TIGHT GAMES, CLOSE
FINISHES AND COMEBACKS
RECORD-BREAKING 2016 SEASON
Close games and
great comeback victories… new teams making the playoffs and winning
divisions... consistent teams excelling once again… records falling… young
players making their mark… and so much more.
The 2016 season
had it all, including a fantastic finish.
Week 17 came
right down to the wire as two division titles – the AFC West and NFC North –
were decided on the season’s final day. Sunday’s excitement was due in part
to having 16 divisional games played on the season’s final day, a tradition
instituted in 2010.
Six of the
NFL’s eight divisions featured new champions in 2016, the most in a season
The 2016 season
featured many exciting games with close finishes, as 57 percent were decided by
one score – 146 of 256 games were decided by eight or fewer points, the most
of any season in NFL history.
Each of the 12
teams still in Super Bowl LI contention can look back at the wild ride that was
the 2016 regular season and appreciate how challenging the road to the playoffs
The DALLAS COWBOYS (13-3), led by rookie
quarterback DAK PRESCOTT and rookie
running back EZEKIEL ELLIOTT, wrapped
up the No. 1 seed in the NFC for the first time since 2007.
“It is a whole
new season now,” says Prescott of advancing to the postseason after finishing
with the top record in the NFC. “Everything you do from this point on is really
how you get looked at at the end of the year. So that is important to us,
looking forward and playing a long time in this postseason.”
12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990, at least four teams have qualified
for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year
before. Six teams
that missed the postseason in 2015 – ATLANTA
(11-5), DALLAS (13-3), DETROIT (9-7), MIAMI (10-6), the NEW YORK
GIANTS (11-5) and OAKLAND (12-4)
– accomplished the feat this year.
“It’s so much
fun when you get a playoff game at home in front of your own crowd and the
energy that kind of comes along with that,” says Atlanta head coach DAN QUINN, who helped guide the Falcons
to the NFC South title. “It’s a byproduct of winning your division, where you’re
guaranteed a home game. And then if you have a chance to go past that where
better things can happen, then you go from there. It’s a significant thing and
a really cool experience.”
The 2016 season
also proved that consistency is difficult, but not impossible, to maintain in
the NFL. The NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
won their eighth consecutive AFC East division title (2009-present), surpassing
the 1973-79 Rams for the most consecutive division championships in NFL history.
The Patriots, who finished with a 14-2 record, tied the 2003-09 Colts as the
only teams in NFL history with at least 12 wins in seven consecutive seasons.
The PITTSBURGH STEELERS (11-5) earned the
600th regular-season victory in franchise history this season, becoming the
fourth franchise is NFL history to reach 600 wins. The Steelers (601) joined
the Chicago Bears (744), Green Bay Packers (730) and New York Giants (684) as
the only franchises with at least 600 regular-season victories.
The NFL is
never short on surprises, and that leads to the excitement we witnessed in 2016:
continued to be close, as more than half of all games were decided by one score.
GAMES DECIDED BY ONE SCORE
8 or Fewer
146 of 256
7 or Fewer
135 of 256
season, 146 of 256 games (57.0 percent) were decided by eight or fewer points,
the most of any season in NFL history.
MOST GAMES DECIDED BY EIGHT OR FEWER
2016, 135 of 256 games (52.7 percent) were decided by seven or fewer points,
also the most of any season in NFL history.
MOST GAMES DECIDED BY SEVEN OR FEWER
percent of games (184 of 256) were within eight points in the fourth quarter,
the highest percentage since the institution of the two-point conversion in
184 games are the most of any season in NFL history.
MOST GAMES WITHIN ONE SCORE IN FOURTH
of the season’s 256 games (66.4 percent) were within seven points in the fourth
quarter, the most of any season in NFL history.
MOST GAMES WITHIN ONE SCORE IN FOURTH
continued to have a flare for the dramatic, as tight contests frequently
came down to the wire.
