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Chasing 113 points – Could a modern NFL matchup break the combined single-game scoring record –

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This month marks the 55th anniversary of the highest-scoring NFL game in history: a 113-point outburst from Washington and the New York Giants. On November 27, 1966, a Washington team led by Hall of Fame quarterback Sonny Jurgensen beat the Giants 72-41 in a game that featured 17 scoring plays.

In 2004, we saw a 106-point game. In 2018, a game hit 105. But only five games — including the 113-pointer — have ever broken the century mark, and none have come closer than within a touchdown and extra point of the record. But in a modern game that tilts toward offense, big plays are commonplace and back-and-forth scoring battles are weekly occurrences. The 2020 (49.6) and 2021 (47.0) seasons rank Nos. 1 and 2 all-time in scoring per game. So we were left wondering: Could a game in today’s NFL eclipse the 113 mark, or is that an unbreakable record in this era?

First, we looked to Washington reporter John Keim for a look back at the historic record-setter, and then Rams reporter Lindsey Thiry and Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher dug in on the most recent point fest, a Kansas City-Los Angeles showdown three seasons ago. Mike Clay punched the numbers and laid out what would have to happen for a modern game to go over 113 points, and Seth Walder picked out the most likely matchups remaining this season to give that number a challenge. Spoiler: One is this Sunday. Let’s get started by going back in time to 1966.

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113 points | 105 points | 114 points
2021 games to watch

The record-setter: 113 points

Seven seconds remained, and linebacker Sam Huff’s Washington team had already posted 69 points on a bewildered Giants defense. Washington had a 28-point lead and was closing out its sixth win of the season. But then Huff made a surprising gesture from the sideline: He called a timeout.

All of a sudden, the field goal team trotted out. The sequence culminated in a 29-yard field goal from Charlie Gogolak, a 72-41 win and a great deal of satisfaction for the former Giants great.

In an interview nearly 40 years after that game, Huff struggled to contain his emotion behind the move. New York and its coach, Allie Sherman, had traded him two years earlier to Washington. The Hall of Fame linebacker said he looked across the field after the game and shouted, “Justice is done, you S.O.B.!” And years later, he’d say: “I hate to say it, but it was the greatest moment of my life because I got even.”

But “even” was about the last word that could describe this contest. One month earlier, the Giants had defeated Washington 13-10 for their only win of the season. This was an awful Giants team — perhaps the worst in franchise history — with a 1-12-1 record. They allowed what is still a franchise-record 501 points in 14 games, including 72 on this November afternoon at RFK Stadium in Washington.

The teams combined for multiple NFL records, including most combined points (113), most points by one team in a regular-season game (72) and most touchdowns by one team (10). Washington’s defense scored two touchdowns — both via defensive back Brig Owens — and its special teams accounted for another on a punt return. There was so much scoring that 16 footballs were lost in the stands as fans grabbed them after extra points.

Surprisingly, New York held a 25-16 edge in first downs. But Washington scored on offensive plays covering 63, 32, 74 and 45 yards. Jurgensen threw for 145 yards and three scores and receiver Charley Taylor — another Hall of Famer — was the only Washington wideout with more than 12 yards receiving (124). The teams combined for 456 passing yards, 320 rushing yards, 226 penalty yards and eight turnovers.

Three days after the game, Washington coach Otto Graham apologized for the final three points. But in the moment, he was spurred on by Huff, who played with the Giants from 1956 to 1963 and was one of New York’s most popular players of that era. As the players stretched on the field before the game, Graham asked Huff what he thought of the matchup ahead.

Huff said he quickly replied: “Otto, let me tell you something. You show no mercy today. We’re going to score a lot of points. … We’re going to beat the hell out of them. They have no defense. I’m telling you, lay it on them.” — Keim

The modern close call: 105 points

Fifty-two years after Washington and New York piled on points in record-setting fashion, the Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs met in L.A. The two teams — both 9-1 going into the matchup — were scheduled to play in Mexico City, but because of abysmal field conditions at Estadio Azteca, the game was relocated to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum six days before the November 19, 2018 kickoff.

