A QUICK SIX: Tennessee rookie wide receiver-kick returner MARC MARIANI, a seventh-round selection (No. 222 overall) from the University of Montana, returned six kickoffs for 187 yards (31.2 average) with a 98-yard touchdown in the Titans' 26-20 loss to Denver.
With Mariani's third-quarter kickoff-return score, 2010 marks the first time since 1970 that at least one kickoff-return touchdown has been registered in each of the first four weeks of a season. The seven kickoff-return touchdowns recorded this year tie for the most (2007) through a season's first four weeks.
The seven touchdowns scored on kickoff returns this year:
PLAYER TEAM RETURN YARDS FOR TD QUARTER WEEK
Brandon Tate Patriots 97 3rd Week 1
Antonio Brown Steelers 89 1st Week 2
C.J. Spiller Bills 95 3rd Week 3
LaRod Stephens-Howling Cardinals 102 1st Week 3
Leon Washington Seahawks 101 3rd Week 3
Leon Washington Seahawks 99 4th Week 3
Marc Mariani Titans 98 3rd Week 4
-- NFL --
PASSING INSPECTION: Three starting quarterbacks – KYLE ORTON of Denver, PHILIP RIVERS of San Diego and PEYTON MANNING of Indianapolis – are averaging over 300 passing yards per game through four games, marking only the sixth time in league annals that three individual quarterbacks have passed for more than 1,200 yards in their first four games to open a season. Manning (352 yards) and Orton (341 yards) both passed for more than 300 yards in Week 4.
Never in the same year have four quarterbacks each averaged at least 300 yards per game through their first four tilts to begin a season. Quarterback TONY ROMO of Dallas, which had a bye in Week 4, has totaled 940 passing yards in three games.
PLAYER, TEAM GAMES PASS YARDS PER GAME TOTAL PASS YARDS
Kyle Orton, Broncos 4 354.8 1,419
Peyton Manning, Colts 4 341.3 1,365
Philip Rivers, Chargers 4 332.0 1,328
Tony Romo, Cowboys* 3 313.3 940
*Dallas had a bye in Week 4
-- NFL --
GROUND AND AIR: Houston running back ARIAN FOSTER totaled 131 rushing yards on 16 carries (8.2 average) with one touchdown and 56 receiving yards on three receptions (18.7 average) with one touchdown in the Texans' 31-24 win at Oakland. Foster leads the NFL in rushing yards (537) and scrimmage yards (689).
Foster is the third running back in NFL history to total more than 500 rushing yards (537) and 100 receiving yards (152) in the first four games of a season, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer EMMITT SMITH and BILLY SIMS.
Including Foster, 10 running backs since 1970 have amassed 500 rushing yards through their club's first four games of a season.
-- NFL --
AT THE FRONT GATES: San Diego tight end ANTONIO GATES had seven catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns in the Chargers' 41-10 victory over Arizona. Gates has 503 receptions in 113 career games, reaching 500 receptions in the third-fewest games (113) by a tight end in NFL history.
Only Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end KELLEN WINSLOW (101) and Cowboys tight end JASON WITTEN (107) reached the 500-catch mark in fewer games. Gates is the eighth tight end in NFL history with more than 500 receptions.
PLAYER TEAM GAMES TO REACH 500 RECEPTIONS
Kellen Winslow Chargers 101
Jason Witten Cowboys 107
Antonio Gates* Chargers 113
-- NFL --
WHAT TO LOOK FOR ON MNF: Two notes to keep in mind for tonight's Monday Night Football game between the Patriots and Dolphins…
GREAT NIGHT OUT: Primetime games this season have heightened the excitement of the national viewing audience as seven of the nine contests have been decided by eight points or fewer.
If the margin of victory in tonight's Patriots-Dolphins game is eight points or fewer, it will mark the only time since at least 1995 that eight or more of a season's first 10 primetime games were decided by one score. Last season, the winners of seven of the first 10 primetime games were determined by eight or fewer points.
-- NFL --
NINETY-NINE FOR No. 199: Since being selected by the Patriots in the sixth round (No. 199 overall) of the 2000 NFL Draft, New England's TOM BRADY has established himself as one the league's elite quarterbacks.
Brady (99-31, .762) this Monday night can become the 11th quarterback in NFL history to win 100 games, reaching the milestone in the fewest number of starts (131) among quarterbacks who began their careers in the Super Bowl era (since 1966).
The fastest quarterbacks to 100 wins:
PLAYER TEAM STARTS TO REACH 100 WINS**
Joe Montana 49ers 139
Terry Bradshaw Steelers 147
Brett Favre Packers 153
Peyton Manning Colts 154
Tom Brady Patriots 130*
* 99 career wins
**In the Super Bowl era (since 1966)