In 2016, the average margin of victory was 10.23 points per game, the third-smallest
margin in NFL history and the lowest figure since 1935 (10.08 points per game).
lowest single-season margins of victory in NFL history:
MARGIN OF VICTORY
were 72 games won by teams that trailed in the fourth quarter in 2016, the most
such games in a season in NFL history, surpassing the previous high of 70
GAMES WON AFTER TRAILING IN 4TH
DETROIT LIONS won eight games when
trailing in the fourth quarter in 2016, the most in a single season in NFL
teams with the most wins after trailing in the fourth quarter in a single
season in NFL history:
GAMES WON AFTER TRAILING IN 4TH QUARTER
DALLAS COWBOYS clinched the NFC East
division title, which marked the 13th time in the past 14 seasons that one
or more teams went from last or tied for last place to a division championship
the following year.
teams to go from “worst-to-first” in their division since 2003:
PRIOR SEASON RECORD
Tied for last place
Won Super Bowl
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS captured their
eighth consecutive division title, the longest streak in NFL history,
breaking a tie with the 1973-79 Los Angeles Rams (seven). The Patriots are the only
team in NFL history to win 13 division titles in a 14-year span.
total of 11,661 points were scored during the 2016 season, the third-highest
total all-time (11,985 points in 2013 and 11,680 points in 2015). Games
averaged 45.55 points per game, the third-highest average since the 1970
AFL-NFL merger and trailing only the 46.82 points per game average in 2013
and the 45.63 average in 2015. In all, 1,306 total touchdowns were scored, also
the third-most all-time.
teams scored at least 400 points this season – Atlanta (540), New Orleans
(469), New England (441), Green Bay (432), Dallas (421), Arizona (418), Oakland
(416), Indianapolis (411) and San Diego (410) – tying the 2008, 2012, 2014
and 2015 seasons for the second-most all-time. Those nine teams combined
for a .601 winning percentage and five qualified for the playoffs.
QBs put together a historically proficient and prolific year in 2016.
The league-wide completion percentage (63.0) tied the previous record set in
2015, while the league-wide passer rating (89.3) ranked second behind only the
2015 season (90.2). There were 786 touchdown passes thrown in 2016, the fourth-highest
total in NFL history.
league-wide interception percentage of 2.3 percent was the lowest of any
season in NFL history, surpassing the previous mark of 2.4 in 2015.
averaged 700.8 total net yards per game, the second-best mark in NFL annals
(705.3 in 2015). Explosive passing offenses fueled that trend, with an average
of 483.0 net passing yards per game, the second-highest total all-time
(487.6 in 2015).
were 57 individual performances with three touchdown passes without an
interception in 2016, the third-highest of any season in NFL history (59 in
2015, 58 in 2014).
England quarterback TOM BRADY (205)
surpassed PEYTON MANNING (200) as
the all-time wins leader (including playoffs) in NFL history.
Brady finished the regular season with
28 touchdown passes and two interceptions, recording the highest
touchdown/interception ratio in NFL history.
DREW BREES of New Orleans and TOM BRADY of New England both climbed
higher on the all-time list for career passing yards. Brees ranks third
all-time in passing yards (66,111), while Brady ranks fourth (61,582), as both
players surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (61,361) during the 2016 season. Only PEYTON MANNING (71,940) and Pro
Football Hall of Famer BRETT FAVRE
(71,838) have more career passing yards.
New York Giants’ ELI MANNING (320),
San Diego’s PHILIP RIVERS (314) and
Pittsburgh’s BEN ROETHLISBERGER (301)
each reached 300 career passing touchdowns during the season, becoming the
eighth, ninth and tenth quarterbacks in NFL history, respectively, to reach the
quarterback MATT RYAN recorded a
117.1 passer rating in 2016, the fifth-highest single-season passer rating
in NFL history.