Coming off a devastating few weeks in the greater Los Angeles area that included a mass shooting at Borderline Bar and Grill, miles from the Rams practice facility, and wild fires that caused evacuations, more than 77,000 fans packed in to watch the Rams and Chiefs combine to score 11 offensive and three defensive touchdowns in what ultimately ended in an emotional and thrilling 54-51 Rams victory.

“That was a crazy game,” said Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who passed for 478 yards and six touchdowns with three interceptions. “Obviously it would have been a lot better had we won. But we battled. We went out there and battled against a good football team.”

Nineteen players remain on the Chiefs’ roster from that epic matchup, which was the highest-scoring game in Monday Night Football history. The Rams have 11 players remaining, including six who played a significant role on offense, defense and special teams.

“It was an exciting game,” Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald said when he recently recalled the matchup. “A lot of back-and-forth. A big play here, you sit down and then they score a touchdown, and you are right back on the field.”

Then-Rams quarterback Jared Goff passed for 413 yards and four touchdowns. The Rams scored two defensive touchdowns, both by outside linebacker Samson Ebukam, now with the 49ers.

“I was exhausted,” Rams coach Sean McVay recalled before rattling off several standout plays, including former Rams tight end Gerald Everett‘s 40-yard touchdown reception that put L.A. ahead with 1:49 to play. “You can talk about that game for years. That was a fun one.”

As for whether coaches and players who participated think there will ever be such a high-scoring contest in the NFL again?

“If I’m being realistic, I think the league loves that,” Rams punter Johnny Hekker said. “That game was very, very good for the league entertainment-wise, so I think it’s an offensive league, and they would love for that to be a kind of a week-in and week-out thing. But I doubt that will be a scoreline you see very often.”

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Booger McFarland talks about the high-scoring matchup between the Chiefs and the Rams on MNF and what putting 50 points on the board means to the “new NFL.”

Rams right tackle Rob Havenstein added, “The NFL will definitely see [another] high-scoring game like that. It’s just when and how many, but I’m sure it will happen again.”

Three other games have broken the 100-point mark: The Cincinnati Bengals beat the Cleveland Browns 58-48 in November 2004 for 106 combined points, the New Orleans Saints edged the Giants 52-49 in November 2015 (101 combined points), and the Oakland Raiders defeated the Houston Oilers 52-49 in December 1963 (101 combined points). — Thiry and Teicher

Could a modern game reach 114 points?

In August, I wrote that there was a realistic path to a quarterback throwing for 6,000 yards in a 17-game season. I’m less confident that we’ll see 114 or more points in a single game anytime soon. But recent history has shown that it’s possible.

Though the aforementioned Chiefs-Rams game fell just short of the record, it gives us a pretty good blueprint of what it would take to get to 114 points.

  • Both teams leaned heavily on the pass, combining for 109 dropbacks and just 35 designed runs.

  • The defenses offered little pushback, with the Chiefs hitting 478 pass yards and the Rams getting to 413.

  • Penalties (21 combined for 195 yards) and turnovers (seven combined) led to short fields and big plays, including three defensive touchdowns.

Perhaps most importantly, the game was close and the scoring back-and-forth. There were 35 points and four lead changes in the fourth quarter.

A look at all of the highest-scoring games over the past 3 1/2 seasons shows they had similar characteristics to that game. Every offense involved was at or above the league average of 11.0 drives per game, but the offenses were a bit below average in plays per drive. Translation: Quick-hitting scores are a key. The offenses weren’t necessarily operating at rocket speed (39.9 seconds between plays) but were moving faster than an average team (40.4). Starting field position (own 30-yard line) was slightly better than average (28.3), which speaks to the value of forcing turnovers.

Those are all notable aspects of these high-scoring games, but nothing stands out more than offensive efficiency. The offenses that participated in the 15 games with 82-plus combined points since 2018 averaged 1.36 expected points added (EPA) per drive, a 39.6-yard drive distance and 3.3 points per drive. That’s compared to league averages of 0.33 EPA per drive, 32.8-yard drive distance and 2.1 points per drive during the same span. These games also obviously featured few punts and field goals, as well as close margins of victory (10.8, compared to an 11.2 league average).

