DeAndre Hopkins had 115 receptions this season without a drop. I'm not sure if that's a record, but I'm going to assume that it is, because it's really incredible to think about. I mean, I can't even go to the water cooler 115 times without dropping my refillable water bottle. In fact, I dropped it this morning trying to get it out of my backpack. And to think, Hopkins catching 115 passes -- with highly athletic defensive backs actively trying to stop him -- wasn't even the most impressive thing about this season. Whether it was a record or not. (Spoiler alert: Pro Football Focus says it was, at least going back through the 2007 season, when PFF began tracking drops.) The NFL was awash in broken records in 2018 -- here are the most eye-catching.
But first: I'd like to offer shoutouts to Baltimore rookie Lamar Jackson, whose 190 rushing yards in his first two NFL starts set a record for a quarterback in the Super Bowl era, and to the Chiefs, whose streak of scoring at least 25 points in 21 consecutive games is the longest in NFL history. As noteworthy as these marks were, they didn't quite make the cut.
And now, on to the list:
10) James Conner becomes a super-understudy
Conner had an interesting year. The Pittsburgh running back was caught in the middle of the squabble between the Steelers and Le'Veon Bell, with the season-long absence by Bell leading to Conner's elevation to the starting gig. It wasn't like having your significant other's ex stalk you on social media, because Bell was mostly complimentary toward the second-year pro. But it was still weird. Before he was slowed by an ankle injury that cost him three games in December, Conner ended up having four games with at least 100 rushing yards, 50 receiving yards and one touchdown. That was the most by any one player in a single season in NFL history. How about that?
9) Matt Ryan and Julio Jones surpass some big names
Ryan broke Peyton Manning's record! No, wait, not that record. Actually, a lot of Manning's records fell this year -- we'll get to more in a minute. At any rate, the Falcons QB finished 2018 with 46,720 career passing yards, jumping ahead of Manning (45,628) for the most passing yards through a player's first 11 seasons in NFL history. Jones, meanwhile, paced the NFL with 1,677 receiving yards and became the fifth player in NFL history to post three or more seasons of 1,500-plus yards. But probably most important here is the fact that Jones reached 10,000 career receiving yards in his 104th game, quicker than Calvin Johnson, who had previously held the record for achieving that total (115 games).
8) Deshaun Watson does it all
Yeah, yeah, go crazy for Trevor Lawrence -- but don't forget about the Clemson product who is actually throwing passes in the NFL right now. Watson became the first quarterback in NFL history to record a season with 4,000-plus passing yards (4,165), 25-plus touchdown tosses (26), 500-plus rushing yards (551) and five-plus rushing touchdowns. All of this while the Texans rallied from a 1-3 start to win the AFC South. Of course, those numbers didn't mean much against the Colts on Wild Card Weekend without a fully healthy Hopkins at his disposal.
7) Saquon Barkley catches everything
The debate about whether or not the Giants should have used the second overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft on Barkley, a running back, instead of a quarterback will burn forever, or at least until Barkley signs his second contact. But he was incredible during his rookie campaign. He led the NFL in scrimmage yards (2,028) and ranked second in rushing yards (1,307). But maybe the most impressive number? His 91 receptions, the most by a rookie running back in NFL history, besting Reggie Bush, who had 88 in 2006.
6) Who says TEs aren't statistically relevant? (Other than fantasy dorks)
Eagles tight end Zach Ertz's 116 catches set a single-season franchise mark among players at all positions and moved him past Jason Witten (who had 110 in 2012) for the most catches in the NFL by a tight end in a single season. And my guy George Kittle of the 49ers also broke a single-season league record for tight ends, with 1,377 receiving yards. Kittle's 210 receiving yards in Week 14 were the third-most by a tight end in a single game, 4 yards short of the record held by Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe. San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan apparently regretted that he didn't get Kittle that mark. So did my fantasy team!
5) Adam Vinatieri keeps kicking it old school
Vinatieri (582 career field goals) moved past Hall of Famer Morten Andersen (565) for the most converted field goals in NFL history. The Colts' kicker's 2,600 total points (in 23 NFL seasons) also eclipsed Andersen's mark of 2,544. After the weekend I had as a Bears fan, you can understand how much I would long for this kind of consistency from the kicker position.
4) Aaron Rodgers throws the most consecutive passes without an interception
I remember playing full seasons of "Madden" when I was younger, when I would try to go the whole year without throwing an interception. Good lord, that was difficult. So I kind of understand what the Packers QB was going though, trying to keep this streak intact. (OK, so I don't really, but roll with it.) Rodgers attempted 402 passes without a pick from Week 4 to Week 15. Did it often make Rodgers look timid? Like he was afraid to make a big play out there? Sure. But it's still impressive. Funny, I can't remember who ended his streak. I'm sure it wasn't in a big game or anything.
3) Tom Brady wins his 234th career game
Brady has the most career wins in the NFL, including the postseason. In addition, the Patriots won the AFC East for the 10th consecutive season. They are in the playoffs for the 10th consecutive year, which breaks the mark held by Dallas (1975-1983) and Indianapolis (2002-2010) for most consecutive playoff berths. And I know the Patriots are derided for the quality of their division. (Although if it's true that iron sharpens iron, the comparative lack of competition in the AFC East actually makes the Patriots' accomplishments more impressive.) But New England did beat the winners of other divisions (Kansas City in the AFC West, Houston in the AFC South, Chicago in the NFC North) and the playoff-bound Colts, too. So New England wins most of its big games. Try something else, haters.
2) Baker Mayfield sets a rookie record for TD passes (27)
This was amazing on a lot of different levels. For starters, how did Peyton Manning's mark of 26 touchdown passes as a rookie, set in 1998, stand for so long? More and more rookie quarterbacks are thrown to the wolves -- I mean, given meaningful snaps right away -- while running the ball has become as antiquated a concept as owning a VCR. Yes, Russell Wilson tied Manning in 2012, but it's crazy that it took so many years for someone to get to 27. What's impressive about this is that Mayfield was able to accomplish this feat with the Browns (no disrespect; Cleveland did upgrade the surrounding cast, but you all know the track record of previous Browns QBs) while starting in just 13 games (though he appeared in 14). You certainly can't blame folks for being excited for the Browns next season. Cleveland is going to the playoffs in 2019.
1) Drew Brees sets the record for most passing yards in NFL history
It was a magical season for Brees, who reached the biggest milestone of the season when he became the NFL's all-time leading passer, breaking Peyton Manning's mark of 71,940 passing yards (Brees currently has 74,437 career passing yards). Kind of fun that the Saints signal-caller would break a record set by the son of another legendary Saint, Archie Manning. What's amazing to note here is that when Archie Manning retired after the 1984 season, reporters said he was a fringe Hall of Famer because, with his 23,911 passing yards, he'd almost reached the magical career mark at the time of 25,000.
Brees also set records for career completions (6,586, topping Hall of Famer Brett Favre's 6,300) and single-season completion percentage (74.4). He's currently second in NFL history with 520 career touchdowns, which is 19 short of Peyton's all-time mark -- a gap that Brees should cover in his two games against the Falcons next year (he threw seven in his two games vs. Atlanta this year).