England Patriots last weekend. Pittsburgh's win gave Roethlisberger his 75th win as a starting quarterback in the National Football League. He accomplished this impressive feat in just 106 starts which is the fourth-fastest by any quarterback who began their careers in the Super Bowl era. Only Roger Staubach (99), Tom Brady (99) and Ken Stabler (105) won 75 games as a starter in fewer games than Roethlisberger.

Do you remember when Roger "The Dodger" won the 75th game of his illustrious career? It came in just his 99th career start for the Dallas Cowboys and at the time gave him an astonishing .756 winning percentage as a starting quarterback in the NFL.

The game was played on Kickoff Weekend of the 1979 NFL season. The Sept. 2 matchup pitted the defending NFC Champion Cowboys on the road versus their NFC Eastern Division rival St. Louis Cardinals. The Cowboys took the field without one of their key offensive weapons when Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett was ruled out of the game with a toe injury. Staubach was also without his Hall of Fame right tackle Rayfield Wright for most of the game as he played sparingly due to a knee injury.

But that didn't stop the former Navy man from leading the troops. On the very first drive of the game Staubach and the Cowboys came out firing on all cylinders as they effectively mixed the run and the pass and drove down the field. The big play came when Staubach connected with receiver Tony Hill for a 44-yard pass completion which set up a 37-yard field goal by kicker Rafael Septien to put Dallas up 3-0.

The second quarter began with Cowboys' cornerback Aron Kyle intercepting a pass from Jim Hart on the Dallas 41-yard line. Fullback Robert Newhouse carried the load on the ensuing drive for the Cowboys with a 9-yard reception from Staubach and four runs for 40 yards which included a 4-yard touchdown that put "America's Team" up 10-0. The Cardinals, however, answered with a 15-play, 82-yard drive on the shoulders of rookie running back Ottis Anderson and scored to make it a 10-7 game at halftime.

The second half opened with a St. Louis punt and Staubach led the Cowboys down the field in 11 plays to set up another Septien field goal. This one, a 24-yard kick, put the Cowboys up 13-7. But once again the Cardinals answered with a touchdown and took the lead 14-13 on Hart's second touchdown pass of the day.

Trailing for the first time in the game Staubach pressed forward and converted a third-down-and-eight with a 21-yard completion to receiver Drew Pearson, which set up a first-and-10 from the St. Louis 30. Running back Ron Springs, on the very next play, threw a halfback pass to Hill to put Dallas on top. The point after was no good after a bad snap so the Cowboy lead was just five, 19-14.

The Dallas defense couldn't hold onto the lead and with just under four minutes remaining in the game Anderson broke through the line and put the Cardinals up 21-19 with his 76-yard touchdown run. But Staubach's poise would carry the day as he methodically moved the Cowboys offense down the field and set up Septien's final field goal of the day, a 27-yard game winner with 1:16 left on the clock to lift the Dallas to win and put another notch in Staubauch's win total.

Archived "Remember When"

Weeks 1-4:

Weeks 5-8:

Rice's big day | QB rushing record | Marino and Shula's first victory | Smith breaks Cowboys rushing records

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