Records fall, kings crowned as NFL sets record-set­ting scor­ing pace

The News & Observer - - Sports - BY ROB MAADDI

It’s never been eas­ier to score in the NFL.

At the mid­point of the sea­son, the league is on pace to set records for most points, touch­downs and touch­down passes in a sin­gle sea­son. Teams have scored 6,440 points, 736 touch­downs and 473 TDs in the air through Week 9.

The in­crease in of­fen­sive pro­duc­tion fol­lows the low­est-scor­ing sea­son this decade. Teams av­er­aged 21.7 points per game in 2017. That’s up to 24 points this sea­son. A to­tal of 12 teams are av­er­ag­ing at least 27.5 points per game led by the Chiefs (36.3), Saints (34.9) and Rams (33.2).

There are sev­eral rea­sons scor­ing has soared. A com­bi­na­tion of new rules and rule ad­just­ments over the past few years fa­vor of­fenses. The league has banned hel­met-to-hel­met con­tact, im­ple­mented a de­fense­less re­ceiver rule and a body-weight rule against play­ers mak­ing sacks, out­lawed low hits on quar­ter­backs and em­pha­sized il­le­gal con­tact penal­ties.

There’s also been an in­flux of in­no­va­tive, of­fen­sive-minded coaches – Sean McVay, Doug Ped­er­son, Kyle Shana­han – and tal­ented young quar­ter­backs – Pa­trick Ma­homes, Car­son Wentz, Jared Goff, among oth­ers.

Five quar­ter­backs – Ma­homes, Goff, Matt Ryan, Ben Roeth­lis­berger and Aaron Rodgers – are on pace to throw for 5,000 yards. That only hap­pened nine times pre­vi­ously in league his­tory. Ten QBs have a passer rat­ing over 100, dou­ble the to­tal last sea­son.

Games are not only fea­tur­ing more scor­ing but there’s been plenty of close, down-to-the-wire ac­tion. Seventy-one games were de­cided by one score, eight points or less. That’s the fifth-most through nine weeks. Thirty-seven games have been de­cided by a field goal, which was fourth-most at this point. Ten games have reached over­time and 36 teams have ral­lied to win or tie af­ter trail­ing in the fourth quar­ter or over­time.

Close, high-scor­ing games are ex­cit­ing for fans, es­pe­cially the mil­lions who spend bil­lions of dol­lars to play fan­tasy foot­ball. All of it is good for the league’s tele­vi­sion rat­ings, which are up af­ter declining in 2016 and 2017.

More folks also are watch­ing by live stream­ing. Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent study from Con­viva, a real-time mea­sure­ment plat­form, NFL live view­ing was up 72 per­cent in plays and 83 per­cent in view­ing hours over the same time frame last year.

Con­viva’s data shows mo­bile NFL plays were up 95 per­cent and prime-time NFL saw 109 per­cent growth in plays and 97 per­cent growth in view­ing hours.

Here’s a look in­side the num­bers from the first half:

Pass­ing King: Drew Brees broke Pey­ton Man­ning’s record for ca­reer pass­ing yards last month. Brees has 72,781 yards pass­ing and count­ing. Man­ning had 71,940.

Kick­ing King: Adam Vi­natieri broke Morten An- der­son’s record for most points and most field goals. Vi­natieri has 2,550 points and 573 field goals. An­der­son had 2,544 points and 565 field goals.

The 500 Club: Brees and Tom Brady joined Man­ning and Brett Favre as the only play­ers to throw 500 TD passes. Brees has 506, one more than Brady. Man­ning had 539 and Favre had 508.

Pat the Great: Ma­homes has 29 TD passes and 3,185 yards pass­ing yards, the most in both cat­e­gories through the first 10 games of a player’s ca­reer. He also has thrown for at least 300 yards in eight straight games, one away from set­ting the record he shares with Andrew Luck. Thie­len’s Chase: Adam Thie­len be­came the first player to have eight 100yard re­ceiv­ing games to start a sea­son, ty­ing Calvin John­son for the long­est streak of such games. The for­mer un­drafted wide re­ceiver has 78 catches for the Vik­ings. He’s on pace to chal­lenge Marvin Har­ri­son’s sin­gle­sea­son record of 143. Gur­ley gets in: Todd Gur­ley has 16 touch­downs – 12 rush­ing and four re­ceiv­ing – for the Rams. He’s on pace for 28. The record is 31 by Hall of Famer LaDainian Tom­lin­son.

Kirk com­pletes: Kirk Cousins be­came the first player to com­plete at least 30 passes in four con­sec­u­tive games. Be­fore the sea­son, Cousins be­came the first player to sign a fully guar­an­teed con­tract when the Vik­ings gave him $84 mil­lion for three sea­sons.

First miss: Justin Tucker had made all 222 ex­tra points in his ca­reer be­fore he missed one at the end of Bal­ti­more’s 24-23 loss to New Or­leans in Week 7. He hadn’t missed any kick 33 yards or shorter in 300 tries his ca­reer.

WALLY SKALIJ TNS

New Or­leans quar­ter­back Drew Brees has been slowed by de­fend­ers such as the Rams’ Aaron Donald but not of­ten stopped. The Saints quar­ter­back is climb­ing the NFL’s all-time charts, break­ing Pey­ton Man­ning’s record for ca­reer pass­ing yards this sea­son.

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