Once in a while it’s cool to be a nerd. Sometimes I agree with the sentiment that stats are for losers (or at least the Getting Blanked crew), but sometimes stats can truly cause jaws to drop. I think the key is to find a happy medium between the numbers and the less tangible aspects of sports. In this post, I’m ditching that balance to dig up some of the statistics that intrigued me most when all was said and done in 2011.
1. This was the highest-scoring season in NFL history. A grand total of 11,356 points per scored, which beat last year’s total of 11,283. The total points-per-game number has only been higher seven times in history, with all seven of those seasons taking place between 1948 and 1965.
2. The average play produced 5.5 yards this season. That’s also the highest in NFL history, with no season ever hitting the 5.4 mark. The league average was 5.3 in 2008, 2009 and 2010, 5.2 in 2002, 2004 and 2006 and 5.1 in 2003 and 2005. The average rushing attempt produced 4.3 yards, which was also the highest in NFL history. That amazes me most, because that number was only at 4.0 at the end of September.
3. In total, 32,569 plays were run this season. That’s the exact same amount as in 2002, tying the all-time high. But there were 361 more first downs this year than there were in ’02. That’s how much more productive offenses have become in less than a decade.
4. Six quarterbacks passed for at least 4,600 yards. Prior to 2001, only four had ever done that in NFL history. (Eight reached that mark between 2001 and 2010, but three of those pivots were those who accomplished the feat again in 2011.)
5. After setting a new single-season passer rating record (122.5), Aaron Rodgers now has a 7.2-point lead on Steve Young on the all-time list. The largest gap between spots after that is 0.9.
6. Kickers made 82.9 percent of their kicks, which was the second-highest percentage in league history. In 2008, that number was 84.5 percent. In no particular order, the eight most accurate years for kickers in NFL history have been the most recent eight years in NFL history.
7. There were 90 field goals made from 50 yards or more, which is the most ever by a huge margin. Next on the list: 66 in 2008. But there were 36 fewer attempts from 50-plus that year, so the percentage difference is less than 1 percent.
8. It was also a great year for punters. The league average of 45.0 yards per punt was the highest ever. Last year, it was only 43.4.
9. Likely as a result of tweaks to the rules, kickoff return touchdowns took a dive. There were only nine, despite the fact there were 20 on punt returns (which was the second-highest total in NFL history). It’s only the second time since 1996 that there have been fewer than 10 kickoff return scores in one season. But there were only 1,375 returns — the lowest number for a 16-game season in NFL history.
10. Jared Allen and DeMarcus Ware had two of the 10 highest sack totals in NFL history. But Ware’s 19.5 wasn’t even a career high because he registered 20 in 2008. Allen had 22, which is tied in second on the all-time list. Include Jason Babin (18) and you have three in the top 20, and include Jason Pierre-Paul (16.5) and you have four in the top 35. Not bad when you consider that there were fewer sacks this year than there were in 10 other years since it became an official stat in 1982. In fact, on a per-game and per-play basis, this was actually a down year for sacks.
11. The Titans were the only team with a winning record to miss the playoffs. Pretty amazing considering that six teams missed the postseason with nine or more wins in 2008 and 12 in the last three years overall.