Marcus Spears examines the Chiefs' performance vs. Giants and suggests that their offense must improve. (1:43).
This month marks 55 years since the greatest-scoring NFL game ever played: a 113 point outburst by the New York Giants and Washington. A Washington team, led by Hall of Fame quarterback Sonny Jurgensen, beat the Giants 72 to 41 in a game that featured 17 points.
2004 saw a game of 106 points. 2018 saw a game reach 105 points. Only five games, including the 113-pointer, have ever crossed the century mark. None have been closer than a touchdown or an extra point. In a modern game, big plays are normal and there are often back-and-forth scoring matches. No. 1 and No. 2 in scoring per game are the 2020 (49.6), 2021 (47.0), seasons. In scoring per game, they rank Nos. 1 and 2. We were left to wonder: Can a game in today’s NFL surpass the 113 mark or is it an unbreakable record?
We first reached out to John Keim, Washington reporter, for an overview of the record-setting event. Then, Lindsey Thiry, Rams reporter, and Adam Teicher, Chiefs reporter, dug into the most recent point fest which took place three seasons ago in Kansas City-Los Angeles. Mike Clay crunched the numbers to determine what it would take for a modern game over 113 to be successful. Seth Walder then selected the most likely matchups this season to challenge that number. Spoiler alert: This Sunday is the one. Let's start by going back to 1966.
2021 Games to Watch
Record-holder: 113 points
There were seven seconds left and Sam Huff, Washington linebacker, had already scored 69 points against a confused Giants defense. Washington was leading by 28 points and was close to its sixth win of this season. Huff then made an unexpected gesture from the sideline and called a timeout.
The field goal team suddenly appeared. This culminated in Charlie Gogolak's 29-yard field goal, which was a huge win for the Giants.
Huff was emotional about the move in an interview almost 40 years later. Huff had been traded to Washington by New York and Allie Sherman, its coach. According to the Hall of Fame linebacker, he saw the field and shouted "Justice is over, you S.O.B." He would later say, "I hate it to say it but it was my greatest moment because I got even."
This contest was not described by "even", however. The Giants had just defeated Washington 13-10 one month prior for their season-opening win. With a record of 1-12-1, this was the worst Giants team in franchise history. They allowed a franchise-record 501 total points in 14 games, including 72 at RFK Stadium in Washington.
They combined to set multiple NFL records including the most combined points (113), highest combined score (72) and touchdowns (10). Washington's defense recorded two touchdowns, both through Brig Owens as defensive back. Special teams also scored another touchdown on a punt return. The score was so high that 16 footballs were left in the stands after fans grabbed them for extra points.
Surprisingly New York had a 25-16 advantage in first downs. Washington won on offensive plays that covered 63, 32 and 74 yards, respectively. Jurgensen threw 145 yards and three touchdowns. Charley Taylor, another Hall of Famer, was Washington's only wideout with more that 12 yards receiving (124). They combined for 456 yards of passing, 320 rush yards, 226 penalty yards, and eight turnovers.
A.D. Whitfield, Washington's fullback, scored three touchdowns during the win 72-41. Bettmann/Getty Images
Washington coach Otto Graham apologised for his final three points three days after the game. Huff, who was a popular player in New York during that time, encouraged Graham to continue. Graham asked Huff his thoughts about the matchup as the players stretched out on the field prior to the game.
Huff quickly responded: "Otto. Let me tell you something. Today, you show no mercy. We are going to score lots of points. ... They will be defeated. They don't have any defense. They have no defense. -- Keim
Modern close call: 105 points
The Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs met fifty-two years ago, after Washington and New York had piled on the points in record-setting fashion. Both teams were 9-1 heading into the matchup. However, due to poor field conditions at Estadio Azteca the game was moved to Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum six day before the kickoff on November 19, 2018.
After a difficult few weeks in Los Angeles, which included a mass shooting at Borderline Bar and Grill and wild fires that forced evacuations, 77,000 people gathered to see the Rams and Chiefs score 11 offensive and 3 defensive touchdowns. The result was an emotional and thrilling 54-51 Rams win.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said, "That was a crazy match." Mahomes passed for 478 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions. It would have been much better if we had won. We fought. We went out and fought against a great football team.
From that thrilling matchup, nineteen players are still on the Chiefs' roster. It was the most successful Monday Night Football game ever. There are 11 Rams players left, including six who have played significant roles on offense, defense, and special teams.
Aaron Donald, a Rams defensive lineman, said that it was an "exciting game" when he recalled the matchup. There was a lot of back and forth. You sit down, then they score a touchdown and you're back on the field.
