For a league that has been around for nearly 100 years, the NFL can still sometimes surprise.
For instance, when the Jets defeated the Titans on Sunday, it was the first time in league history that a game ended in a 16-11 score. It was the fifth time this season that a score was recorded for the first time. If that sounds like a rare thing, well, it’s really not. Consider that there are only 256 regular season games each year since the Cleveland Browns were added (back) to the NFL in 1999, but well over a thousand possible combinations of scores. Also consider that because of touchdowns and field goals, many times teams will post a score that ends in a 0, 3 or 7, so a safety or missed extra point can wreak havoc. In fact the most common score far and away in the professional ranks, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com, is 20-17.
Then there’s the other end of the scale. According to the website, there are still 372 potential combos where each team scores 50 points or fewer that have never happened in the NFL. That’s three fewer than there were in August.
The NFL entered the 2014 season coming off the Seahawks’ 43-8 victory over the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, which was the first game to end with that score in either the regular season or playoffs. It didn’t take long for another score to be knocked off the list.
Sept. 4: Seahawks 36, Packers 16
Russell Wilson threw for two touchdowns and Marshawn Lynch topped the 100-yard mark on the ground, making this look like a run-of-the-mill victory by the defending champs on opening-night in the NFL. Lynch’s 110-yard rushing effort included two touchdowns as well. It was a strong statement from a Seahawks club that eventually found itself fighting for a playoff spot after the Arizona Cardinals zipped out to a 9-1 start.
It Got Weird When: Trailing 20-10, Green Bay started a third-quarter drive at its 10. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sacked on first down and fumbled into the end zone, where Derek Sherrod recovered the ball to limit the Seahawks to a safety, making it 22-10.
Bonus Points (Or Lack Thereof): Rodgers completed a 3-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb with 9:31 to go in the game, cutting Seattle’s lead to 29-16, but Rodgers’ two-point conversion pass was incomplete.
Oct. 12: Bengals 37, Panthers 37
The NFL doesn’t have a lot of ties thanks to sudden-death overtime, but they often provide something memorable when 75 minutes isn’t enough to determine a winner. In this case the game went to overtime tied at 34-all, but thanks to the recent rules change that requires the first team to possess the ball to score a touchdown to win outright, this contest at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati left many wondering if there would be a second tie in as many years when both teams scored in the extra session. The answer: Yes.
It Got Weird When: Cincinnati won the toss to start overtime and burned more than six minutes off the clock before settling for Mike Nugent’s 42-yard field goal, giving the Panthers one shot with the ball. They also used more than six minutes before Graham Gano kicked a 36-yard field goal to match the Bengals, giving them the ball back with just 2:19 to play.
Bonus Points (Or Lack Thereof): Quarterback Andy Dalton drove the Bengals to the Carolina 18 to give Nugent one more shot. If he had succeeded, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com, this would have been the NFL’s third 40-37 game. But Nugent missed the 36-yarder wide right, putting the 37-all tie into the record books.
Oct. 26: Steelers 51, Colts 34
This game will be best remembered as one of Ben Roethlisberger’s top passing performances. The Pittsburgh quarterback threw for six touchdowns and 522 yards, and the Steelers scored early and often. After spotting the Colts a 3-0 lead in an Adam Vinatieri field goal, the Steelers scored 35 of the next 42 points, with Roethlisberger throwing touchdown passes of 18, 5, 8 and 47 yards to build a 35-10 lead. The Colts cut it to 35-20 in the final two minutes of the half, and managed to get as close as 42-34 late in the third quarter.
It Got Weird When: Indianapolis had the ball on its 5 with an opportunity to tie the game early in the fourth quarter. After Andrew Luck threw incomplete on first down, he was called for intentional grounding in the end zone after throwing the ball away on second down, scoring a safety for the Steelers to make it 44-34.
Bonus Points (Or Lack Thereof): Two regular season games and the Bills’ victory over Dolphins in the 1991 playoffs ended 44-34, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com, but Roesthlisberger added an 11-yard touchdown pass to Heath Miller with 5:14 to go, giving the NFL its first 51-34 final.
Nov. 16: Packers 53, Eagles 20
The Packers found all kinds of ways to score against the Eagles, but it was a pair of missed extra points that helped create the NFL’s first 53-20 final. Green Bay’s touchdowns included a punt return, an interception return and a fumble return, so, oddly, Philadelphia’s Mark Sanchez finished with more yards (346) than Rodgers (341). But Rodgers (22 of 36) would pass for three touchdowns and no interceptions while Sanchez had two touchdowns and two picks in his 26-for-44 effort.
It Got Weird When: Eddie Lacy scored on a 1-yard run with two minutes left in the first half, giving Green Bay a 30-6 lead, but a botched extra point turned into a two-point attempt that also went awry. In the third quarter, Mason Crosby kicked his second field goal of the game to make it 33-6, but his point-after attempt was blocked after Julius Peppers scored on a 52-yard interception return, leaving the lead at 39-6.
Bonus Points (Or Lack Thereof): Each team scored two more touchdowns, and Crosby and Parker kicked their extra points, but the earlier misses put the Packers on a strange number not often seen in the NFL. There still has not been a 54-20 final, either, but a handful of games have finished 55-20.
Dec. 14: Jets 16, Titans 11
Both teams entered this late-season matchup with two wins, so not a lot has gone well for either. The way the game unfolded, however, kept ticker-watchers scratching their heads much of the afternoon. A Ryan Succop 40-yard field goal late in the first quarter gave the Titans a 3-0 lead, but things devolved from there.
It Got Weird When: Jets quarterback Geno Smith was whistled for intentional grounding in the end zone early in second quarter, giving Tennessee a 5-0 lead, and despite a Nick Folk 51-yard field goal the Titans still held a 5-3 edge at the break. Succop boosted the lead to 8-3 with a 33-yarder in the third, and after the Jets went up 10-8 on a 9-yard pass from Smith to John Conner and Folk’s extra point, the Titans answered with a 51-yard field goal giving them an 11-10 lead.
Bonus Points (Or Lack Thereof): The Jets retook the lead with 3:09 to play when Chris Ivory scored on a 1-yard run. Up 16-11, the Jets attempted a two-point conversion to boost their lead to seven, but Smith’s pass to Jeremy Kerley was incomplete. If Folk had kicked the extra point, it would have been the second 17-11 game in NFL history. There has never been an 18-11 final.