Elias Says: Dec. 19

Patriots stifle Broncos at Denver

The Patriots defeated the Broncos, 16–3, at Sports Authority Field. It was only the second time in Denver’s 57 seasons that a visiting team from outside its division held the Broncos to three points or less. That’s two such games out of 200 Broncos regular-season home games against non-division opponents. The other game was a 19–3 loss to the Redskins in 1970.

Denver had won 21 of its previous 22 interdivision home games, including a league-record streak of 20 straight wins in non-division home games before losing to Atlanta in October. The Broncos also had the second-longest such streak in NFL history (16 straight wins from 1995 to 1998).

New England forced three turnovers without giving the ball away in its win at Denver. During Bill Belichick’s tenure as head coach, the Patriots are undefeated with a turnover margin of plus-3 or better (45–0 in regular-season games, 7–0 in postseason games).

Giants shut down another high-flying opponent

The Giants defeated the Lions, 17–6, in a battle of teams that had 9–4 records at the start of play. The Giants have played in the NFL since 1925, the Lions since 1930 (including four seasons in Portsmouth, Ohio, known during that period as the Spartans). This was the first of their 44 regular-season meetings for which both teams had a record at least five games above the .500 mark.

Last week the Giants defeated the Cowboys, 10–7, after Dallas came in with an 11–1 record. Only two other teams in modern NFL history—which is to say since 1933—won consecutive games by holding each opponent to fewer than 10 points, with both victories against teams that were at least five games above .500. The others were San Francisco in 2001 and New England in 2010.

But the Giants also did that in the league’s early years. In 1929, they won a road game against the Frankford Yellow Jackets, 12–0, and then defeated the Yellow Jackets the very next day—yes, you read that right—by a 31–0 score at the Polo Grounds. Frankford had a 9–2–5 record prior to its back-to-back shutout losses.

Beckham hits double-figures again

Odell Beckham caught his 10th touchdown pass of the season in the Giants’ win. This is the third time in his three-year NFL career that Beckham has caught at least 10 TD passes. The only other players with at least 10 touchdown receptions in each of their first three seasons in the league were Bob Hayes (1965–67), John Jefferson (1978–80), Randy Moss (1998–2000), and Rob Gronkowski (2010–12).

Prescott on the mark in Cowboys’ victory

Dak Prescott completed 32 of 36 passes (88.9%) in the Cowboys’ 26–20 win over the Buccaneers. That was the second-highest completion percentage in NFL history by a player throwing at least 30 passes in the game. The highest mark was 89.5 percent by Rich Gannon with Oakland at Denver in 2002 (34-for-38).

Brees back in form, throws 4 TDs as Saints win

After a pair of three-interception games, Drew Brees regained his form with a four-touchdown performance in the Saints’ 48–41 win at Arizona. It was the 21st time that Brees threw at least four TDs with no interceptions in a game, tying Tom Brady for the highest such total in NFL history.

Savage rallies Texans with a Favre-like performance

Tom Savage passed for 260 yards after subbing for Brock Osweiler, and the Texans overcame a 20–8 deficit for a 21–20 win over the Jaguars. The last substitute quarterback to pass for more than 250 yards without throwing an interception as his team overcame a double-digit second-half deficit to win the game was Brett Favre for Green Bay in 1992. Favre took over as the Packers’ starting QB the next week—the first of 297 consecutive starts in a streak that didn’t end until late in the 2010 season.

Chiefs’ juggernaut hits a speed bump

There was a clock-striking-12 feel to Kansas City’s 19–17 loss to Tennessee. The Chiefs had a 20–3 record over their last 23 games, and opened a 14–0 lead in the first quarter. Only three other teams in NFL history that had won 20 of its last 23 games blew a lead of 14 or more points to lose a home game: the Vikings against the Bears in 1971, the Bears against the Saints during the 1987 players’ strike, and the Patriots against the Eagles last season.

The Bears’ quarterback in that loss to New Orleans was Sean Payton, who entered the game in the second quarter with a 17–3 lead, but completed only 3 of 11 passes and threw a late interception in a 19–17 loss.

