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On This Date in Sports November 26, 1989: Flipping the Record Book

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Los Angeles Rams receiver Flipper Anderson has a game for the ages, collecting 336 yards on 15 receptions as the Rams beat the New Orleans Saints 20-17 in overtime at the Superdome. Anderson’s 336 receiving yards set a new NFL single-game record that has yet to be matched, with much of his record game coming late, as the Rams trailed 17-3 at the start of the fourth quarter.

Willie Anderson was born March 7, 1965, in Paulsboro, New Jersey. Staring at the South Jersey High School, Anderson nicknamed Flipper became a highly sought-after recruit, landing at UCLA, where he played with Troy Aikman. Flipper Anderson would stay in Southern California when the NFL called, as the Los Angeles Rams chose him in the second round of the 1988 NFL Draft.

Flipper Anderson’s rookie season with the Rams, was hard spectacular as he had just 11 receptions for 339 yards in 1988. Flipper Anderson began to make others take notice in Week 4 of the 1989 season as he scored his first career touchdown and topped 100 yards for the first time as the Rams stunned the San Francisco 49ers 13-12 at Candlestick Park. Despite the win of the Niners, the Rams coached by John Robinson were still trailing in the NFC West as they sat at 7-4, entering a Sunday Night Game against the New Orleans Saints. The Saints led by Jim Mora held a record of 6-5 entering the game, making it a pivotal matchup for both NFC West rivals.

The Saints were in control most of the night, taking a 7-0 lead as Eric Martin caught a 19-yard pass from Bobby Hebert in the first quarter. Morten Andersen later made it 10-0 in favor of New Orleans with a 36-yard field goal, while Rams only points in the first half came courtesy of a field goal by barefooted kicker Mike Langford. However, with Jim Everett throwing two costly interceptions, the Rams fell further behind in the third quarter as Eric Martin caught a 35-yard pass from running back Dalton Hilliard to make it 17-3.

Things looked bleak for Los Angeles as they trailed 17-3 with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The only bright spot had been Flipper Anderson, who had set a personal best with 171 receiving yards as the LA was without Henry Ellard. Things began to perk up for the Rams, as Flipper caught a 46-yard pass, setting up a five-yard touchdown run by Bufford McGee to make it a one-score game. After the Saints were unable to run out the clock, the Rams got the ball back with Everett making the most of his new favorite receiver going down the field to tie the game 17-17, with Flipper Anderson reeling in a 15-yard touchdown pass. At the end of regulation, Flipper Anderson had 296 yards on 13 catches.

In overtime, the Rams got the ball and rode Flipper Anderson down, the field, as a 14-yard pass set the single-game receiving record. The previous record had been 309 yards set by Stephon Paige of the Kansas City Chiefs in 1985. Flipper and the Rams were not done, and there was little the Saints could do. Toi Cook tried to stop Anderson but gave Los Angeles under 36 yards when he was called for pass interference. With victory in their sights, Jim Everett connected with Flipper Anderson one last time for 26 yards to set up Mike Langford for a 31-yard game-winning field goal. The 336 yards from Flipper Anderson helped quarterback Jim Everett set a new career-best with 454 yards through the air.

The Rams would finish the 1989 season with a record of 11-5, earning a Wild Card berth. They would reach the NFC Championship thanks to an overtime touchdown catch by Flipper Anderson in the Division Playoffs against the New York Giants. Anderson finished that season with a career-best 1,146 yards on 44 catches. In the 30 years since only one player came close to Flipper Anderson’s record, and that was Calvin Johnson, who had 329 in a game with the Detroit Lions in 2013.