On this day in 2004, the Oakland Raiders won a game. But Jerry Rice lost his control of one of his finest records.
In Oakland's 13-10 win over the Buffalo Bills, Rice was held to no receptions. It ended a streak of 724 consecutive contests that saw him earn at least one grab. Rice didn't show much disappointment in his streak coming to end, maybe partly because he tops countless columns of receiving in the NFL record books.
Most prominently, Rice scored 208 touchdowns, the only player to make at least 200 visits to the end zone. It stands as a record today, and will surely live on in the future. Not only is Rice 33 scores ahead of second-placed Emmitt Smith, but the closest active chaser, the aging Larry Fitzgerald, is nearly 100 tallies away, sitting at 117 touchdowns for his career. Rice also holds big leads on active leaders in other significant statistical categories; he has 233 more receptions than his closest active competitor, 4,893 more yards from scrimmage, and 6,399 more receiving yards. Safe to say, this one won't be falling every year, like how the career passing yardage leader changes each season.
Which other NFL records will stand the test of time?
Most Pass Attempts in a Game: Drew Bledsoe
In 1994, New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe threw an astonishing 70 passes in a game against Minnesota. His last one was the game-winning score, a 14-yard touchdown in overtime.
You'd think that, with today's increased emphasis on throwing the ball, that this one would fall in no time, but this is a record that would stand in either football or baseball. With a lot of NFL teams keeping an eye on "pitch counts", sometimes actively going their way to make sure the quarterback cuts down their attempts, it seems ludicrous that any team would allow their franchise man to throw 70 times in any single game. Bledsoe's mark was accomplished en route to the first of three consecutive years that saw him lead the league in attempts. It has never been officially proven, but one has to wonder if all those attempts early in his career shortened a productive tenure.
Most Rushing Yards in a Season: Eric Dickerson
Running back has undoubtedly enjoyed a resurgence in popularity as this decade has carried on. We've seen guys like Marshawn Lynch make an active difference on championship teams in the middle of the decade, while some squads today are in a situation where there is no offensive production without the help of a strong running back. Just remember how the Dallas Cowboys faltered in 2017 without the services of Ezekiel Elliott.
Even so, it's difficult to see anyone reverting back to Dickerson's epic 1984 season that saw him tally 2,105 yards. Adrian Peterson came close in 2012, falling short by just 10 yards, but, to recall the Bledsoe discussion again, teams would rather see championships rise than records fall. To wear down your running back in vain pursuit of Dickerson would be foolhardy, and there may not be another running back more physically talented than Peterson in NFL history. If he couldn't do it, it's hard to imagine someone else doing so.
Most Consecutive Starts: Brett Favre
Fantasy football has made interest in NFL medical affairs skyrocket to an all-time high. Injury reports have helped terms like "questionable" enter our everyday lexicons. This is obviously for the best, as there's no single matter more important in the league than the health of the players, but it feels like even the slightest breach a player's physical normalcy draws a team of medical examiners, especially at the quarterback spot. Favre played in a era, perhaps surviving its final days, when all an injured player had to do to get back into the game was declare he was fine, grab his helmet, and line up. Many players, in fact, are lucky to have their whole careers go 297 games, never mind start 297 in a row like Favre did. It's almost refreshing to see that this is a mark that'll never go down.
Most Kick Return Yards: Brian Mitchell
In some ways, the kickoff is an endangered species in professional football. The NFL has taken great measures to limit dangerous returns by situating the preceding boot five yards closer to the touchback-inducing end zone. Should a returned actually get his hands on the ball, the NFL has incentivized taking a knee behind the goal line, moving the de factor fair catch up to the 25-yard line, almost giving returners a reward for opting to do nothing.
Fearless as he was fast, Mitchell was one of those who would loved to field the ball anywhere on the field. We'll never get to witness how he would cope with the new rules. Return specialists are also somewhat disappearing, with some teams opting to use a regular skill player in the spot. Thus, Mitchell has little to worry about as his 2003 retirement becomes more and more distant. The record will hold at 14,014 kickoff return yards for his career.
Most Career Interceptions: Paul Krause
Krause isn't the most common name you hear as the NFL carries on its centennial celebration, but he holds a special (and, in case you're not paying attention, irrevocable) spot in the NFL records books.
He hasn't played since 1979, but it's Krause's name that tops the all-time interception list at 81. There's no concrete answer as to how he was able to swipe so many when interceptions have dipped as the game progressed; heck, it could be just a simple case of quarterbacks learning how to throw the ball better. For example, in his rookie season, one of the last in the pre-Super Bowl era, Krause has a dozen interceptions. One man, talented as he may be, faces a tough task in outsmarting a modern NFL offense that many times.
Most Career Points: Adam Vinatieri
Vinatieri's recent struggles make it all the more painful to remember all the clutch, blissful memories he created en route to the top of the NFL's all-time scoring list. He broke through Morten Andersen's 11-year hold on the record last season, and his timing probably couldn't have been better. This an NFL society where teams are more and more reluctant to settle for three points. Going for it on fourth down is more common than ever. Future kickers won't be afforded the opportunities Vinatieri once had. This one should stand for a while, as Vinateri currently sits at 2,605 points and (given that he isn't retiring quite yet) will only increase his lead.