Jerry Rice's yardage mark heads top five records in NFL history

We all saw the catch.

No. 13 in standard Giants blue, going up with one hand outstretched above (and behind) his body to snag a touchdown for New York. Many things in pro football are overstated; nothing about this catch was.

Odell Beckham Jr. authored the grab of the century ... in the midst of a rookie season for the ages. He averaged 108.8 yards per game -- the most ever by a rookie receiver, beating a pro football record set in 1960. But is it one of the most impressive records of all time? We will very politely say no, but not before we give you a few ironclad reasons why. How about five player records that are simply more impressive, including one by pro football's iron man?

The five NFL marks below stand out so much that calling them unbreakable is not only not a stretch, but it's apropos. And that's how we will start the list: with an achievement that is truly unbreakable -- as in, by the physical laws of a 100-yard football field, it can't be topped.

5) Tony Dorsett sees the whole field -- literally

When I say unbreakable, I mean unbreakable. Tony Dorsett's 99-yard touchdown run against the Vikings in the last game of the 1982 regular season is a unique record among all records. Not just because no one can run farther than 99 yards from scrimmage, but because it came on a bum play.

Say what?

Backed up at their own 1-yard line at the Metrodome (in the building's first prime-time game in fact, on Monday Night Football), the Cowboys needed to run the football to get out of a hole. Too bad they only had 10 men on the field to do it.

Fullback Ron Springs ran into the huddle, only to get confused and run right back out while QB Danny White was calling the play. It was to be a run, designed to go to Springs -- not Dorsett. Alas, with no fullback, Dorsett took the handoff himself and took off -- toward the record books.

With intrepid quickness, Dorsett blew into the second level of the defense, then executed a brilliant cut to his right and into the open field. The running back patiently followed the downfield blocking of wideout Drew Pearson and eventually hit paydirt. Watch the video -- the tightrope act Dorsett pulls off around the Vikings' 20 to stay inbounds is no less impressive than the run itself.

4) Jim McMahon just can't lose

Nearly every football fan on Planet Earth over 30 years old knows about the 1985 Chicago Bears. Mike Ditka's team, Buddy Ryan's defense and the greatest running back this side of Jim Brown -- those were Da Bears of three decades ago. They won every game but one en route to an 18-1 season and a big, fat Super Bowl ring.

That one loss came on a Monday night in Miami, a contest started by backup quarterback Steve Fuller. You see, every time Jim McMahon started that season (including the playoffs) the Bears won. Ditto 1986. In fact, from McMahon's last few starts in 1984 to his first few starts of '87, the product of Brigham Young (the school, not the man) simply did not lose. In the process, McMahon won 25 straight starts, a feat that has never been matched by an NFL quarterback. It should be noted that the Bears didn't win every game during those four years -- going 10-6, 15-1, 14-2 and 11-4 during the regular season(s). But nearly every time they lost, McMahon was hurt.

While never considered an elite quarterback, McMahon had a knack for making the right play at the right time. And his teammates played for him. Like a Russell Wilson of yore, McMahon wasn't asked to put up too many scores, either. The Bears, after all, allowed the fewest points in the NFL in '85 and '86.

Still, winning 25 straight starts is winning 25 straight starts. In this day of salary-cap parity, I don't see that record being equaled.

3) Don't throw at Night Train

What Dick "Night Train" Lane did in 1952 boggles the mind. In a 12-game season, the duration of the schedule in the 1950s, the Los Angeles Rams corner picked off 14 passes.


Never mind that that's more than one per game. Never mind that no one has matched the mark in the last 62 seasons. How about the fact that most quarterbacks only threw the ball about 20 times per game in those days? Teams ran more, offenses threw less, and thus, games went faster. All that amounts to a very limited amount of opportunities to intercept the ball, so don't give me this "Nobody gives Revis a chance to intercept passes" jazz.

As if all that wasn't enough to impress you, here's the kicker: Lane was a rookie. And he wasn't even drafted! Not only did he record that staggering figure of 14 interceptions during his debut season, but he took two back to the house and soon became known as one of the hardest hitting defenders in football.

It's no exaggeration to call Lane's 1952 season one of the greatest rookie campaigns in NFL history. So, in case you think Richard Sherman or Patrick Peterson might someday surpass Lane's 14 interceptions, let's see someone else do it Year 1 in the NFL. Not gonna happen.

2) Pro football's iron man

Many old-school fans will tell you Chuck Bednarik was pro football's original "iron man," the last of the two-way dynamos in the NFL. And then those who grew up in the 1960s and '70s will point out the exploits of Jim Marshall, the former Vikings defensive end who played in 282 consecutive games before retiring at 42 years old.

Yet, when it comes to showing up to work -- and showing toughness -- on a daily basis, how can you look past Brett Favre?

Favre started 297 straight games. Considering how many shots quarterbacks take, and how vulnerable they are in the pocket, this feat might be worthy of the No. 1 spot on our list. It is frankly unfathomable that any other quarterback will match it, as that would entail starting for 18 straight years and some change. Considering nearly half the starting quarterbacks in the league failed to start all 16 games in 2014, matching Favre's streak is darn near mathematically impossible over 18-plus seasons.

Take Derek Carr, who started all 16 games as a rookie. The Raiders sophomore has the jump on Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater, who also started as rookies, but not from Day 1. In fact, Carr has a head start on Favre, as well -- the 11-time Pro Bowler and three-time NFL MVP didn't get the starting nod until Week 4 of his sophomore campaign. So now all Carr needs to do to eclipse Favre's mark is not miss a game -- or slump badly enough to get benched -- until about midway through the 2032 season. If all goes well, he'll be 41 by the time he breaks it.

Good luck, Derek.

1) Jerry's world

As mentioned above, Odell Beckham Jr. just enjoyed one of the most electric rookie seasons -- at any position -- in NFL history. His final numbers: 91 catches for 1,305 and 12 touchdowns. Now, for the sake of this exercise, give Beckham that annual production for 14 more years. What a career that would be: 1,365 catches, 19,575 yards and 180 touchdowns. Hall of Fame, right?

Now, realize that those incredible numbers would be 17 touchdowns, 184 catches and a healthy 3,320 yards behind Jerry Rice. The yardage total is the truly incredible piece here, as it is hard to even wrap your football brain around Rice's 22,895 career receiving yards.

Over 20 NFL seasons, Rice averaged 1,090 receiving yards. Seriously? It doesn't even cognitively compute.

First of all, who is going to play that long? Secondly, people think Calvin Johnson has already put up a Hall of Fame-worthy career and he has only posted five seasons of 1,090-plus yards in eight years in the league. Rice had 11 1,000-yard seasons in his first 12 campaigns. He eclipsed 1,200 yards in all but one of those years, the strike-shortened 1987 season. (You know, when he scored 22 touchdowns in 12 games.) And then he went on to play another decade. Give me a break.

Nobody in the first 95 seasons of the NFL is even close to Rice in this category. And no one will touch him in the next 95. He is the Babe Ruth of the sport, plain and simple.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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