This offseason, Shutdown Corner's Frank Schwab and Eric Edholm will look into what is overrated and underrated in all aspects of the NFL. We fully expect your angry emails and comments that are sure to follow.
OVERRATED AND UNDERRATED: NFL record
Eric Edholm: San Francisco 49ers’ 18-game road win streak, 1988-90
If there’s a team streak that is as unbreakable as they come, it’s this — and unlike my overrated choice (see below), there isn’t a fluky thing about it. It would not shock me if, 50 years from now — God willing I am around to find out — this one remains atop the mountain.
Starting in Week 13 of the 1988 season, a 48-10 thumping of the San Diego Chargers, through the end of the 1990 season, the 49ers did not lose on the road. Not once. In 18 games. Think about that.
To put it in perspective, only two teams the past four NFL seasons have finished better than 6-2 on the road, and no team has had more than a combined 18 (in 24 road games) than the current 49ers.
But Bill Walsh’s San Fran predecessors were the true road warriors, and I am not sure any team will top what they did over those three seasons. The closest since then has been 12 straight by the 2006-2008 New England Patriots, and that one ended with a thud when Tom Brady got hurt to start the '08 season.
What’s crazy is that the 18-game streak actually could have been longer, too — and a break or two in each game, it could have stretched to a whopping 26. Although it's not a part of the record, we also can't overlook the 49ers' win in the 1988 NFC championship game at Chicago, plus their two Super Bowls played on neutral fields, during that run.
The 49ers’ three road losses before the streak started were by one, one and three points (in overtime); the streak ended with the 1991 opener, a 16-14 loss at the defending-champion New York Giants, and the 49ers’ next four losses away from home that season were by three, six, three and seven points.
In the 18 straight road wins, the 49ers outscored their opponents by double digits in 10 of them.
Frank Schwab: Don Hutson's 29 points in one quarter
The great career of Hutson is underrated by many. Although, one could make the case that those who champion Hutson's cause do it so often and so loudly that there's nothing underrated about him any more.
Hutson still has one record that doesn't get brought up a lot, even though it's amazing and practically unbeatable. Hutson has plenty of all-time marks, and a lot of them aren't well known by fans who aren't into the history of the NFL, but one that is perhaps most remarkable is Hutson's 29 points in one quarter.
Yes, 29 points in a single quarter.
On Oct. 7, 1945, in the last season of the famed Packer receiver's career, he poured an avalanche of points on the Lions in just 15 minutes. He scored four touchdowns and kicked five extra points. Green Bay scored six touchdowns on nine plays (one of Hutson's extra points was blocked). The Packers led 41-7 after the first half and Hutson sat the entire second half, after putting up 144 yards and four touchdowns in the first half.
"He probably could have broken the National Football League’s single-game scoring record (40 points by Ernie Nevers of the Duluth Eskimos in 1929) had he been left in the game. Remember, he did it all in a very few minutes," Packers coach Curly Lambeau told the Green Bay Press-Gazette after the game, via the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
It's always dangerous to say any record involving points or yards is unbeatable, the way offense has exploded in the NFL over the years. But 29 points in a quarter? The record for points in a half is 30, by Shaun Alexander, and that's only been reached once in more than 90 NFL seasons. The Broncos were the only NFL team to average more than 29 points per game last season. Even if you knock Hutson a little for the very old school way he got to 29, by a receiver kicking five extra points, it's still a crazy record. Only 91 players in the entire NFL scored at least five touchdowns all last season. Someone would have to do that in a single quarter to beat Hutson.
EE: Norm Van Brocklin’s 554 passing yards in a game
Hall of Famer Van Brocklin’s legendary day from the early fall of 1951 has taken on an almost mythical life to it, as we have little tangible connection to that game in the same vein as Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game. All we have are a few photographs and oral histories for that game between NVB’s Los Angeles Rams and the (seriously) New York Yanks.