To get to 114 points, we’d ideally need a pair of fast-paced and super-efficient offenses facing off with struggling pass defenses (more on that below). But we’d also need chaos. The game would need to be overloaded with big plays on both sides of the ball.

Can it happen? Of course. Will it? Inevitably the stars will align, but it’s enough of a long shot that we shouldn’t hold our breath. — Clay

2021 games to watch

Combined offense-defense FPI rating differential: 11.3

As Mike suggested, the best way to break the record is to pit two teams with high-powered offenses and sub-par defenses against each other, allowing each side to score at ease and forcing aggression as each team tries to keep pace with the other. No game better fits that mold in 2021 than this weekend’s Packers-Chiefs matchup (Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET). According to FPI, this has two top-five offenses facing two below-average defenses. The Chiefs have a better offense than the Packers, but they also have a worse defense. It ought to be a scoring bonanza. — Walder


Combined offense-defense FPI rating differential: 10.3

Dallas has shown its offensive firepower this season. And while Trevon Diggs‘ weekly interceptions have been incredible, FPI remains somewhat skeptical of the Cowboys’ defense going forward. If we take away plays with interceptions and fumbles, Dallas ranks just 26th in EPA per play on defense, so its game against Kansas City is also a good candidate for offensive fireworks. — Walder

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Dan Orlovsky breaks down the Cowboys’ big win over the Vikings.


Combined offense-defense FPI rating differential: 10.0

Are you sensing a theme? The Chiefs are built perfectly for high-scoring games, so the five matchups with the highest total offense-defense FPI rating differential all feature Kansas City. (Browns-Packers is next in line.) The Raiders fit the bill, too, but to a lesser extent. Derek Carr‘s deep-passing ability gives Las Vegas’ offense upside, and the defense is still severely lacking. — Walder

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New England Patriots throw just three passes, dominate on the ground in win over Buffalo Bills

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Taking the ball out of rookie quarterback Mac Jones‘ hands in wind gusts over 40 miles per hour, and relying on their running game, the New England Patriots defeated the Buffalo Bills 14-10 at Highmark Stadium on Monday night to enter their bye week as the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

Overall, Jones was just 2-of-3 for 19 yards, while the Patriots ran for 222 yards on 46 carries.

The three passing attempts are the fewest ever in Patriots history, while the two completions match their fewest, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The three pass attempts were the fewest by any team since the Bills attempted just two in Week 3 of the 1974 season (vs. the New York Jets).

The Patriots’ fewest pass attempts in a game was previously five, which came in the 1982 “Snow Plow” game against the Miami Dolphins in Foxborough, Massachusetts – a game played in a driving snowstorm that was scoreless in the fourth quarter when stadium worker Mark Henderson drove a tractor on to the field to clear a spot for the only field goal of the game.

The Patriots improve to 9-4, with the Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs all 8-4. The Bills, meanwhile, drop to 7-5 and their margin for error to win the AFC East has been thinned.

Jones threw just one pass in the first half — when the Patriots led 11-7 at the break — and completed it for 12 yards. The pass sailed high in the wind and tight end Jonnu Smith pulled it down.

That was the fewest first-half pass attempts by a team since at least 1978, which is as far back as data is available, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The previous record was two, which happened three times, most recently by the Indianapolis Colts in Week 14 of 2017 — also in Buffalo, in snowy conditions.

Overall, Jones’ only other completion was a screen pass in the fourth quarter.

The only other games in Patriots history in which they completed just two passes came in December of 1982, and November of 1969 — both against the Miami Dolphins.

Their one passing first down tied for the second fewest in franchise history, and was their fewest since Dec. 4, 1983. The Pittsburgh Steelers were the last team in the NFL that won a game with one or fewer passing first downs, doing so in 2010 with Dennis Dixon as their quarterback.

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Potential No. 1 pick Kayvon Thibodeaux to declare for NFL draft, skip Oregon Ducks’ bowl game

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Star Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux is declaring for the NFL draft, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Monday.

Thibodeaux will not play in the Ducks’ bowl game, a matchup against No. 16 Oklahoma in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29, and instead will start preparing for the draft, sources said.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has Thibodeaux rated No. 1 overall in his latest Big Board. Fellow ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay has him as the No. 2-rated prospect in this year’s draft class.