Orleans quarterback DREW BREES led
the NFL with 5,208 passing yards in 2016, the fourth-highest passing yardage
total in league history. Brees is the first player to lead the league in
passing yards seven times, extending his NFL record.
Brees (2008, 2011-13, 2016) has five
of the nine individual 5,000-yard passing seasons in NFL history and is the
only quarterback in league history to pass for at least 5,000 yards in
who has 53,763 passing yards in his 11 seasons with the Saints, is the sixth
quarterback to pass for 50,000 yards with one team.
Brees had two 400-yard passing games in
2016. In 16 seasons, Brees has 15 career 400-yard passing games, surpassing PEYTON MANNING (14) for the most such
games in NFL history.
Brees had a league-leading 10 300-yard
passing games in 2016 and his 106 career 300-yard passing games are the most
in NFL history.
Bay quarterback AARON RODGERS led
the NFL with 40 passing touchdowns in 2016. Rodgers, who passed for 45
touchdowns in 2011, became the fourth player in NFL history with at least 40
touchdown passes in multiple seasons, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (two), PEYTON MANNING (two) and DREW
Brees ranked third in the NFL with 37 touchdown
passes, joining TOM BRADY (four), Manning (four) and Rodgers (four) as the only
players in NFL history with at least 35 touchdown passes in four different
has passed for at least 30 touchdowns in nine consecutive seasons, extending
his NFL-record streak.
Bay quarterback JAMEIS WINSTON had
4,090 passing yards and became the first player in NFL history with at least
4,000 passing yards in each of his first two seasons.
Winston (50) is one of only five
quarterbacks to pass for at least 50 touchdowns over his first two seasons,
joining Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN
MARINO (68), DEREK CARR (53), PEYTON MANNING (52) and RUSSELL WILSON (52).
quarterback SAM BRADFORD completed
395 of 552 attempts for an NFL-record 71.6 completion percentage, surpassing
DREW BREES’ record of 71.2 percent
rookie quarterback DAK PRESCOTT passed
for 3,667 yards with 23 touchdowns and four interceptions for a 104.9 rating in
2016. Prescott joined TOM BRADY
(2010, 2016) as the only quarterbacks in NFL history with at least 3,500
passing yards and fewer than five interceptions in a season and is the first
rookie in NFL history to accomplish the feat.
running backs enjoyed historic seasons in 2016:
players registered at least 10 rushing touchdowns in 2016 – New England’s LE GARRETTE BLOUNT (18), Arizona’s DAVID JOHNSON (16), Dallas’ EZEKIEL
ELLIOTT (15), Buffalo’s LE SEAN MC
COY (13), Oakland’s LATAVIUS MURRAY
(12), Atlanta’s DEVONTA FREEMAN (11)
and San Diego’s MELVIN GORDON (10).
players registered at least 1,000 rushing yards this season – Elliott (1,631), Chicago’s JORDAN HOWARD (1,313), Tennessee’s DE MARCO MURRAY (1,287), Miami’s JAY AJAYI (1,272), Pittsburgh’s LE’VEON BELL (1,268), McCoy (1,267),
Johnson (1,239), Blount (1,161), Freeman (1,079), Houston’s LAMAR MILLER (1,073), New Orleans’ MARK INGRAM (1,043) and Indianapolis’ FRANK GORE (1,025).
running back EZEKIEL ELLIOTT led the
NFL with 1,631 rushing yards this season, becoming the fifth rookie since
1970 to lead the league in rushing yards and the first since EDGERRIN JAMES (1,553 yards) in 1999.
had 1,994 scrimmage yards (1,631 rushing, 363 receiving) this season, the third-highest
total by a rookie in NFL history, trailing only Pro Football Hall of Famer ERIC DICKERSON (2,212 in 1983) and James
(2,139 in 1999).
running back FRANK GORE (13,065)
became the eighth player in NFL history to reach 13,000 career rushing yards.