Montgomery emerges from the Pack in Green Bay’s win at Chicago

Ty Montgomery carried the ball 16 times for 162 yards and two touchdowns in the Packers’ 30–27 win over the Bears. That was the highest single-game rushing total by a Packers player since Samkon Gado gained 171 yards against the Lions in 2005. The only Green Bay player with more rushing yards than Montgomery in a game against the Bears was Ahman Green at Soldier Field in 2003 (176 yards).

Boswell keeps Steelers in the game, Big Ben wins it late

Chris Boswell kicked six field goals and Ben Roethlisberger threw a 24-yard game-winning pass to Eli Rogers in the fourth quarter of the Steelers’ 24–20 victory at Cincinnati. Boswell became only the second player in NFL history with as many as five field goals of 40 yards or longer in one game. Mason Crosby did that for Green Bay at Minnesota last season.

The touchdown pass was the longest fourth-quarter game-winner of Roethlisbeger’s career.

Falcons post back-to-back 28-point wins

Seven days after spanking the Rams, 42–14, the Falcons routed the 49ers, 41–13. Atlanta had only one win that large in its previous 62 games dating back to 2012. The Falcons won consecutive games, each by 28 or more points, only once, kicking off a seven-game winning streak in 1973. Dave (“Scooter”) Hampton scored a pair of rushing touchdowns in each of those big wins, over Chicago (46–6) and San Diego (41–0).

McCoy finds a home in Buffalo

LeSean McCoy ran for 153 yards in Buffalo’s 33–13 win over Cleveland. It was McCoy’s fourth 100-yard game at New Era Field this season. Only four other Bills players have had as many as four 100-yard home games in a season: Cookie Gilchrist (1962), O.J. Simpson (3 times), Thurman Thomas (4 times), and Willis McGahee (2004).

Eagles go for broke, Ravens hold on for the win

Carson Wentz scored on a 4-yard run 4 seconds to play, narrowing Baltimore’s lead to 27–26. But Philadelphia head coach Doug Pederson opted for a two-point conversion and the play failed, giving the Ravens a one-point victory. The Eagles were only the fourth team in modern NFL history to miss a conversion after drawing within one point on a touchdown in the game’s final 10 seconds. The most recent was Washington against Tampa Bay in 2010.

Colts win another blowout on the road

Two weeks after routing the Jets, 41–10, at MetLife Stadium, the Colts blasted the Vikings, 34–6, at U.S. Bank Stadium. This is only the second calendar month in franchise history in which the Colts won a pair of road games by at least 28 points each. They previously did so in November 2004, with big wins at Chicago (41–10) and on Thanksgiving Day at Detroit (41–9).

Pops keeps his players fresh

The Spurs topped the Pelicans, 113–100, on Sunday, with no player getting more than 26 minutes of court time. That is, of course, a Gregg Popovich signature. Since Popovich made his debut as head coach of the Spurs in 1996, there have been 151 games in which no San Antonio player was on the court for 30 minutes. That’s nearly three times the total of the coach with the second-most such games, Doc Rivers (51).

Set the bar lower, and include only games in which no player received even 26 minutes of court time, as was the case with San Antonio on Sunday, and Popovich has nearly as many such games (21) as all other NBA coaches combined during his tenure (29).

Sixers win a close one … finally!

The 76ers defeated the Nets, 108–107, to snap a streak of 13 consecutive losses in games decided by three or fewer points. That streak dated back to March 2015, and it was one short of the longest such streaks in NBA history. The record was set by the Knicks (1959–60) and tied by the Rockets (1977–78).

Celtics and Sixers win, just like the good old days

The Celtics defeated Miami, 105–95, marking the fifth time this season that Boston and Philadelphia won on the same day. That was no big deal in the days of Larry Bird and Doctor J. The Celtics and Sixers won on the same day an average of 30.5 times a season from 1979–80 through 1986–87. But five times this season is the already the highest total in any season since 2012–13.

It’s Beal’s time of the season

Bradley Beal scored 41 points, one short of his career high, in the Wizards’ 117–110 win over the Clippers. Beal has scored at least 30 points five times this season, after having done so only four times in four previous seasons in the league. Of Beal’s nine games of 30 or more points, five have come in November and three in December, but only one on or after New Year’s Day.