The 6-foot-5 Thibodeaux was the Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2019 and a first-team All-Pac-12 selection last year after arriving at Oregon as the No. 1-ranked player in the class of 2019. He played 10 games this season — an ankle injury slowed him up early — and finished with seven sacks and 49 total tackles.

Thibodeaux was also at the forefront of players’ ability to capitalize on their name, image and likeness. He signed a handful of deals, including one with Ebay, another with United Airlines and a six-figure memorabilia deal. He also released an NFT in partnership with Nike founder Phil Knight and sneaker designer Tinker Hatfield that sold for $100 per unit. In September, he launched his own cryptocurrency called $JREAM.

Thibodeaux’s early exit came on the same day Mario Cristobal left Oregon to take the head-coaching position at Miami.

Information from ESPN’s Paolo Uggetti was used in this report.

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New York Giants QB Daniel Jones (neck) unlikely to play vs. Los Angeles Chargers, sources say

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — After further visits with team doctors and specialists to have his neck injury evaluated, New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones is unlikely to play Sunday vs. the Los Angeles Chargers, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Jones missed Sunday’s loss to the Miami Dolphins. He was injured the previous week in a win over the Philadelphia Eagles. The Giants (4-8) remain hopeful he won’t miss much more time and will return this season.

Mike Glennon started in Jones’ place on Sunday, but was diagnosed with a concussion after the contest. That puts newly acquired quarterback Jake Fromm potentially in line to start against the Chargers. It only adds to questions about whether Jones has done enough in his first three professional seasons to convince the Giants — and potentially a new general manager — that he is a true franchise quarterback they should build around.

Fromm, a University of Georgia standout, was signed off the Buffalo Bills’ practice squad last week. He has never played in an NFL game and could be making his first start 11 days after joining the team.

“It’s the beauty of the NFL. It’s next man up. Jake is getting his opportunity,” said Giants left tackle Andrew Thomas, who was also his teammate at Georgia. “I’m excited for him to get his chance. But like I said, next man up, and we’re doing everything to help him.”

The Giants also have former Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke on their practice squad. He seems to have been immediately jumped by Fromm on the depth chart.

Judge said that Fromm would be next in line this week at practice with Jones and Glennon sidelined. The Giants might still add additional contingencies.

“We’re talking internally about a lot of options personnel-wise to see what we can do and build in depth for a multitude of reasons,” coach Joe Judge said.

Judge said after the game in Miami that Glennon would remain the starter if healthy while Jones remained sidelined. But Glennon’s status is in doubt and might not be decided until late this week.

He’s currently in the concussion protocol.

“The optimistic view would be to have [Glennon] ready for the game on Sunday,” Judge said during a Monday afternoon conference call from Arizona, where the Giants are practicing this week.

New York is also dealing with COVID-19 issues. Offensive lineman Wes Martin and quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski tested positive on Monday, per Judge.

Martin was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday afternoon. Schuplinski was involved in meetings virtually throughout the day as the Giants try to get Fromm coached up quickly for a potential start.

Having Fromm start would provide some limitations.

“For a guy who has only been in your system for a couple days, you have to go ahead and select more of a menu what he can operate with in a game,” Judge said. “That is not always based on what he’s capable of with his ability, it’s just based on being new in a scheme and system and what he’s comfortable going out there and playing aggressively and making the right decisions within.”

Fromm has crammed hard since joining the Giants. He stayed after practice on Friday last week and did extra work with Jones there to provide input.

The fifth-round pick by the Buffalo Bills last year has made a positive first impression.

“He’s an intelligent guy. He’s demonstrated that already,” Judge said. “He has very good poise out there and he has a very good presence. Once thing that is very impressive about this guy is you talk to former teammates of his, like we did before he got in here, most of those Georgia guys, and every single one lit up and said we’d absolutely love to have that guy on the team.”

The bar won’t be especially high. The Giants failed to score a touchdown on Sunday in Miami. They have one touchdown in the two games since offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was fired.

Glennon went 23-of-44 for 187 yards with an interception against the Dolphins.

Jones has completed 64.3% of his passes for 2,428 yards with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season.

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