who had 1,025 rushing yards this season, became the fifth player in NFL
history with at least nine seasons of 1,000 rushing yards, joining Pro Football
Hall of Famers EMMITT SMITH (11), CURTIS MARTIN (10), WALTER PAYTON (10) and BARRY SANDERS (10).
players registered at least 100 receptions in 2016 – Arizona’s LARRY FITZGERALD (107), Pittsburgh’s ANTONIO BROWN (106) and the New York Giants’ ODELL BECKHAM JR. (101).
players recorded at least 1,200 receiving yards in 2016 – Indianapolis’ T.Y. HILTON (1,448), Atlanta’ JULIO
JONES (1,409), Beckham (1,367), Tampa Bay’s MIKE EVANS (1,321), Brown (1,284), and Green Bay’s JORDY NELSON (1,257).
players had at least 10 touchdown catches in 2016
– Nelson (14), Green
Bay’s DAVANTE ADAMS (12), Brown
(12), Evans (12) and Beckham (10).
wide receiver LARRY FITZGERALD led
the NFL with 107 catches and at 33 years, 123 days old, became the oldest
player to lead the league in receptions since Pro Football Hall of Famer JERRY RICE (34 years, 71 days) in 1996.
has four career seasons with at least 100 catches, trailing only BRANDON MARSHALL (six), ANDRE JOHNSON (five) and WES WELKER (five) all-time.
wide receiver ANTONIO BROWN ranked
second in the NFL with 106 catches this season and has 481 receptions over
the past four seasons, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer MARVIN HARRISON (469 from 1999-2002)
for the most catches in any four-year span in NFL history.
has four consecutive seasons with at least 100 catches, tying Harrison (four
from 1999-2002) for the most consecutive 100-catch seasons in NFL history.
receivers LARRY FITZGERALD of
Arizona and ANQUAN BOLDIN of Detroit
each played in their 200th career games in Week 16. Fitzgerald (1,116) has the most
career receptions in a player’s first 200 games in NFL history, surpassing
Pro Football Hall of Famer JERRY RICE
Boldin had 1,067 career receptions
through 200 career games, the fourth-highest total in NFL history. The
only players with more are Fitzgerald (1,116), Rice (1,115) and Pro Football
Hall of Famer MARVIN HARRISON
Boldin had 67 catches this season, the
14th consecutive season he has caught 50+ passes since entering the league in
2003. That is the longest streak to begin a career in NFL history.
Fitzgerald, who recorded his 13th
consecutive season with 50+ catches, has the second-longest such streak to
begin a career.
York Giants wide receiver ODELL BECKHAM
JR. finished third in the NFL with a career-high 101 catches. Beckham has 288
receptions through his first three seasons, tied with Miami’s JARVIS LANDRY for the most through a
player’s first three seasons in NFL history.
has 4,122 receiving yards through his first three seasons and is one of only
two players in NFL history to record at least 4,000 receiving yards in his
first three seasons (RANDY MOSS,
4,163 from 1998-2000).
and Landry are the only two players in NFL history with at least 80 catches
in each of their first three seasons in the NFL.
wide receiver STEVE SMITH SR., who
has 1,031 career catches, became the 14th player in NFL history to reach
1,000 career receptions.
(14,731) climbed to seventh place in NFL history in receiving yards,
while Arizona’s LARRY FITZGERALD
(14,389) moved into ninth place all-time.
