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It's a league of returning stars

December 31, 2007|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

This may have been the season of perfection for the New England Patriots, but it may also go down as the season of many happy returns.

Devin Hester of the Chicago Bears broke his NFL record Sunday when he returned a punt 64 yards for a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints for his sixth kick return touchdown of the season.

It was also one of five touchdowns scored on kick returns Sunday.

Those returns brought the 2007 season total to an NFL-record 42. The previous record was 39, set in 2002.

Andre Davis of the Houston Texans had two kickoff returns for touchdowns against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday to become only the seventh player in NFL history with two in a game.

Dolphins decision

Miami Dolphins Coach Cam Cameron said he would meet with Bill Parcells, the team's newly hired executive vice president of football operations, sometime this week to discuss his future after the team finished a franchise-worst 1-15.

"We knew coming in this was a process," Cameron said. "Unfortunately it's not a lot of fun. It's painful. Now all the evaluations start. It's part of the process of getting this organization where we want it to be."

Only seven other teams have gone 1-15 in NFL history. Of those, only Jimmy Johnson of the 1989 Dallas Cowboys and Mike Riley of the 2000 San Diego Chargers returned to coach the following season.

Running men

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, vying for the NFL rushing title, was benched for the team's first series in a loss to the Denver Broncos because he was late for a team bus.

"I understand," Peterson said. "Everybody is looked at in the same way, no matter a starter or not. If you're late for something, that's the consequence."

He returned for the second series but finished with only 36 yards rushing in 11 carries. Still, he finished with 1,341 yards for the season and edged Brian Westbrook of the Philadelphia Eagles by eight yards for the NFC rushing title. LaDainian Tomlinson of the San Diego Chargers led the NFL with 1,474.

Double duty

The Eagles' Westbrook set team records for catches in a season and total yards from scrimmage with 1,333 yards rushing and 90 catches for 771 yards and also became only the fourth player in NFL history to have 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 90 receptions.

The others were Roger Craig of the San Francisco 49ers in 1985, Tomlinson with the Chargers in 2003 and Steven Jackson of the St. Louis Rams in 2006.

You're being watched

The Patriots' 38-35 victory over the New York Giants on Saturday night was the most-watched program since the television season began in September, according to Nielsen Media.

The game was watched by an average of 34.5 million viewers on the NFL, CBS and NBC networks, making it the most-viewed regular-season game since Thanksgiving 1995, when the Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys drew 35.7 million.

In the 2007 calendar year, only six shows drew more viewers: the Super Bowl, the two conference championship games, the Academy Awards and two episodes of "American Idol."

Full circle

The Carolina Panthers paid tribute to retiring quarterback Vinny Testaverde by letting him take the final snap in a victory at Tampa Bay.

It was a fitting place for his career to end because that's where it began. Testaverde, 44, was a first-round pick of the Buccaneers in 1987.

"It does mean a lot," Testaverde said. "It's been a great ride."

He finished with 45,233 yards passing and threw at least one touchdown pass in 21 consecutive seasons, an NFL record.

Milestones

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez had seven catches against the New York Jets, bringing his career total to 820 and breaking the NFL record for tight ends set by Shannon Sharpe, who had 815. . . . New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees set an NFL record with 443 completions, passing the previous mark of 418 set by Rich Gannon in 2002. . . . Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts had 58 yards passing to extend his NFL record for most seasons with 4,000 yards passing to eight. . . . St. Louis Rams kicker Jeff Wilkins tied Jason Elam's NFL record for consecutive PATs at 371. . . . .Rams receiver Isaac Bruce had two catches to pull ahead of Art Monk for sixth in NFL career receptions with 942. . . . Oakland Raiders punter Shane Lechler set a single-season record for net punting, averaging 41.1 net yards, breaking the record of 39.9 by Mike Horan of the New York Giants in 1993.

Injury report

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