Jared Goff, then-Rams quarterback, threw for 413 yards and four touchdowns. Two defensive touchdowns were scored by the Rams by Samson Ebukam (now with the 49ers).
Sean McVay, Rams coach, said that "I was exhausted" before recalling several memorable plays. This included Gerald Everett's 40 yard touchdown reception which put L.A. ahead at 1:49. You can talk for years about that game. It was fun.
What do you think about whether the NFL will ever have another high-scoring contest?
Johnny Hekker, a Rams punter, said that "If I'm being real, I think the league love that." "That game was very,very good for the league entertainment-wise. I believe it's an offensive league and they would love that to be a sort of a week in and out thing. However, I doubt this will be a scoreline that you see often.
Play 0:54 Booger - 'This Is the New NFL' Booger McFarland discusses the high-scoring matchup of the Chiefs with the Rams on MNF, and what 50 points on the scoreboard means for the "new NFL."
Rob Havenstein, Rams right tackle, said that "The NFL will definitely witness [another] high scoring game like that." It's not clear when or how many times, but I am certain it will again.
Three other games broke the 100 point mark: The Cincinnati Bengals beat Cleveland Browns 58 to 48 in November 2004. They scored 106 combined points. In November 2015, the New Orleans Saints defeated the Giants 52 to 49 (101 combined). The Oakland Raiders defeated Houston Oilers 52 and 49 in December 1963 (101 combined). Thiry and Teicher
Can a modern game score 114 points?
In August, I stated that a quarterback could throw for 6,000 yards in a season of 17 games. I am less certain that we will see 114 points or more in one game anytime soon. However, recent history has proven that it is possible.
Although the Chiefs-Rams match did not break the record, it provides a good guideline of what it would take for us to reach 114 points.
Both teams relied heavily on the pass to score 109 dropbacks combined with just 35 designed runs.
The defenses were not too strong, with the Chiefs racking up 478 passing yards while the Rams managed 413.
Penalties (21 total for 195 yards) combined with turnovers (seven) resulted in short fields and big plays including three defensive touchdowns.
Most importantly, the game was close with the score shifting back and forth. In the fourth quarter, there were four lead changes and 35 points.
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All of the high-scoring games in the last 3 1/2 seasons showed similar characteristics. All offenses involved were at or above league average of 11.0 drives each game, while the offenses averaged slightly less plays per drive. The key is to score quickly. Although the offenses didn't operate at a high speed (39.9 seconds between plays), they were still moving faster than the average team (40.4). The starting field position (own 30-yard line) was slightly higher than the average (28.3) which speaks to how important it is to force turnovers.
These are all important aspects of high-scoring games. But offensive efficiency is the most notable. In the 15 games that had 82+ combined points, the offenses averaged 1.36 expected point added (EPA), a 39.6-yard drive length and 3.3 points per game. This is compared to league averages that average 0.33 EPA per driver, 32.8-yard drive distance, and 2.1 points per driving during the same period. There were also fewer punts and field goals in these games than the league average (11.2).
We would need two fast-paced, efficient offenses that can compete with weak pass defenses to get to 114 points. We also need chaos. It would be necessary to overload the game with huge plays from both sides.
It is possible. Yes. It will. We can only hope that the stars align. Clay
2021 Games to Watch
Mike suggested that the best way to break this record is to put two teams with powerful offenses and weak defenses against one another. This will allow each side to score easily and force aggression as each team attempts to keep up with the other. This weekend's Packers-Chiefs game (Sunday, 4:25 p.m.) is the perfect match to that mold. ET FPI reports that this team has two top-five offensive teams and two below-average defenses. While the Chiefs are better than the Packers in terms of offense, they have a weaker defense. This should be a scoring miracle. -- Walder
FPI rating differential for combined offense-defense: 10.3
This season, Dallas has displayed its offensive power. FPI is still skeptical about the Cowboys' defense in the future, despite Trevon Diggs' incredible weekly interceptions. Dallas is 26th in EPA per defense play, which means that it can also be used to launch offensive fireworks against Kansas City. -- Walder
Play 0:47 Orlovsky names the Cowboys the NFC's team to beat Dan Orlovsky breaks down how the Cowboys won over the Vikings.
FPI Rating differential for combined offense-defense: 10.0
Do you sense a theme? The Chiefs are made to win high-scoring games so Kansas City is home to five matchups that have the highest FPI rating differential in offense-defense. Browns-Packers follows next. The Raiders also fit the bill but in a less extent. The offense of Las Vegas is aided by Derek Carr's deep-passing abilities, but defense is still very weak. -- Walder