Anybody who saw the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger, horizontal stripes and all, tear up the Colts on Sunday witnessed one of the great passing exhibitions in NFL history — 522 yards, 81.6 percent completions, six touchdowns, no picks, 150.6 rating. Wow.
The yardage total is tied for fourth all time, and no 500-yard passer has had a better completion percentage. As for the TDs and rating, only Y.A. Tittle (seven and 151.4) tops Roethlisberger in those departments (again, among 500-yard passers).
That said, some of the thrill, and not a little of the novelty, has gone out of the 500-yard passing day. Big Ben’s, after all, was the ninth in the 2000s. There were just six before that — the first of which, amazingly enough, is still the record: Norm Van Brocklin’s 554-yard effort for the Rams against the New York Yanks in 1951. When somebody does anything nine times in 15 seasons, it loses a bit of its specialness.
I mean, the Cowboys’ Tony Romo threw for 500 yards just last year, and two quarterbacks did it in each of the previous two seasons (the Giants’ Eli Manning and the Texans’ Matt Schaub in 2012, and the Patriots’ Tom Brady and the Lions’ Matt Stafford in 2011). Clearly, it isn’t as remarkable a feat as it used to be, and I think we all know the reasons why.
In fact, the game Brady had Sunday against the Bears was — statistically, at least — more unusual. There have been only eight others like it since 1960. Here are the nine times a QB has completed 85 percent of his passes, thrown for five TDs and averaged 10 yards per attempt:
85% COMPLETIONS, 5 TDS AND 10 YARDS PER ATTEMPT IN A GAME (SINCE 1960)
|10-26-14||Tom Brady, Patriots||Bears||35||30||85.7||354||5||10.1||W, 51-23|
|12-15-13||Alex Smith, Chiefs||Raiders||20||17||85.0||287||5||14.4||W, 56-31|
|1-10-10||Kurt Warner, Cardinals||Packers||33||29||87.9||379||5||11.5||W, 51-45|
|10-18-09||Tom Brady, Patriots||Titans||34||29||85.3||380||6||11.2||W, 59-0|
|10-31-04||Drew Brees, Chargers||Raiders||25||22||88.0||281||5||11.2||W, 42-14|
|10-10-99||Kurt Warner, Rams||49ers||23||20||87.0||323||5||14.0||W, 42-20|
|9-4-83||Lynn Dickey, Packers||Oilers||31||27||87.1||333||5||10.7||W, 41-38|
|12-13-81||Lynn Dickey, Packers||Saints||21||19||90.5||218||5||10.4||W, 35-7|
|12-12-64||Frank Ryan, Browns||Giants||13||12||92.3||202||5||15.5||W, 52-20|
To summarize: Brady, Warner and Dickey (how quickly we forget) did it twice. Brees did it once — but with the Chargers, not the Saints. Ryan did it in a mere 13 attempts. And Smith, Niners Nation’s favorite whipping boy, completes the list.
Maybe the biggest surprise, though, is that Peyton Manning, who does everything, isn’t in either of these two groups — the 500-yard passers or the 85/5/10 guys. Fortunately, he still has time.