By Arnie Leshin
The 272nd and final game of the 2021 regular-season ended in appropriate fashion as the Las Vegas Raiders won their record-tying fourth overtime tilt on a walk-off field goal by Daniel Carlson in a 35-32 thriller over the Los Angeles Chargers.
Even the addition of a 17th game couldn’t provide a boost to number of 1,000-yard rushers in the NFL. Because of injuries, COVID-19 absences and teams relying more on the pass than ever, only Jonathan Taylor, Nick Chubb, Joe Mixon, Najee Harris, Dalvin Cook, Antonio Gibson and Ezekiel Elliott topped 1,000 yards this season.
This tied the previous low from a 16-game campaign of seven 1,000-yard rushers in 1991 and 2015.
Ageless quarterback Tom Brady showed no signs of slowing down at age 44, leading the NFL in yards passing (5,316) and touchdowns (43), breaking Drew Brees’ record with 485 completions, 14 more than Brees had in 2016.
Brady also had his second 5.000-yard passing season, joining Brees as the only one to do that more than once, with Brees accomplishing did five times.
Los Angeles Rams’ wide receiver Cooper Kupp completed the rare treat of winning receiving’s triple crown. Kupp became the fourth player since the merger to lead the league in receptions (145), yards receiving (1,947) and touchdown catches (16).
He joined Jerry Rice in 1990, Sterling Sharpe in 1992 and Steve Smith Sr. in 2005 as the only receivers to do that since 1970. Green Bay Packers’ Hall of Famer Don Hudson is the true king, having won it five times in the 1930s and ’40s.
It was once again New Yuck, New Yuck, as the Jets and Giants finished off another season by losing their 13th game and setting a record for the most combined losses in a campaign for New York’s teams that play in New Jersey’s Meadowlands.
The 26 setbacks are one more than the teams combined for in 1996 when the Jets went 1-15 and the Giants 5-11. The two franchises are also tied for the worst record in the NFL over the past five years, with the Giants the only team to not have a winning record at any point in those seasons.
The Philadelphia Eagles became the eighth team in the past 20 years to gain the playoffs despite failing to win a single contest against another playoff team. This season Philly lost all six of its games versus playoff teams while going 9-2 the remainder of the season.
The last team to do that was the 2016 Detroit Lions, who then lost their first playoff game. Of the other teams to do it in the last 20 years, only the 2008 Chargers and 2004 Minnesota Vikings broke through with a postseason triumph.
Penalties increased in the league, with 18 percent per game for offenses this season as teams were penalized 36 percent more per game for holding and nearly 10 percent more often for false starts.
Also, average points a game for teams dropped from a record 24.8 in 2021 to 23 this time as improved defenses, some quarterback-related COVID-19 absences, more holding calls, and visiting teams dealing with crowds also likely made an impact.
Now on to the playoffs.
SATURDAY, January 15th
Las Vegas Raiders (10-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (10-7), 2:30 p.m. on NBC
New England Patriots (10-7) at Buffalo Bills (11-6), 6:15 p.m. on CBS
SUNDAY, January 16th
Philadelphia Eagles (9-8) at Tampa Bay Bucs (13-4), 11 a.m. on FOX
San Francisco 49ers (10-7) at Dallas Cowboys (12-5), 2:30 p.m on CBS
Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7) at Kansas City Chiefs (12-5), 6:15 p.m. on NBC
MONDAY, January 17th
Arizona Cardinals (11-6) at Los Angeles Rams (12-5), 6:15 p.m. on ESPN and ABC