Raptors win big at Orlando

Toronto’s 109–79 win at Orlando was the Raptors’ biggest road win in nearly four years. Toronto’s last victory by 30 or more points on the road was also at Orlando: a 123–88 thrashing of the Magic on December 29, 2012.

The Raptors have won five games by at least 20 points since November 28, the most such wins in the NBA during that time.

Utah’s strong defense keys win at Memphis

The Grizzlies made only 28 of 93 field-goal attempts (30%) as the Jazz posted an 82–73 win at Memphis. It had been 15 years since Utah held an opponent to that low a field-goal percentage on the road. The last time the Jazz did so was December 18, 2001, when the Heat shot 28 percent from the field in a 95–56 loss at Miami. That was the lowest opponent point total in Utah franchise history.

A rare low-scoring win for Mavs

The Mavericks turned on the D in a 99–79 victory over Sacramento. Dallas had lost 18 of the last 20 games in which it scored fewer than 100 points, dating back to last April.

Hayes thrills his hometown fans

The Bruins turned a first-period goal by Jimmy Hayes and 18 saves from Tuukka Rask into a 1–0 victory over the Kings. Hayes, a Boston native, is only the third Massachusetts-born player to score in a 1–0 regular-season win by the Bruins. The other Bay Staters to do that for Boston were Bill O’Dwyer (Nov. 22, 1987 at Detroit) and Chris Bourque (Feb. 2, 2013 at Toronto). That was the only goal that Chris Bourque (son of Ray) scored during his brief stint with the Bruins.

Blackhawks’ rookies lead the way

Ryan Hartman and Vinnie Hinostroza each tallied a goal and an assist in the Blackhawks’ 4–1 win against the Sharks. It was the second time this season that two Chicago rookies scored in the same game, with Hartman and Hinostroza also accounting for the previous instance with a goal apiece in an overtime win at Vancouver on November 19.

The Blackhawks had the NHL’s leading rookie goal-scorer last season, Artemi Panarin, and even though he scored 30 goals there were only two games during the 2015–16 campaign in which two Chicago rookies scored in the same game. Panarin teamed up once with Trevor van Riemsdyk and once with Viktor Svedberg.

Laine excels at home

Patrik Laine scored the first goal and assisted on two other goals in the Jets’ 4–1 victory over the Avalanche at Winnipeg. It was Laine’s ninth multiple-point game this season, and his seventh multi-point game on home ice, which ties him for the league high with the Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin and the Flyers’ Jakub Voracek. The Jets have a 5–1–1 record in Laine’s seven multiple-point games in Winnipeg.

Columbus makes history on Jones’ OT goal

The Blue Jackets earned their ninth consecutive victory, tying a franchise record, when Seth Jones scored in overtime for a 4–3 win at Vancouver. Jones is the first defenseman in Blue Jackets history to score two overtime goals in one season, having scored in OT against Dallas on November 1. He is one of three NHL defenseman with a pair of OT goals in 2016–17; the others are Alec Martinez of the Kings and Rasmus Ristolainen of the Sabres.

Lundqvist wins milestone start

Henrik Lundqvist, making the 700th regular-season start of his NHL career, extended his winning streak to three games with a 3–2 shootout victory against the Devils. Lundqvist has a 35–16–7 record in regular-season play against New Jersey, and his 35 wins versus the Devils are the most by any active NHL goaltender against one team.

Senators are Islanders’ unwelcome guests

Mark Stone (one goal, two assists) and Zach Smith (two goals, one assist) each racked up three points in the Senators’ 6–2 win against the Islanders at Barclays Center. The Senators have always fared well on the road versus the Islanders, compiling a 26–10–9 mark against them, first on Long Island and now in Brooklyn. Since 1992–93, the first season for the current Ottawa club, the Senators’ .678 road points percentage against the Islanders is the third-best by any NHL team, behind the Capitals (33–13–4, .700) and Whalers/Hurricanes (28–11–7, .685).