99 yards – stats of the season – record breakers abound.
With super wildcard weekend kicking off the NFL playoffs this saturday, much attention has
already been given to analysing matchups and predicting the final results of the season’s
first knockout games. Although the importance of these games cannot be understated, for
most teams the postseason is a time for reflection and looking back on the regular season.
In that spirit I have decided to look back at the regular season and bring you some of the
best and most surprising statistics and numbers that stood out and help to illustrate what
was another tumultuous season.
It was another record-breaking season of NFL football, as the extra game that comes with a
17-game regular season helped players to break some all-time records. At 45 Tom Brady
proved he still has something left in the tank as he added to his illustrious career by breaking his own all-time completions record from last year. Completing 490 of his passes during the regular season.
Patrick Mahomes continued to etch his name into the all-time record books. That’s as the MVP-frontrunner racked up the most offensive yards (passing + rushing + receiving) by any player in a single season ever with 5,614. His record-breaking performance also helped his team to reach a historic milestone. The Chiefs tied the record for most wins in a 5-year span in NFL history with 64.
As the AFC’s top seed reached historic heights so did the top team in the NFC. The Eagles became the first team to have four players record double-digit sacks in a season. Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat, Javon Hargrave and Brandon Graham all took down the quarterback at least 10 times.
The Eagles were not the only ones breaking defensive records, however. Christian Wilkins quietly had a historic season from his place on the interior of the Dolphin’s defensive line. Wilkins’ work has gone largely under the radar this year, but he was a destructive force throughout the season. With his 96 tackles the most by any defensive lineman since 1994.
Alongside all this unprecedented success, however, some records broken this year are not
ones you might want your name attached to in the history books. Steelers’ receiver Diontae
Johnson unfortunately accomplished one of these records. That’s as he became the player with the most receptions in an NFL season without managing to record a touchdown, with none of his 86 catches resulting in six points.
The 6-11 Raiders also managed to break records in a bad way. As their consistent ability to collapse in the second half of games means that they will be a team remembered for all the wrong reasons. This year the Raiders became the only team in NFL history to lose 5 games in a season that they led by 10 or more points at halftime. With particularly painful losses suffered versus the Cardinals in week two who built a 20 point comeback to win in overtime, and against the Rams in week 14 when Baker mayfield orchestrated a double-digit 4th-quarter comeback after just days on the Rams roster.
Alongside the new additions to the history books, the regular season was as competitive & unpredictable as ever. With the NFL living up to its ‘Not For Long’ reputation. The NFC East had a new winner for the 18th year in a row as the 14-3 Eagles usurped the reigning champion Dallas Cowboys en route to the NFC’s top seed.
The ever-changing NFL landscape was also encapsulated by the record number of quarterbacks that started for a team this year, as 67 different quarterbacks started a game this season, most in NFL history amongst years not affected by strike action. This record number was the result of a combination of injuries building up in different quarterback rooms across the league and unconvincing quarterback play that led to a rotation at the position.
The San Francisco 49ers were one of the teams forced to start multiple quarterbacks throughout the course of the year because of injury as both Trey Lance and Jimmy Goroppalo had their seasons cut short and third string Brock Purdy was thrown into the starting line-up. Other teams, such as the Washington Commanders, were unconvinced by the level of quarterback play and so resorted to rotating their starter as the year progressed.
The unusually high number of different quarterbacks starting came down to how widespread these problems were throughout the league. Most teams were forced to change their starter at some point during the course of the year, and by end of the season only 10 teams kept the same starter under centre for every game through to week 18.
Despite the unpredictability of the league there are somehow a few constants that never
seem to change no matter the circumstance. It has gotten to the point that I can safely say
outside of death and taxes the only other certainty in life is Mike Tomlin’s Steelers’ not
having a losing season. With a final record of 9-8 the Steelers under Tomlin have not had a
losing season in the 16 years since he took over in 2007. Despite his record of continued
excellence, Tomlin’s run was in serious jeopardy at the midpoint of the season as his squad
sat at a lowly 2-7 and bottom of the AFC North. The change from Mitchell Trubisky to rookie
Kenny Pickett under centre, however, along with the return of TJ Watt to reinvigorate the
defence down the stretch allowed the Steelers to turn it around and go 7-1 after thanksgiving.
During that run Pickett showed his potential as he marshalled back to game game winning drives against the Raiders and Ravens in December, whilst the defence firmed up and did not concede more than 20 points in any game. Buccaneers’ wide receiver Mike Evans also reached new levels of consistent success by extending his own record of consecutive seasons with 1000+ receiving yards to start a career to 9. Evans’ streak also ties him with Hall of Famer Tim Brown for the second most consecutive 1000+ yard receiving seasons in a career, with only the GOAT Jerry Rice having more with 11.
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Banner Image: Tom Brady added to his long list of NFL records. Image from USA Today bucswire.