But unlike Wilt, Van Brocklin’s record is destined to fall any season now. Several quarterbacks have come within shooting distance in recent seasons, and the fact that the record has stood for some long has been the reason why it is so hallowed and mythologized.
Another factor: Passing still was in its relative infancy, and the worst passing team in the NFL in 1951 — the New York Giants, at 98.9 yards per game and barely more than two Van Brocklin games at 1,187 for the season, went 9-2-1 that year.
This would lead one to think it was an underrated record, considering the day and age, right? For me, however, it falls more under the fluke category.
Most don’t realize that the Yanks were 1-9-2, owners of the NFL’s worst record and worst defense that season, and that the Rams featured the best passing game in the NFL. In fact, the club was sold back to the NFL after the season and turned into the Dallas Texans the next year. The roster was mostly terrible.
Also, although we don’t have a play-by-play account of the game, we do know that the Rams still were slinging the ball despite being up 41-14 in the fourth quarter. Their final two touchdowns came after the Rams scored a garbage touchdown, so there was no calling off the dogs. That alone kind of cheapens the mark.
That doesn’t happen these days. I was at a game in 2009 when Tom Brady had 345 passing yards at halftime against the Tennessee Titans. He finished the game with 380, coming out after the first series of the third quarter with the Patriots up 52-zip. Brady could have had 700 that day if he wanted, but even Bill Belichick isn’t that villainous or stupid to try for it.
Van Brocklin’s record almost has gone down a few times in earnest. Both Warren Moon and Matt Schaub were a few throws away, each netting 527 in a game. Schaub needed overtime in 2012 against the Jaguars and put up 115 yards in the extra frame, but he also had 497 in a game two seasons prior. Moon would have broken the record in 1990 — against a Chiefs defense that was one of the five best in the NFL that season — had a 30-yard pass not been called back by a shaky penalty. In addition, the Oilers dropped three passes that game.
Although some ideal situations must occur for the record to be broken, this thing can’t be for long. There have been 15 500-yard passing games in the NFL — eight of them have happened since the 2000 season and five since 2009. Tony Romo had the best chance last season, sitting at 506 with 2:39 on the clock on his own 20-yard line before he followed that up with a sack and the most Romo-ish interception ever.
If Elvis Grbac (504 yards), Billy Volek (492) and Matt Flynn (480) can come within a few completed passes of taking down this 62-yard record, you know the fact it has stood up needs to be qualified as one of the league’s biggest flukes and not one of its most revered records.
FS: Any reception record
We've grown quite a fascination with receptions. It's like celebrating carries for running backs or at-bats for baseball players.
Fine, fine, there's more to receptions than that. It's hard to get open and catch a pass. But receptions is still an overrated stat because it usually discounts what the player actually does on the play. Did he get a first down? Did he gain 5 yards or 50? Having a 100-catch season sounds awesome, but would you rather have a 100-catch season for 900 yards or a 50-catch season for 1,000? Exactly.
So the reception records are fine, just overrated. Let's take the single-game reception record, which is 21 by Brandon Marshall back in 2009. Wow, 21 catches?!? Pretty remarkable. But let's look closer. He got 200 yards, which is less than 10 per catch. For a wideout, meh. He got a first down on just six of his final 13 catches (he had 12 first downs overall). His final catch, to beat Terrell Owens' record of 20 in a game, was a 7-yard catch on fourth and 18. In that record-breaking performance, his team scored just 16 points and lost to Indianapolis 28-16. So was it even that impactful? It was a very, very good game by Marshall, just not sure it's among the magical games in NFL history. Later that season Marshall's Denver teammate Jabar Gaffney had 213 yards on 14 catches. That's arguably a better performance, but I'd bet nobody but Gaffney remembers it.
So let's make sure all records revolving around receptions are put in proper context. There's nothing wrong with a lot of catches, but that stat alone is kind of hollow without also examining what those receptions actually produced.
- - - - - - -