Diego tight end ANTONIO GATES had
seven receiving touchdowns in 2016 and has 111 career touchdown catches, tying
TONY GONZALEZ for the most by a tight
end in NFL history.
brought his career receiving yards total to 11,192, becoming the third tight
end in NFL history to reach 11,000 career receiving yards, joining Gonzalez
(15,127) and JASON WITTEN (11,888).
tight end GREG OLSEN, who had 1,073
receiving yards this season, became the first tight end in NFL history to
record three consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 receiving yards.
running back DAVID JOHNSON led the
league with 2,118 scrimmage yards (1,239 rushing, 879 receiving) and became the
fourth different player with at least 1,200 rushing yards and 800 receiving
yards in a single season, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer MARSHALL FAULK (1998-2000), STEVEN JACKSON (2006) and LE’VEON BELL (2014).
recorded at least 100 scrimmage yards in each of his first 15 games this
season, becoming the first player in NFL history to start a season with 15
consecutive games with 100+ scrimmage yards.
tied Pro Football Hall of Famer BARRY
SANDERS (15) as the only players in NFL history to record 15 consecutive
games with at least 100 scrimmage yards in a single season.
running back FRANK GORE, who has 13,065
rushing yards and 414 receptions in his career, became the fifth player in
NFL history with at least 13,000 rushing yards and 400 receptions. Gore
joined Pro Football Hall of Famers CURTIS
MARTIN, WALTER PAYTON and EMMITT SMITH and LA DAINIAN TOMLINSON as the only players to accomplish the feat.
had 1,302 scrimmage yards (1,025 rushing, 277 receiving) this season, becoming
the first player in NFL history to record at least 1,200 scrimmage yards in
11 consecutive seasons.
DARREN SPROLES had two receiving
touchdowns in 2016, bringing his career total to 30 touchdown catches. Sproles
is the only player in NFL history with at least 30 receiving touchdowns
(30), 20 rushing touchdowns (22) and five punt-return touchdowns (seven).
City rookie wide receiver-return specialist TYREEK HILL became the first player since Pro Football Hall of
Famer GALE SAYERS in 1965 to have a
rushing touchdown, receiving touchdown and kickoff-return touchdown in the same
game in the Chiefs’ Week 12 overtime victory at Denver.
is the only player in NFL history to record at least three receiving
touchdowns (six), three rushing touchdowns (three) and three total kick-return
touchdowns (three) in a single season.
kicker ADAM VINATIERI converted 43
consecutive field-goal attempts dating back to 2015, the longest streak in
NFL history, surpassing MIKE
VANDERJAGT’s previous record of 42.
125 points this season, Vinatieri became the only player in NFL history to
score 100+ points in 19 different seasons.
kicker SEBASTIAN JANIKOWSKI, who has
converted 55 career 50+ yard field goals, surpassed Jason Hanson (52) for
the most 50-yard field goals in NFL history.
kicker JUSTIN TUCKER converted 10
50+ yard field goals in 2016, tying BLAIR
WALSH (10) for the most 50-yard field goals in a single season in NFL
converted 38 of 39 field goal attempts (97.4 percent) in 2016, the third-highest
single-season field-goal percentage in NFL history (minimum 20 attempts).
Only GARY ANDERSON (35 of 35 in
1998) and MIKE VANDERJAGT (37 of 37
in 2003) have higher single-season field-goal percentages.
all that offense, defenses were heard from as well. Four of the top five
NFL teams in scoring defense qualified for the playoffs – New England
(15.6), the New York Giants (17.8), Seattle
(18.3) and Dallas (19.1). Those four
clubs had a combined winning percentage of .758.
of the top five teams in turnover margin advanced to the postseason and
won at least 10 games each – Kansas City (+16), Oakland (+16), New England
(+12) and Atlanta (+11). Those four clubs had a combined .766 winning
Bay linebacker JULIUS PEPPERS had
7.5 sacks and climbed to fifth place on the NFL’s all-time sack leaderboard
with 143.5 career sacks. Denver linebacker DE MARCUS WARE had four sacks and has 138.5 sacks in his career,
the eighth-most in the NFL since the statistic became official in 1982.
City safety ERIC BERRY became the first
player to return an interception for both a touchdown and a two-point
conversion in the same game in the Chiefs’ Week 13 win at Atlanta.
intercepted a two-point conversion attempt and returned it for the go-ahead
score with 4:32 remaining in the fourth quarter in the Chiefs’ 29-28 victory
over the Falcons, marking the first game-winning defensive two-point conversion
scored when his team was trailing since the rule was adopted in 2015. He
also added a 37-yard interception-return touchdown in the contest.
