Winning by 20
The other day, I totally misread a statistic tweeted out by Adam Schefter. I THOUGHT Adam had tweeted out that this years’ Seahawks were the first team since the 1972 Dolphins to win eight games by 20 or more points. This thoroughly boggled my mind, and I brought up it up to a few friends, and it boggled their minds too.
“That can’t be right,” we all thought.
As it turns out, it wasn’t close to right because I completely bungled what Adam had actually tweeted. Leave it to my feeble mind to not comprehend 140 characters. What Adam actually tweeted out was that the Seahawks are the first team since the 1972-73 Dolphins to win eight games by 20 or more points in a 14-game home winning streak. This statistic is considerably less mind-blowing, in large part because I still don’t entirely follow it.
As it turns out, Seattle has five victories this year by 20 or more points, That IS the most in the NFL, and impressive in its own right. But it does not approach the record. Of course, I had to go see which team HAD the record, and this led to ... what it always leads to. An unnecessarily long blog post. As you probably guessed, the team with the most 20-plus wins in a season: The 2007 Patriots. That team really was mind boggling. They won 10 games that year by 20 or more. Look at their first eight games that year:
Week 1. Beat Jets by 24 Week 2. Beat Chargers by 24 Week 3: Beat Bills by 31 Week 4: Beat Bengals by 21 Week 5: Beat Browns by 17 Week 6: Beat Cowboys by 21 Week 7: Beat Dolphins by 21 Week 8: Beat Hogs by 45.
That’s simply staggering. They were not as dominant in the second half -- the Colts, Ravens and Giants all stayed finished a touchdown -- and, of course, they were not nearly as dominant in the playoffs. But for those first eight games, wow, there has never been a team quite like that.
Well ... maybe the 1999 Rams. It’s hard to believe that we are coming up on 15 years since that ’99 Rams team -- if you are 20 or younger, you probably have no memory of them whatsoever. I don’t remember a team in any sport that was quite as shocking at the 1999 Rams. You begin with the basics: The Rams were HORRIBLE. They had been awful throughout the entire 1990s, and they seemed totally out of place in St. Louis, and their coach Dick Vermeil was thought to be this Mister Magoo character. When the Colts traded Marshall Faulk to St. Louis ... you felt sorry for Faulk. When the local quarterback Trent Green (who the Rams had picked up in the offseason) had his knee blown out by Rodney Harrison in a preseason game, the Rams had to go with a thoroughly unknown third-string quarterback who (it was written 10 million times) had stocked groceries only four year earlier. That was Kurt Warner, of course.
And what followed made no sense at all. None. The 1998 Rams had one of the worst offenses in the NFL. Their quarterbacks had thrown just 12 touchdown passes all year and (you won’t even believe this) their leading rusher was a kid from Kansas named June Henley and he ran for ... well, why don’t you guess? Guess how many yards June Henley ran for in 1998 to lead to the St. Louis Rams?
Answer: 313 yards. That has to be a record for fewest yards ever to lead a team.
So when the Rams beat the Ravens 27-10 in the first week -- with Kurt Warner throwing for 309 yards and three touchdowns -- it seemed like one of those odd things that just happens in the NFL from time to time. Hey, a dentist named Dave Mays once led the Cleveland Browns to an upset victory over the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Weird stuff happens occasionally.
Only in the second week, the Rams beat the Falcons 35-7 -- that was one year after Atlanta played in the Super Bowl -- and Warner threw for 275 yards and three more touchdowns.
In Week 4, they beat the 49ers 42-20 -- five touchdown passes from Warner that day. Next week, they annihilated Atlanta again by 28 points -- Faulk ran for 181 yards. Week after that, they beat Cleveland 34-3 with Warner toying with the Browns defense (23 of 29, three touchdowns, no interceptions). That made FIVE STRAIGHT GAMES where the Rams had won by 20 points or more, tying an NFL record (see more below).
In all, the Rams won nine games by 20-plus points, though like the 2007 Patriots, none of them came in the postseason. Instead, the Rams needed some breaks to beat Tampa Bay 11-6 in the NFC Championship Game and they needed The Tackle to hold off Tennessee 23-16 in the Super Bowl.
Here’s the list of teams with the most victories in an NFL season by 20-plus points:
10 times New England, 2007
9 times St. Louis, 1999
8 times Green Bay, 1996
7 times Chicago Bears, 1948 Philadelphia, 1948 Philadelphia, 1949 Dallas, 1968 Minnesota, 1988 Washington, 1991 San Francisco, 1994 Minnesota, 1998 New England, 2012
Of these, the ’99 Rams, the ’96 Patriots, the ’91 Hogs and the ’94 Niners won the Super Bowl. I immediately thought of some of the great teams I expected to see on that list but did not:
1985 Bears: Won five regular season games by 20-plus points but they will always be legendary not only because of their Shuffling Crew rap song but because they won all three of the postseason games by 20. They beat the Giants 21-0 and held them to 32-yards rushing the whole game. They beat the Rams 24-0 and held them to 66 yards passing the whole game. Then they destroyed the Patriots 46-10 in the Super Bowl. No other team has ever won three postseason games by 20 points.
1962 Packers: Won six regular season games by 20-plus. This was probably Vince Lombardi’s best team -- those Packers went 13-1 and won their second straight championship. Jim Taylor ran for 1,474 yards and scored 19 touchdowns in just 14 games, and the defense gave up seven or fewer points seven times.
Steel Curtain Steelers: The 1975 Steelers had six such games, so did the 1979 team. They were very different teams. The 1975 team won by bludgeoning Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier into defensive lines again and again and again -- they ran the ball about 65% of the time -- with an awe-inspiring defense that allowed just 17 touchdowns all year (that team allowed nine touchdown passes against 27 interceptions). The 1979 team, meanwhile, had a good but not great defense and was defined more by a high-flying offense, with Terry Bradshaw throwing deep again and again to Lynn Swann and John Stallworth.
1984 49ers: When I used to play Strat-o-Matic football religiously, I always thought the 1984 49ers were the best team ever. You put those cards together: They were simply unbeatable. They had an amazing offense and an amazing defense. The defense could stuff the run, go get the quarterback and wow did they force turnovers. The offense could overpower you running the ball (Wendell Tyler and Roger Craig were both pretty much unstoppable) and, of course, Joe Montana led one of the great passing games ever (though this was actually BEFORE Jerry Rice). That 49ers team won five games by 20-plus.
This Seahawks team, by the way, have won the last three weeks by 20-plus. They beat Atlanta 33-10, Minnesota 41-20 and you saw what they did to New Orleans on Monday night (34-7 in a game that wasn’t even that close).
Best I can tell, the NFL record for consecutive 20-point wins is 5, and it has been done three times:
-- The aforementioned 1999 Rams.
-- The 1961 Packers won five in a row by 20-plus, starting with a 30-10 win over San Francisco and ending with a 33-7 destruction of Minnesota. That Packers team ended up beating the Giants 37-0 in the NFL Championship game.
-- The 1949 Eagles, led by the great Steve Van Buren, beat Washington 49-14 on October 23 and did not lose again for the rest of the season. They beat the Pittsburgh 38-7, the Rams 38-14, Washington again 44-21 and the New York Bulldogs (what a great name) 42-0. They then beat the Steelers by 17, the Giants by 21, the Giants again by two touchdowns and the Rams in the championship game by 14.
One final note: The 1961 Houston Oilers won five straight games by 20 or more in the AFL. This was after starting the season 1-3-1.
Man if only I had read Adam’s tweet right the first time, I could have saved a lot of effort.