The Saints' Drew Breesis two games away from tying one of the greatest records in sports, and there is nothing cheap about the mark he appears sure to set.
Brees takes his 45-game touchdown pass streak into today's game against Kansas City. Johnny Unitas' record of 47 straight games with a TD pass is held up alongside Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak as among the most remarkable ever. Brees can tie the record next week at Green Bay and break it Oct. 7 at home against San Diego.
One might think the greater emphasis on passing in today's game greatly devalues Brees' total in comparison to that of Unitas. Not true.
Quarterbacks pass more and complete more passes for more yards than they did in Unitas' era. But passing for touchdowns is not significantly easier than it was when quarterbacks were wearing a single-bar facemask on their helmets.
Unitas' streak ran from Dec. 9, 1956 to Dec. 4, 1960. Unitas passed for 102 touchdowns in 47 games, or 2.17 TDs per game.
The league averages from 1957-60 were 25.7 pass attempts, 12.85 completions and 1.33 touchdown passes per game.
Brees' streak started on Oct. 18, 2009. Brees has passed for 108 TDs in 45 games, or 2.4 TDs per game.
The league averages the past four years are 33.3 attempts for 20.25 completions with 1.39 TDs per game.
So quarterbacks are both attempting and completing about 7.5 more passes a game than they were in Unitas' era. But their success in throwing into the end zone for scores has seen only a minimal increase. The average team over the last four seasons has passed for 22.28 TDs a season. If you project the average team in Unitas' era to a 16-game season, the total would be 21.3 TD passes a season.
This isn't to say Brees has no advantages over Unitas. There were only 12 NFL teams early in Unitas' career. The elite quarterbacks on the 12 best passing teams today are putting up bigger numbers than ever, while the league average as a whole is brought down by the poorer passing teams.
New England's Tom Brady has an active streak of 34 games. He could surpass Unitas and get to 48 in the last regular-season game this season. Atlanta's Matt Ryan has thrown a TD pass in 32 of his last 33 games. Detroit's Matthew Stafford has a TD pass in 30 of his last 32 games. There were similar streaks back in the '60s, as well, but not quite as many. Oakland's Daryle Lamonica went 52 of 55 games (94.5 percent) with a TD pass in his heyday. Washington's SonnyJurgensen went 47 of 53 games (89 percent) at one stretch in the '60s.
Brees also has had a weather advantage over Unitas. New Orleans plays all its home games in domes. Nevertheless, the record has stood for 52 years. Brees deserves all the accolades he will be recieving.
Saban & Sabol
The death this week of NFL Films chief Steve Sabol brought to mind some of the great Bills moments in NFL Films history that involved Lou Saban, Buffalo's late, great coach. Saban was a filmmaker's dream on the sidelines due to his passionate, volatile nature.
NFL Films once caught a riveting pregame speech by Saban, justice to which can't be done in print. He exhorted his Bills before a mid-'70s game: "You can get it done, you can get it done. . What's more, ya gotta get it done."
During a painful 1974 loss to the arch-rival Dolphins in Miami, Bills safety Neal Craig allowed a completion on a deep pass. Saban throws his play chart on the ground and screams: "Why do we DOOOO these things?"
Then, in some game between 1967 and '71, when Saban was head coach in Denver, he turned to offensive line coach Whitey Dovell after a bad play by the Broncos and exclaimed: "They're KILLING me, Whitey; they're KILLING me."
Saban was one of a kind. So was Sabol.
Glenn vs. Schwartz
An interesting subplot of today's Bills game in Cleveland will be the play of rookie tackles Cordy Glenn of Buffalo and MitchellSchwartz of Cleveland.
Schwartz is a 6-foot-5, 320-pounder out of California who the Browns took 37th overall. He starts at right tackle. Schwartz was the third tackle taken in the draft. The Browns passed over the 6-6, 345-pound Glenn, who the Bills scooped up four picks later at No. 41. No doubt, there was a sigh of relief in the Bills' draft room when the Browns made their pick.
Schwartz started 51 games at Cal, the first 26 at right tackle, the last 25 at left tackle. The Browns don't need a left tackle, because they have elite Joe Thomas at that spot. The only knock on Schwartz was he was not really viewed as a power player, more of a finesse blocker. And there was some concern about how he will handle speed rushers. Obviously, the Browns liked Schwartz better than Glenn.
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock had Glenn rated as 25th overall in the draft and the third best tackle. He had Schwartz rated 62nd and the eighth best tackle. ESPN's Mel Kiper had Glenn 21st overall (but as a guard, not a tackle). Kiper had Schwartz 10th among tackles and not in the top 100.
. How good are the Texans? Nobody knows for sure. They had two elite wins last season (over Pittsburgh and Atlanta). The latter was with T.J. Yates at QB, so they get extra points for that. But they haven't had a lot of tough games. Until now. They visit Denver this week. After hosting Tennessee, they get the Jets (away), Green Bay and Baltimore.
. Miami hasn't had a local TV blackout since 1998. The Dolphins originally said they would not adopt the new 85 percent rule in ensuring a lifting of the TV blackout. But they changed course this week and lifted the blackout, even though they only had reached the 85 percent threshold.
. Brady moved past Unitas last week on the career passing yards list. Brady has 40,531 yards. Unitas had 40,239. Meanwhile, the Pats' Bill Belichick can move past Chuck Knox and into eighth place on the career coaching win list. Both have 193.