It's a fact of life in the NFL that the best rookies aren't always the first- and second-round draft picks. Everyone knows that even guys who go undrafted out of college occasionally make their mark in the pro ranks. It may be an exception, but in Week 14, the exception was the norm.
Can anyone remember the last time the NFL had four undrafted free agents gain 100 or more yards in one weekend? That's exactly what happened in Week 14. Green Bay's Ryan Grant and Denver rookie Selvin Young led the way with 156 yards each; Willie Parker had 124 yards for Pittsburgh; and Buffalo rookie Fred Jackson ran for 115 yards.
Young now has 569 yards this season -- he's only the sixth undrafted rookie in NFL history to top the 500-yard mark.
At least everyone has heard of those two, right? How about undrafted wide receiver Jerheme Urban -- a fourth-year player for Arizona who caught 6 of Warner's passes for 123 yards and one score?
Two of the aforementioned players came from the Div. III level -- Jackson of Coe College and Urban of Trinity (Tex.) University.
All of these players just reinforce the notion that you never know where the next great performance in the NFL will come from.
That said, Week 14 also had many milestones achieved by better-known players.
Fred Taylor, in the fourth quarter of Jacksonville's win over Carolina, broke off an 80-yard touchdown run -- the longest rushing TD of the year. Amazingly, that mark was bested less than two hours later by another Taylor, as Minnesota's Chester Taylor ran 84 yards for a touchdown.
Jason Witten had 15 catches for the Cowboys in their win over Detroit -- breaking the franchise's single-game record of 13 set in 1967 by Lance Retzel. One note of interest regarding Witten: When he was recruited out of high school, Witten only considered schools that would let him play defensive end, not tight end. And that's where he began his career at the University of Tennessee -- until injuries at the tight end position forced the Volunteers to move Witten there midway through his freshman year. Safe to say that move worked out okay for Witten.
Trent Edwards of Buffalo became the first rookie quarterback since Jim Plunkett in 1971 to throw three first-half touchdown passes in a game. He also became the first rookie to throw four TD passes in one game since Chicago's Cade McNown did it in 1999. The Bears head coach when McNown accomplished that feat? None other than current Bills head coach Dick Jauron.
Patrick Kerney of Seattle had three sacks for the third time in the last three games, and he now leads the NFL with 13.5 sacks on the season. That's a career-high for Kerney. And for the second week in a row, the Seahawks had a player with three interceptions. Last week it was linebacker Lofa Tatupu; this week it was cornerback Marcus Trufant, who now has seven picks for the season. Trufant's 84-yard TD return of an interception was the first in his NFL career.
In Green Bay, when Will Blackmon returned a Shane Lechler punt for a touchdown, it marked the first time in Lechler's 8-year career that one if his punts was brought back all the way. Blackmon also returned a fumble for a touchdown against the Raiders, making him the first player to score two touchdowns in that fashion in the same game since Lemar Parrish did it for the Bengals in 1974.
Who is Kyle Koiser?
And how was this unheralded sixth-year player such a critical component in the Cowboys' big win at Detroit? With 1:25 left in the game and no timeouts, Romo fumbled at his own 40. After a Lions player tried to pick up the football rather than just fall on it, Kosier pounced on it and kept the drive alive.
Thanks to the recovery, Dallas was able to overcome a double-digit deficit to win in the final 20 seconds of a game for the second time this season. Romo now has at least one TD pass in 17 consecutive games -- a franchise record.
That said, it should be noted that the Cowboys came out awfully flat in this game. Players can talk all they want about being ready to play every week. But players were late getting onto the field for plays, taking penalties, committing turnovers. There were clear signs they were not mentally ready to play. Detroit, which had so much trouble running the football in recent weeks, ran very well in this game. But they got away from that late in the game -- precisely the time they should have kept on running.
Road to perfection
Tom Brady, with 4 TD passes, now has 45 on the season. He passed for 399 yards against the NFL's top-ranked pass defense -- Pittsburgh allowed an average of 154 yards going into the game. Brady's 32 completions went to seven different receivers. New England ran the ball just nine times for 22 yards, but that didn't exactly hurt them.
New England is the fifth team in NFL history to start 13-0. Anthony Smith, who guaranteed the win for Pittsburgh, was burned twice for touchdowns.
How important is Albert Haynesworth? For the first 57:30 of the Chargers-Titans game, San Diego had 166 yards and 10 points. Over the next 10:01 -- between the end of regulation and halftime, with Haynesworth having left the game after re-injuring himself, the Chargers amassed 175 yards and 13 points. … LaDainian Tomlinson scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter with 7:29 left, then scored the game-winner with 7:29 left in overtime. … Kansas City ranked 29th in rushing going into its game against Denver and the Broncos ranked 31st against the run. Three Denver backs each individually rushed for more than the Chiefs amassed in total rushing yards. The 16 yards Kansas City gained was the eighth-lowest total in team history.