Arizona Cardinals (MARKUS GOLDEN,
12.5; CHANDLER JONES, 11) and
Seattle Seahawks (CLIFF AVRIL, 11.5;
FRANK CLARK, 10) were the only
teams with two players who each had double-digit sacks.
York Giants cornerback DOMINIQUE
RODGERS-CROMARTIE (six) and
safety LANDON COLLINS (five) were
the only pair of NFL teammates with at least five interceptions in 2016.
linebacker VIC BEASLEY JR. led the
NFL with 15.5 sacks and tied for the league lead with six forced fumbles in
2016, becoming the first player in franchise history to record at least 15
sacks and five forced fumbles in a single season.
York Giants defensive end JASON
PIERRE-PAUL became the first player with at least three sacks and a
fumble-return touchdown of at least 40 yards in the same game since 1982,
the first year individual sacks became an official statistic, when he
registered a career-high three sacks and a 43-yard fumble-return touchdown in
the Giants’ Week 12 victory at Cleveland.
defensive end KHALIL MACK recorded
at least one sack in eight consecutive games in 2016, tying for the
sixth-longest streak in the NFL since the sack became an official statistic in
Mack was the only player in the NFL
this season with at least 10 sacks (11) and an interception-return touchdown.
quarterback DAK PRESCOTT completed
311 of 459 passes (67.8 percent) for 3,667 yards with 23 touchdowns and four
interceptions for a 104.9 passer rating, the highest single-season passer
rating by a rookie quarterback in NFL history.
Prescott’s 0.9 interception
percentage is the lowest by a rookie quarterback in NFL history (minimum
200 passing attempts). The rookie began his career with 176 consecutive pass
attempts without an interception, surpassing TOM BRADY (162) for the most pass attempts without an interception
to start a career.
helped guide the Cowboys to a 13-3 record, tying BEN ROETHLISBERGER (13 in 2004) for the most wins by a rookie
starting quarterback in NFL history.
running back EZEKIEL ELLIOTT led the
NFL with 1,631 rushing yards this season, the third-highest single-season
total by a rookie running in NFL history, trailing only Pro Football Hall
of Famer ERIC DICKERSON (1,808 in
1983) and GEORGE ROGERS (1,674 in
had five games with at least 125 rushing yards, trailing only Dickerson
(seven in 1983) for the most ever by a rookie.
became the only team in NFL history to have a rookie pass for 20 touchdowns
(Prescott, 23) and a rookie rush for 15 touchdowns (Elliott, 15) in the same
rookie running back JORDAN HOWARD
finished second in the NFL with 1,313 rushing yards in 2016. Elliott and Howard
became the first pair of rookies to finish first and second in the league in
rushing yards since PAUL ROBINSON
(1,023) and ROBERT HOLMES (866) of
the AFL in 1968.
quarterback CARSON WENTZ became the first
rookie since 1970 to start and win his team’s first three games to begin a
season without throwing an interception.
Wentz, who had 379 completions this
season, set the NFL record for the most completions by a rookie,
surpassing SAM BRADFORD (354 in
City rookie wide receiver-return specialist TYREEK HILL had six receiving touchdowns, three rushing touchdowns,
two punt-return touchdowns and one kick-return touchdown in 2016, joining
Pro Football Hall of Famer GALE SAYERS
(1965) as the only players in NFL history to have at least five receiving
touchdowns, three rushing touchdowns, a kick-return touchdown and a punt-return
touchdown in the same season.
wide receiver WILL FULLER had a
five-yard touchdown catch and a 67-yard punt-return touchdown in the Texans’
Week 4 win over Tennessee, becoming the fourth rookie in the past 15 years
to record both a touchdown catch and a punt-return touchdown in the same game.
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