Streak-struck

There are two kinds of streaks in sports: the real kind, which go on without interruption, and the regular-season kind, which are suspended for the playoffs and resume — the player hopes — the next year. In Sunday’s 43-21 loss to the Patriots, the Broncos’ Peyton Manning threw two touchdown passes for the 14th straight regular-season game to set an NFL record.

“Going into the game,” The Associated Press reported, “Manning had two 13-game streaks with at least two touchdown passes, and Tom Brady of the Patriots and Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers each had one.”

Of course, if postseason games were included, then that paragraph would have read differently. Brady (2010-11) and Rodgers (the same two seasons) have both had 14-game streaks counting the playoffs – and Manning’s current run of 14 games would only be eight games (since he threw for just one TD in the Super Bowl against the Broncos).

I’m not trying to bust anybody’s chops here. I totally get why the NFL separates the regular season from the postseason for record-keeping purposes. In the playoffs, after all, you’re going up against the best teams every week. They’re not Typical Games.

But I do wish the league paid as much attention to Real Streaks as it does Regular-Season Streaks. I mean, what’s the harm? All it would cost is a few extra pages in the record book. And the benefit is obvious: You’d be acknowledging some performances that might otherwise be overlooked. Better still, you’d be letting the fans decide for themselves whether one streak is better than another.

My reason for bringing this up is that Johnny Unitas threw two touchdown passes or more in 13 consecutive games in 1959 — the Colts’ 12 regular-season games, plus the title game against the Giants. That’s as long as any Real Streak Manning has had. (Peyton had a 13-gamer to start 2004, when he tossed 49 TD passes.)

You know who else had a 13-gamer? Dandy Don Meredith with the Cowboys in 1965 (the last nine games) and ’66 (the first four). I’m still not sure why Meredith was left out of AP’s story. His was strictly a regular-season streak, unlike Johnny U.’s.

Here are the game-by-game breakdowns for Unitas’ and Meredith’s streaks. Given the times — and the less-passer-friendly rules — who’s to say their runs weren’t greater those of Manning, Brady and Rodgers?

UNITAS’ 13-GAME STREAK (1959)

Opponent TD
Lions 2
Bears 3
Lions 3
Bears 2
Packers 3
Browns 4
Redskins 2
Packers 3
49ers 2
Rams 2
49ers 3
Rams 3
Giants* 2
Total 34

*championship game

MEREDITH’S 13-GAME STREAK (1965-66)

Opponent TD
Browns 2
Steelers 2
49ers 2
Steelers 2
Browns 2
Redskins 2
Eagles 2
Cardinals 3
Giants 3
Giants 5
Vikings 2
Falcons 2
Eagles 5
Total 34

Note that each threw for exactly 34 scores during the streak. Unitas’ 32 TD passes in the regular season broke the NFL record of 28 set by the Bears’ Sid Luckman in 1943. Johnny U.’s Colts, by the way, won the title that year, and Meredith quarterbacked the Cowboys to the championship game in ’66.

There’s little chance the NFL and its record-keepers will ever come around on this issue, but that won’t stop me from bugging them about it from time to time. That said, something tells me Unitas, were he alive today, probably wouldn’t care much about such a record, being an old schooler and all. In fact, if you ever brought the matter up to him, he’d probably give you a look like this:

Johnny U football card

Source: pro-football-reference.com