Tuesday trends: Winning with the elite

Having one player who is elite in his craft is nice but doesn’t guarantee winning. Having several players among the NFL’s best seems to do the trick. Just ask the Bengals. Plus, a look at the leaders in the deep-dive statistics of the NFL.

NFL coaches stress the importance of putting the team above individual goals. If a look at some of the individual leaders in the NFL provides any insight, there’s good reason for that philosophy.

Some of the NFL’s best players in certain aspects of the game are on losing teams, but some of the best teams not surprisingly have leaders in several categories. In other words, better players make good teams, but teams with just one elite player don’t necessarily win often enough.

To wit the losing side of things: Philip Rivers leads the NFL in passing yards, but his San Diego Chargers are below .500. Ezekiel Ansah is tied for the NFL lead in sacks, but his Detroit Lions are the only winless team left in the league. Matt Forte leads the NFL in rushing yards, but his Chicago Bears are 2-3.  DeAndre Hopkins leads the league in receiving yards, but his Houston Texans are only 1-4.

But the Cincinnati Bengals, perhaps one of the biggest surprises so far, are 5-0 with Andy Dalton second in passing yards, Carlos Dunlap tied for the league lead in sacks, Vincent Rey third in tackles and A.J. Green fourth in receiving yards. Stop one or two of the Bengals’ best and you still might get drilled with big performances from their other players.

So who are some of the leaders in the NFL’s deep-statistics:

Dalton leads the league with 18 pass plays going longer than 25 yards. Aaron Rodgers is next with 13.

Tom Brady and Matt Hasselbeck are the only quarterbacks with 75 passes or more that haven’t thrown an interception. Josh McCown has thrown only one in his 149 attempts.

Carson Palmer is the best so far on third-and-long situations, completing 57.1 percent of his passes when it is third-and-8 or longer.

Drew Brees has the best passer rating (122.3) inside an opponent’s red zone.

The best quarterback rating on the road might surprise you: It’s Marcus Mariota at 132.4.

Justin Forsett and T.J. Yeldon share the lead with 14 rushes stuffed for no gain or lost yardage.

Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles are tied for the lead among running backs on third-and-short (less than 3 yards), converting all four of their attempts. Marshawn Lynch has the most attempts in those situations, but has converted five of seven.

The best average on fourth-quarter carries? That’s rookie Todd Gurley, averaging 11.2 yards on his 16 fourth-quarter carries. Adrian Peterson is next, averaging 9.4 yards on his nine fourth-quarter attempts.

Ryan Mathews has the best average on first-and-10 at 7.6 yards on 21 attempts.

Rookie Amari Cooper leads NFL wide receivers with 231 yards after the catch.

Antonio Brown is the leading third-down receiver with 13 third-down catches for first downs, no matter the distance needed.

The top receiver for first-down catches on third-and-7 or longer is Hopkins, with six first downs in those situations.

Ronald Darby leads the NFL with 11 passes defensed.

Le'Veon Bell’s winning touchdown with no time remaining on Monday night was the first go-ahead touchdown with zeros on the clock since Jeremy Maclin did it in September 2012. A “walk-off” winning touchdown in the fourth quarter of a Monday night game happened only once before – the infamous “Fail Mary” in September 2012.

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